The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reversed a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) decision ordering the reinstatement of a part-time boiler operator to a Massachusetts hospital who was allegedly fired for expressing skepticism toward a union. The court reasoned, although the worker indisputably made protected comments about union membership, the Board ignored the real reason the worker was fired—for making a union delegate cry in violation of the hospital’s civility policy—which was a legitimate basis for his termination. Good Samaritan Medical Center v. NLRB and NLRB v. 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.       

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld an NLRB decision ordering a defendant employer to pay an unlawfully fired employee’s job-search expenses. The court’s holding is a shift from the Board’s traditional practice of only allowing job-search expenses to the extent they offset an employee’s interim earnings after being discharged. Although the circuit court affirmed the Board’s decision permitting job expenses to be considered separately from back pay calculations, it did not decide whether an unreasonable award generating a windfall for an employee would survive judicial review. King Soopers, Inc. v. NLRB.    

The D.C. Circuit held, for the second time, that Arc Bridges Inc., an Indiana nonprofit that helps individuals with developmental disabilities, did not violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or Act) in granting only non-union employees raises. The court disagreed with the NLRB’s finding that Arc Bridges’ decision violated the NLRA, noting that there was no evidence to show the company’s decision was motivated by union animus. Arc Bridges, Inc. v. NLRB.     

The Supreme Court declined to hear a case regarding an NLRB decision permitting employees to organize in “micro-units” within larger workforces. In Macy’s, Inc. v. NLRB, the NLRB applied its decision in Specialty Healthcare and ordered Macy’s to bargain with a union representing approximately 40 employees in a Massachusetts retail store. Macy’s, Inc. v. NLRB.     

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit remanded a case to the NLRB to determine whether an individual in a Teamster local’s election at Hanson Cold Storage Co. was eligible to vote, even though he was on medical leave. The NLRB previously certified that Hanson employees voted 19-17 for union representation, despite the fact that one ballot had scribbled markings. According to the court, that finding made it impossible to infer the voter’s intent. If the individual was eligible to vote and he voted against union representation, the vote would be 18-18 and the local would not have the majority needed to win bargaining rights at Hanson. Hanson Cold Storage Co. v. NLRB.    

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the NLRB’s finding that a Minnesota hospital unlawfully kicked out union officials from its public cafeteria for holding an informational picket to promote safe staffing levels. The hospital appealed three NLRB findings to the circuit court: that it interfered with union activity by kicking members out of the hospital cafeteria, unlawfully watched union members, and barred members from wearing clothing with union logos. The circuit court affirmed the Board’s findings determining that the hospital allowed similar union activity on prior occasions. North Memorial Health Care v. NLRB; NLRB v. North Memorial Health Care.     

An NLRB Regional Director ordered a union election for a micro-unit of housekeepers at a New York Hampton Inn. Although the hotel argued the proposed unit should include all hourly employees, which includes four guest service agents and one night auditor, the Regional Director found the hotel failed to show the guest service agents and night auditor shared an “overwhelming community of interest” with the housekeeping staff in the unit, as the workers had distinct job duties and reported to separate managers. Lixi Nanuet Inc. d/b/a Hampton Inn and Brotherhood of Amalgamated Trades, Local 514.     

An NLRB Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held that baggage handlers and mechanical workers at O’Hare International Airport fell under the jurisdiction of the NLRA, and thus new businesses that took over operations at the terminal violated the Act by unilaterally deciding to change the employees’ union and working conditions. The ALJ ordered the new companies to restore the employees’ former work conditions and provide back pay. Oxford Electronics Inc., et al. and International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399, et al. and International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399.     

A split NLRB held that a construction company was required to retrieve employees’ phone numbers from company supervisors for the purpose of supplying that information to the union attempting to organize the company’s workers, pursuant to an NLRB rule that an employer must give union eligible voters’ phone numbers that are “available” to the employer. The Board found that phone numbers listed in company supervisors’ phones, but not on any company database, were still “available” to the employer. The Board further found that the company’s failure to provide the information justified setting aside the union’s election loss. RHCG Safety Corp.     

The NLRB upheld the finding of an ALJ and ordered that Cellco Partnership, which does business as Verizon Wireless, reinstate a union activist who the company asserted was fired for lying during an investigation. The employee, who had an organizing history, offered advice to a sales representative who had a confrontation with her manager. The ALJ and the Board found that other employees were not fired for lying in more egregious situations. Cellco P’ship.     

In conflict with decisions by the National Mediation Board (NMB), a split NLRB upheld a Regional Director’s decision that Aircraft Service, which employs baggage handlers at the Orlando International Airport, is not covered by the Railway Labor Act (RLA). The Board found that the baggage handlers were not directly or indirectly controlled by a RLA covered carrier. Aircraft International Inc.     

An NLRB ALJ held that Uber Technologies Inc. must revoke or revise its dispute resolution agreement signed by its software engineers because the agreement does not use “plain and understandable language.” The ALJ reasoned that the agreement’s legal jargon makes it unclear whether employees have the right to file a charge with the NLRB. Uber Technologies Inc. and Lenza H. McElrath III.     

A split NLRB ruled that Security Wells, an IRS security contractor in Austin, Texas, violated the NLRA by firing three security guards, departing from its disciplinary policy, and refusing to bargain when the union requested reinstatement. The guards were terminated for inadvertently allowing unauthorized individuals to enter the secure facility. The Board ordered Security Wells to reinstate the guards and pay for lost earnings and benefits. Security Walls LLC and International Union, Security Police and Fire Professionals of America.     

An NLRB ALJ ordered Dura-Line Corp., a pipe and conduit manufacturer, to reopen a previously closed plant. The ALJ determined that the plant was closed in retaliation for union activities, as evidenced by management comments that included threatening union employees and providing inconsistent explanations for the plant closing. Although Dura-Line argued its contract included a broad “management rights” clause, the ALJ reasoned that the clause could not protect the company from making a decision motivated by anti-union considerations. Dura-Line was ordered to reinstate and provide backpay to affected employees. Dura-Line Corp.    

A federal judge in Kentucky denied the NLRB’s request for injunctive relief, finding that an upcoming ALJ hearing would provide the parties with “a full and fair hearing” concerning union recognition. Employees at Leggett & Platt, Inc., an industrial parts manufacturer, delivered a petition to the company stating they no longer wanted union representation. The NLRB requested an injunction to require the company to recognize the union until the Board resolved open unfair labor practices claims; however, the court denied the Board’s request finding that that injunctive relief was not necessary. Lindsay v. Leggett & Platt, Inc.     

An NLRB ALJ found that securities broker Charles Schwab & Co.’s rule forbidding dishonest conduct was permissible under the NLRA. Despite prior decisions finding that similar rules were an impermissible restraint on employees’ ability to exercise labor law rights (e.g., Verizon Wireless and Chipotle Mexican Grill), the ALJ noted that this issue had never been addressed in the context of federal securities laws and regulations, which require securities firms to avoid false and deceptive practices. However, the ALJ noted that another rule forbidding unprofessional and rude conduct violated the NLRA, and recommended to the Board that it require Schwab to rescind or revise the rule. Charles Schwab & Co.     

The NLRB found that firewatchers at Securitas, a security service company that provides services at the Comanche Peak nuclear power plant in Texas, are not guards under the NLRA, and therefore may not vote with security officers on representation by a labor union. The Board determined that the two groups did not have similar duties and noted that the firewatchers patrolled for fire safety, whereas guards were responsible for the security of the employer. Securitas Critical Infrastructure Servs.    

An NLRB ALJ dismissed a complaint by an International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers local representing workers at a Pennsylvania Harley-Davidson facility. The union was informed that Harley-Davidson was going to implement a layoff and was willing to offer employees a $15,000 separation incentive. The company offered to implement layoffs as required under the parties’ collective bargaining agreement if the union opposed the incentive plan. The union did not respond to the company’s inquiry and later filed an unfair labor practice charges alleging the union was not afforded an opportunity to bargain about the plan. The ALJ reasoned that the union had offered its implicit consent to the incentive plan by failing to respond to the company’s request, and had therefore waived its right to contest the incentive plan. Harley Davidson Motor Co. and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Tyson Lodge 175, District 98.