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NLRB returns to its historical standard for deferring to arbitration both before and after the arbitral award

The NLRB has reversed its 2014 Babcock & Wilcox standard for deciding when the Board will defer to arbitration, both before (“pre-arbitral” deferrals) and after (“post-“) the arbitration itself has occurred. Now the burden is on the party resisting deferral (typically a union) not the party urging deferral (typically an employer), and the question is only whether (simplifying a 4-part test) the arbitration has/will provide a fair and full opportunity to litigate the same facts, not whether the CBA expressly provides for arbitration of ULP’s (charges alleging violations of the NLRA, technically called “unfair labor practices”) or whether the parties actually have litigated (or will) litigate the ULP.

Source:  UPS, Inc., 369 NLRB No. 1 (12/23/19).

DOL issues proposed rule re tip-pooling

In a November 2019 opinion letter the DOL reversed position on tip-pooling. As explained there, the DOL lifted the Obama-era DOL’s 80-20 rule, making it easier for employers (like restaurants) to pool tips among tipped employees, including even those who perform some non-tipped work during their day (like waiters who vacuum, set up and clean up the restaurant as well as work tables). In this proposed rule the DOL is proposing to codify its new approach into a formal regulation. Codification of this approach into a regulation — rather than simply setting it forth in an opinion letter — will have at least two effects: It will generally require courts to defer to this interpretation and make it more difficult for future administrations to deviate.

President Trump limits informal agency guidances

Federal law requires administrative agencies to go through a rulemaking process before implementing regulations. To avoid that process, agencies have increasingly begun using informal “guidances,” often issued in the form of memorandums, letters and bulletins. By two Executive Orders, the President has ordered administrative agencies, among other things, to include in any such document a disclaimer that it does not carry the force of law and further to make all such documents available to the public via a searchable database on the Internet. It is not yet clear whether the Executive Orders reach opinion letters, such as the Department of Labor’s well known opinion letters.

NLRB General Counsel eases rules for deferral to arbitration

What if a union files a grievance under the collective bargaining agreement alleging a violation of the CBA, and then also files a charge at the NLRB alleging a violation (unfair labor practice) of the NLRA premised on the same facts? What if the timeline is reversed: The union files its ULP charge at the NLRB first then its CBA grievance? What if the union files only a ULP and for whatever reason declines to file a CBA grievance, maybe because it knows it’s case lacks merit and fears losing an arbitration of the grievance?

Can a company in any of those scenarios ask the Board to defer to the arbitration process in the CBA? The answer had historically been, yes, to all three situations, though with some caveats. This is generally called Spielberg deferral (though technically it is called Collyer deferral or Dubo deferral depending on the timing of the various kinds of scenarios).

In its 2014 Babcock & Wilcox decision, the Board carved out one scenario for special consideration: Where the union/employee has filed a ULP charge alleging a violation of sections 8(a)(3) or 8(a)(1) but have not yet filed a grievance under the CBA. The Board added special requirements for deferral in such cases.

The NLRB General Counsel has, now, opined that he believes Babcock & Wilcox was wrongly decided. He has asked the Board to reconsider when the issue next arises in a case.

In the meantime the NLRB General Counsel has instructed Board personnel to stop applying the Babcock & Wilcox additional requirements at least in cases where a grievance has been filed but the arbitrator has yet to rule (i.e., Dubo cases). Instead of the Babcock & Wilcox factors, the NLRB General Counsel has instructed Board personnel to look at whether the union can pursue its grievance to arbitration not whether it has agreed or even wishes to do so.

Source: NLRB General Counsel memorandum no. 19-03 (12/28/18).