On June 26, 2014, in NLRB v. Noel Canning, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously decided that President Obama’s purported “recess” appointments of National Labor Relations Board members on January 4, 2012 violated the Constitution because the Senate was not on a break of “sufficient length” when the President appointed them, and thus the President could not dispense with Senate consent of the appointments. The decision calls into question hundreds of NLRB rulings between January 4, 2012 and August 7, 2013, when a new Board was finally sworn in with Senate approval of the President’s appointments. Those rulings include numerous pro-union decisions dealing with dues checkoff clauses, confidentiality policies and practices, employee social media activities, conduct during bargaining unit elections and workplace investigations. More globally, the decision ends an arduous debate as to the meaning of the words “[v]acancies that may happen during the Recess” in the Constitution’s Recess Appointments Clause.
Yesterday, the National Labor Relations Board announced it would not challenge two decisions by United States Courts of Appeals that struck down a Board rule requiring private sector employers to post a notice about employee rights to unionize. As previously reported, the NLRB issued the rule over two years ago, but decided to postpone it indefinitely due to legal challenges by business groups. Yesterday’s announcement signifies the Board’s acceptance that the rule is unenforceable, and accordingly, private sector employers have no legal obligation to post the notice.
On Monday, the National Labor Relations Board announced that the Senate has filled all five of its Board Member seats for the first time since August 21, 2003. Moving forward, this ends the debate as to whether the Board has the constitutional authority to take action, such as issuing decisions, so long as three of these Senate-confirmed members are present when the Board takes action.
As predicted, the Supreme Court of the United States announced today that it will address the constitutionality of President Obama’s purported “recess” appointments of Members to the National Labor Relations Board. The Supreme Court’s decision, which could invalidate hundreds of Board decisions made during the past two years, is expected by July 2014.
On May 16, 2013, in NLRB v. New Vista Nursing & Rehab., a divided panel of the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit joined the D.C. Circuit in holding that the Recess Appointment Clause of the Constitution allows the President to make “recess appointments” (that is, without the advice and consent of the Senate) only when the Senate is on a formal intersession recess, as opposed to an intra-session break. Both the Third Circuit’s decision and the D.C. Circuit’s recent decision in Canning v. NLRB (as elaborated upon in Nat’l Ass’n of Mfrs. v. NLRB) arise from actions taken by the National Labor Relations Board (the “Board” or the “NLRB”) some of whose members had been appointed during an intra-session break. To summarize: (1) at least three Board members must participate in a Board decision; (2) according to these courts, the Board has not had three validly-appointed Members since August 27, 2011; and (3) although the NLRB has had four sitting Members between April 5, 2010 and August 27, 2011, it has issued some three-Member decisions during this time wherein one decision-maker, Craig Becker, was arguably unconstitutionally-appointed, rendering those decisions invalid. Potentially hundreds of decisions by the Board over the past three years are at risk of being declared invalid.
On May 7, 2013, in Nat’l Ass’n of Mfrs. v. NLRB, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decided that a rule implemented by the National Labor Relations Board (“Board” or “NLRB”) requiring most private sector employers to post a notice about workers’ rights to unionize was invalid. As previously reported, the Board issued the rule almost two years ago, and has repeatedly postponed its effective date pending the outcome of legal challenges to the rule by business groups.
Earlier this week, the National Labor Relations Board (the “Board” or the “NLRB”) announced it will petition the United States Supreme Court to review Canning v. NLRB, No. 12-1115 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 25, 2013). As previously reported, in Canning the Federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held that three appointments of officers to the NLRB by President Obama were unconstitutional because they lacked the “Advice and Consent” of the Senate and were not authorized by the Constitution’s so-called Recess Appointments Clause.