Recently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a press release announcing its final rule on Notification of Employee Rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The proposed rule had been pending since December of last year.
The final rule was issued by a 3-1 vote, with Member Brian Hayes dissenting. The rule takes effect on November 14, 2011, 75 days from the date of its publication in the Federal Register, when the NLRB's notice must be posted in the workplace.
The final rule requires employers that are subject to the NLRA to post and maintain the NLRB notice in conspicuous places, including all places where notices to employees are customarily posted, and to take reasonable steps to ensure that the notices are not altered, defaced, or covered by any other material, or otherwise rendered unreadable.
Employers have the right to post their own notice as well. In the final rule, the NLRB addressed the issue of whether employers may post their own notices informing employees of the company's position. It wrote:
One employer suggests that if the notice retains its current emphasis favoring union activity and disfavoring the freedom to refrain from such activity, employers will need to post their own notices that emphasize and elaborate on the right to refrain.
Finally, as discussed above, NLRA Section 8(c) protects employers' right to express any "views, argument, or opinion" "if such expression contains no threat of reprisal or force or promise of benefit." The rule does not affect this right. Therefore, if an employer is concerned that employees will get the wrong impression, it may legally express its opinion regarding unionization as long as it does so in a noncoercive manner.
Final Rule is Little Change from Proposed Rule
For the most part, the final rule is the same as the initial proposed rule in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), with only very minor changes.
The most significant change is that the final rule deletes the requirement that employers must distribute the notice via email, voice mail, text messaging or related electronic communications unless they customarily communicate with their employees in that manner.
Other significant changes include clarifications of the employee notice detailing employee rights protected by the NLRA and unlawful conduct on the part of unions; clarification of the rule's requirements for posting notices in foreign languages; allowing employers to post notices in black and white as well as in color; and exemption of the U.S. Postal Service from coverage of the rule.
For example, the final rule provides: "Where 20 percent or more of an employer's workforce is not proficient in English and speaks a language other than English, the employer must provide notice as required in paragraph (f)(1) of this section in the language the employees speak. If an employer's workforce includes two or more groups constituting at least 20 percent of the workforce who speak different languages, the employer must provide the notice in each such language." The NLRB will provide translations of the notice.
The final rule lists a number of exemptions from the notice posting requirement (including state or political subdivisions and labor organizations). In addition, the final rule states that federal contractors may comply with the provisions of the NLRB's posting requirement by posting the notices to employees required under the U.S. Department of Labor's notice posting rule, 29 CFR Part 471, and will not have to post a second notice.
The NLRB brushed aside the argument of opponents of the rule that it lacked the statutory or legal authority to require a general notice to be posted in the workplace by citing, and continuing to rely on, Section 6 of the NLRA, which provides that "The Board shall have authority from time to time to make, amend, and rescind, in the manner prescribed by the Administrative Procedure Act [5 U.S.C. 553], such rules and regulations as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this Act."
In the event that an employer fails to post the notice, the final rule imposes three sanctions. An employer’s failure to post the notice may be treated as an unfair labor practice under the NLRA. The final rule clarifies that an unfair labor practice case will typically be closed without further action if an employer was unaware of the rule and complies when requested. Additionally, the Board may extend the six-month statute of limitations for filing a charge involving other unfair labor practice allegations against the employer. If an employer knowingly and willfully fails to post the notice, the failure may be considered evidence of unlawful motive in an unfair labor practice case involving other alleged violations of the NLRA.
Information obtained by ogltree, deakins, nash, smoak and stewart P.C.
Put Some Light on the Subject
On July 12, 2011, The House of Representatives voted on a repeal of the so-called “bulb ban”, but failed to reach its two thirds majority vote. The controversial measure is part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. This act requires all general service lamps within a range of lumen output to be 30 percent more efficient than the standard incandescent lamps at that time. The law will go into effect beginning January 1, 2012. However, even though the original measure did receive bipartisan support, the measure has been very controversial. “The law set a minimum efficiency standard of about 30 percent for general service light bulbs. It does not ban any technology from being used to meet that standard.” said J Higbee, director marketing and communications, with the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. Higbee recommends contractors educate their customers about the difference between lumens and watts that power usage does not effectively mean light output anymore. “There are two costs to a light bulb,” Higbee said, “the purchase price and the cost of energy to power the bulb. There are three technologies available, each offering a different cost benefit– incandescent, CFL and LED. People can choose which technology to purchase after weighing the initial cost and long germ energy cost. Regardless, the lighting portions of the Energy Independence and Security Act remain intact and the nation is moving toward a future that will b just as bright but more efficient.
Information obtained from Timothy Johnson from EEC
Department of Labor (DOL) regulations that will make the H-2B program much more costly and complicated. Several Senators and Members of Congress are aware of the harm that the rules will pose for small businesses and plan to send a letter to DOL asking the Department to
PAID JURY DUTY
On February 21, 2012, a bill (A2554) was introduced that seeks to require employers to pay their employees for their period of service on jury duty. While current state law prohibits an employer from penalizing employees who miss work because of jury duty, this bill would require employers to pay their employees’ usual compensation for each day the employees are present for jury service, less the amount per diem fee for each day of jury service. This bill was previously introduced in 2010, but failed to advance.
Recently published data concerning housing and the broader economy reveal good news for the home building industry.
The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, a measure of builder confidence, reached 29 in February. This was the fifth consecutive monthly increase and the highest level for the index since April 2007.
Housing starts in January were up 1.5% from the previous month, reaching a 690,000 annualized pace. New single-family home sales were also up in January, which at a 321,000 seasonally-adjusted annualized rate, neared levels last seen in April 2010 at the end of the home buyer tax credit program. Existing home sales were also up (4.3%) in January.
These positive trends are the result of a healing national economy and improving conditions for housing markets. For example, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index reached the highest level in its 20-year history in January.
These improving conditions were also reflected in the February National Association of Realtors Pending Home Sales Index, which was up 8% from a year ago. And house prices are finding stable ground, with the Federal Housing Finance Agency national house price index up nearly 2% from its lowest level in March 2011 and most Census regions showing gains.
The Case-Shiller national home price index fell somewhat, but there is considerable local variation among the metropolitan areas in that measure.
Data from the Mortgage Bankers Association shows a slowing starts rate for foreclosures, although some of that slowing may be due to judicial and administrative delays for distressed homes in late 2011.
And more broadly, consumers are gaining confidence with respect to their own economic status and their views of the labor market.
Despite these positives, a few dark clouds remain: lending for home building remains overly restrictive, and some producer prices, including gypsum, appear to be on the rise.