Both the courts and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seem to keep changing the definitions of joint employment. It is no wonder this has left employers scratching their head about the situation. The cause for this itch is the analysis differs depending on the law at issue. For example, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), various state employment laws defining “employees,” common law (guided by the National Labor Relations Act), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and workers’ compensation laws all have joint employer doctrines and associated tests that are slightly different from the others.
To demonstrate these differences, we will look at two of the most recent cases that modify the joint employer analysis under both the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (the FLSA). Both these cases define a test – but it is not the same test. Unfortunately, the lesson is that an employer or putative employer will not know whether a person is an employee for the purposes of a particular law without determining first what test should be applied for that law.
If you had asked me one month ago to predict the winner of the presidential election, I would have been wrong. Therefore, rather than make my own [ill-fated] predictions of the changes that await employers when PEOTUS takes office, I consulted my trusty Magic 8 Ball. Here’s what it predicted:
Will the overtime rule ever become law?
MY SOURCES SAY NO.
We all have heard by now that the Department of Labor (DOL) rules extending eligibility for time-and-a-half overtime pay to some 4.2 million additional workers (including many employees in the hospitality industry) are on hold thanks to an injunction by a federal court judge in Texas. So what now? The DOL under the Obama administration was expected to appeal the ruling to the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, but the Trump administration has different priorities and may decide not to pursue an appeal after all.
In this blog post, we discuss the NLRB's March 2015 report and the importance of reviewing and updating your employee handbook. Thank you! – Greg
Are your employees using company email during nonworking hours? This blog brings the latest developments in NLRB’s ruling and important policy changes that employers can implement to comply with the ruling. Thank you! – Greg
The rash of NLRB guidance and new protections for employee social media activity discussed in our previous posts may make employers shy about taking corrective action based on an employee’s social media postings. While employers should always be careful in these situations, however, the mere fact that something is posted online does not make it “protected.” Recent examples in the news are a great reminder that where a posting is vulgar, offensive, or airs a petty grievance without implicating employees’ rights to discuss the terms and conditions of employment, the employer can and in many cases should discipline the employee. Where a posting is less offensive, however, the employer should tread carefully, as unpopular personnel decisions can also draw serious scrutiny.
Accessing Social Media Accounts
California has now joined Illinois and Maryland in banning employers from requesting social media passwords from current or potential employees or from requiring that employees log in while in the employer’s presence. Other states with pending legislation on this subject include Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Washington.
Because this trend is sweeping the nation, employers in any state should be careful and not request that employees divulge their social media passwords or otherwise pressure employees into granting access to social media accounts. This is good advice not only because of the legislative action, but for common sense reasons. Accessing an employee’s private social media account can lead to, among other things, the discovery of the employee’s membership in a protected class or the employee’s protected concerted activity, the employer’s knowledge of which could cause problems if the employee is later disciplined. In other words, ignorance is bliss. This is especially important to remember as the election draws near and employee use of social media to express political beliefs becomes more and more frequent.
Remember when Facebook was just for college kids? Well, things have changed. These days it seems like even giant companies are using social media to show their warm and fuzzy sides and to connect with customers. Obviously, the CEOs of these companies are not spending their time maintaining the accounts and posting clever comments. On the contrary, companies usually dedicate one or more employees to speak on behalf of the company, through a company-sponsored Facebook, Twitter, or other social media account. If done right, an account can build up thousands of followers and grow to host useful information, photos, or communications, becoming an important resource for customers.
But what happens if the employee who is running a company-sponsored account quits? In a perfect world, that employee would gladly relinquish control of the account back to the company. But what if the employee leaves on bad terms? What if the employee leaves for a rival company? What if the employee changes the password and starts posting negative comments, confidential information, or trade secrets? Sorry to get all lawyer-y, but these are the questions that keep me up nights.
If you are anything like me, you have been eagerly awaiting another update from the NLRB on its social media decisions. Well, wait no longer. On May 30, the NLRB’s Acting General Counsel issued a third report on recent social media cases. This complements the two previous reports from January 12, 2012, and August 18, 2011. For more information on the first two reports, see my recent post.
The new report does not offer any groundbreaking new principles for employers seeking to implement or enforce social media policies. This is good news, as it means that you don’t need to rewrite your social media policy every time the NLRB issues a report. This report does elaborate on a few of the key principles, however, and it offers some new and interesting examples. It also includes as an example an entire social media policy that was found lawful.
In a previous employment law update, Hospitality, Travel & Tourism practice group member, Diana Shukis, summarized the much discussed National Labor Relation Board's (NLRB) new notice posting rule. Diana provides below a brief update on the deadline for complying with the rule and her thoughts on where things go from here.
Recent court decisions have delayed the April 30, 2012 deadline for complying with the NLRB's notice posting rule. Based on the court decisions, employers are not required to post the statement of employee rights at least for now.
This post looks at two recent National Labor Relations Board reports and their impact on employers' social media policies. Several planned upcoming posts will also be looking at social media and its effects on hoteliers's and restaurateurs' operations - stay tuned.
Thanks to the internet, a single disgruntled employee can now do dramatic damage to a company’s image through posts on social media sites. (Just ask Domino's Pizza or Hotel Renaissance). The social media policies employers have instituted in the last few years may work to inhibit online employer-bashing; however, they can also come perilously close to violating the law. To assist employers in navigating this rapidly changing area of law, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) has issued two social media reports in the last seven months, explaining their rulings in several recent social media cases. As this posting demonstrates, even if you think you have a good social media policy, you may want to revisit it, given the latest NLRB guidance.
Employees in both unionized and non-unionized workplaces have protected rights to certain types of speech under the National Labor Relations Act. These include, briefly, the right to discuss terms and conditions of employment and unfair labor practices with coworkers and the right to engage in concerted activity. Employers who want to restrict employees from making disparaging comments about the company online must carefully phrase their policies to avoid trampling on these rights.
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Greg Duff founded and chairs Foster Garvey’s national Hospitality, Travel & Tourism group. His practice largely focuses on operations-oriented matters faced by hospitality industry members, including sales and marketing, distribution and e-commerce, procurement and technology. Greg also serves as counsel and legal advisor to many of the hospitality industry’s associations and trade groups, including AH&LA, HFTP and HSMAI.