Category Archives: Labor Law

Changes to Nation’s Employment Laws

Dorsey’s Analysis of Changes to the Nation’s Employment Laws

The advent of the Obama Administration is likely to result (and already has resulted) in sweeping changes to federal labor and employment laws and, accordingly, the relationship between employers and their employees. As we approach the 100th day of the new Administration, we have compiled a user-friendly summary guide to several key pieces of labor and employment legislation that are either pending before or likely to be revisited by the 111th Congress. Among other things, these laws underscore the Obama Administration’s stated commitments to strengthening anti-discrimination protections, repositioning the work/family balance, and reinvigorating unions. We will continue to monitor these and other legislative developments and will issue updates to ensure our clients stay ahead of the curve on impending changes. Answer→

14 Penn Plaza: US Supreme Court Decision

U.S. Supreme Court Enforces Agreement Compelling Unionized Employees to Arbitrate Discrimination Claims

Dorsey’s Analysis

On April 1, 2009, an ideologically divided United States Supreme Court resolved a long-standing controversy regarding the arbitration of discrimination claims of union-represented employees.  The Court’s decision in 14 Penn Plaza v. Byett resolved a split and an issue of confusion among lower courts, and the Court clarified and synchronized two of its earlier decisions concerning arbitration in the employment arena.  The question presented by 14 Penn Plaza was whether a provision in a collective bargaining agreement that clearly and unmistakably required union members to arbitrate claims arising under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act was enforceable.  The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 opinion written by Justice Thomas, held that “a collective bargaining agreement that clearly and unmistakably requires a union member to arbitrate ADEA claims is enforceable as a matter of federal law.”  The decision may have a number of important practical implications for employers with unionized workforces. Answer→

Buttons Worn by Union Employees, Quirky Question # 44

Quirky Question # 44:

I am a nursing supervisor working in a 250-bed acute care hospital.  We have been engaged in protracted contract negotiations with the union representing our registered nurses for several months.  Negotiations have bogged down over the nurses’ demand that their contract be amended to delete any provision for mandatory overtime to be assigned to nurses under any circumstances.  For the past couple of weeks, a number of our nurses have come to work wearing buttons reading, “Refuse to Lose – No Forced Overtime.”

I am concerned that our patients or their family members will conclude from this that they may not be receiving an appropriate level of care.  I have recommended to the Hospital Director that we publish a rule prohibiting nurses from wearing this button in any areas of the hospital where they may encounter patients or patient’s family members.  However, our Human Resource Director has expressed reservations about this, suggesting that this might be unlawful.  I can’t believe that we must permit this in a hospital setting.  Who is right? Answer→

Use of Email for Union Organizing, Quirky Question # 31

Quirky Question # 31:

Our company provides desktop computer terminals with email to virtually all of our employees.  We have adopted a policy covering the use of all of our Company-provided communications systems, including telephones, computers and email, fax machines and photocopy machines.  Our policy provides, “Communication systems are not to be used to solicit or proselytize for commercial ventures, religious or political causes, outside organizations, or other non-job related solicitations.”

In the course of performing a routine download and purge of a computer assigned to a recently departed employee, we became aware of an extensive series of email communications between the departed employee and two current employees concerning efforts to organize to secure union representation.  The emails include not only correspondence among these three employees but also messages sent by one or more of them to a large number of employees.  We would like to discipline the two remaining employees for violating our Communications Policy.  Is there any reason we should not do so? Answer→