[Note to self & readers, 4:45pm 2/26/18: I spoke too soon. Hours after I published this post, the NLRB reversed itself and vacated the Hy-Brand decision, which means the 2015 Browning-Ferris joint employment standard is back. Read more here.]
Here’s the original post, but sadly my predictions below turned out to be wrong…
There are many inspectors whose names we know for their diligent (and entertaining) crime-fighting exploits. There’s Inspector Clouseau, from the Pink Panther series; Inspector Gadget, from the Inspector Gadget series; and now Inspector David Berry, from the “Office of Inspector General” [sic] at the NLRB. (I do not know what happened to the “the” in such Office’s name, but sources tell me it was stolen by Ohio State University. More on that below.)
A flight from Dubai to Amsterdam made an emergency landing last week after a fight broke out over a passenger’s excessive flatulence. The two Dutchmen sitting next to the flatulator asked him to cut it out, but he wouldn’t (or couldn’t) stop spreading his perfumery around the cabin. A fist fight broke out and the pilot diverted the flying stinkship to Vienna, where several passengers were removed. Read more here.
Something smells rotten to the NLRB as well, four months after an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) ruled that independent contractor misclassification, by itself, can be an unfair Continue reading →
As Bob Dylan would say, The times they are a-changin’. Upon being sworn in as new General Counsel of the NLRB, Peter Robb issued a Memorandum indicating his intent to reconsider a broad range of controversial positions taken by the Board and by his predecessor, Richard Griffin.
Among these positions is an issue we wrote about here, just a couple of months ago. The issue is whether the act of misclassifying a worker as an independent contractor could, by itself, be deemed an unfair labor practice. As explained in that blog post, an Administrative Law Judge had ruled that misclassification alone could be considered an unfair labor practice. The ALJ’s explanation went like this:
Remember the good old days, way back in 2014? You recall the time — back when David Letterman was still on the air and it was not yet illegal in New York to take a selfie with a tiger.
Yes, that was life before 2015, when the NLRB waved its magic wand, rewrote the definition of joint employment, and forced several of the planets to spin out of orbit. The Board’s decision in Browning-Ferris erased decades of precedent and caused bloggers everywhere to vomit profuse amounts of text and doomsday predictions.
For those of you who missed the news in 2015 (understandable if you spent the year focused on following the saga of Winston, the Aussie python who swallowed salad tongs), allow me to offer this quick refresher: The 2015 Browning-Ferris decision declared that, under federal labor law, a business would be considered a joint employer if it retained the right to exercise even a teeny tiny bit of control, and even if it never actually exercised that control.
Good news, citizens of earth! The planets realigned on Thursday, when the Board reversed its 2015 decision and reverted back to the old standard. The new standard is the old standard. (Got it?)
Remember when you used to go to the video store to rent VHS tapes and there was that little sticker on the tape cheerfully reminding you to “Be kind! Rewind!” I know, half of you have no idea what I am talking about, but there used to be these things for watching movies before Netflix — no, not DVDs, before that — no, no, not cave drawings, after that.
Anyway, take my word for it. The point was, when you were done with your movie, you were supposed to rewind the tape so the next viewer could start over, back at the beginning of the film. It was the courteous thing to do.
Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy is a low-quality youtube video that has somehow amassed more than a million hits. In the video, a lone (possibly intoxicated) festival goer starts dancing in a field. After a minute or so, momentum builds and others join him, showing off their terrible dance moves in a video you’ll wish you hadn’t wasted three minutes watching. (Just speaking from experience here.)
Several weeks ago, the House began considering a bill that would rewrite the definition of “joint employment” under federal wage and hour law (Fair Labor Standards Act) and federal labor law (National Labor Relations Act). The Save Local Business Act would require “direct” and “significant” control over “essential terms” of employment before a business could be considered a joint employer of a worker employed by another business (such as a staffing agency or a subcontractor). Read more here and here.
Originally sponsored by Rep. Bradley Byrne of Alabama (you might think of Rep. Byrne as the original dancer in the Leadership video, but dressed as a conservative Southern gentleman), the bill now has 112 co-sponsors, including a few Democrats. Dance party!
Watching the National Labor Relations Board is like riding a see-saw (a very slow one, and not a very fun one, but stay with me here).
Board members serve five-year terms and, when they expire, the President has the right to appoint a successor, with confirmation by the Senate. Predictably, under Democratic administrations, the Board tips toward union workers’ rights, and under Republican administrations, the Board tips toward protecting businesses.
With the late September confirmation of William Emanuel to the Board’s fifth (and tie-breaking) seat, the see-saw tipped back toward the side of protecting businesses.
[NOTE 9/2019: Not anymore. The information in this post has been superseded by a later NLRB decision. In Sept. 2019, the NLRB ruled that independent contractor misclassification is not an automatic violation of the NLRA. It still can be, but it is no longer automatically a violation. Read more here.]
Here’s the original post:
The past two weekends, we have seen NFL players link arms in solidarity. They protest mistreatment and injustice in society, not mistreatment and injustice by their employers. In fact, there have been several instances where owners and coaches have joined in.
Had the players been protesting actions by their employers — their teams — their actions likely would be considered “protected concerted activity” under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRA grants employees the right to act collectively to protest terms or conditions of their employment. Employees have these rights even if there is no union.
Remember the children’s game called Red Light, Green Light? One ambitious youngster is selected as the traffic cop, who randomly shouts “red light” or “green light,” requiring all the children to run and stop and start in short bursts that would cause an adult human to tear an ACL.
That’s essentially what’s happening in the big Uber misclassification case that has been pending in California since 2014. The case is called O’Connor v. Uber Technologies and is being overseen by traffic cop / federal judge Edward Chen in San Francisco. If anyone ever gets to the finish line, it will eventually be determined whether Uber drivers are properly classified as independent contractors, rather than employees.