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New NLRB General Counsel Sets Up Sweeping Changes in Labor Law

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Authors: Daniel V. Yager

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In a memorandum issued to National Labor Relations Board regional offices, recently confirmed NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo set out numerous areas where she can be expected to move the law in a more pro-union direction.  These include, but are not limited to, including employer workplace rules and policies, independent contractor classification, and employee activities protected against employer discipline.

The NLRB General Counsel largely determines the agenda for the five-Member NLRB.  With no private right of action under the National Labor Relations Act, the GC has the exclusive decision whether to prosecute an employer or union for a labor law violation.  In many critical areas, the law is vague enough to allow the GC to bring cases enabling the Board to either broaden or restrict the application of the Act.

Under the Obama-era Board, large companies were particularly concerned about restrictions on handbook policies aimed at ensuring workplace order.  Even if those policies were not intended to restrict union or other concerted activity, the Obama Board found them unlawful based on how they may be reasonably perceived by an employee.

HR leaders should engage their legal counsel to ensure that the company is prepared for major changes in interpretations of the labor laws under the new NLRB and its General Counsel.  Ms. Abruzzo’s memorandum can be seen here

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