As we discussed with participants in our recent Labor and Employment Law Seminar, despite recent setbacks, the National Labor Relations Board continues to issue decisions that are concerning for employers. These decisions, which impact union and non-union employers alike, often take an expansive view of the protections afforded employees by the National Labor Relations Act. In a recent case involving a complaint filed by an (alleged) independent contractor working for a non-union employer, the Board found that the contractor’s electronic communications, directed at employees of a different employer, were protected by the Act because the communications constituted union organizing activity.

In New York Party Shuttle (pdf), the Board first considered whether the complaining party, a tour guide, was an employee or an independent contractor. The Tour Guide was regularly hired by Party Shuttle to provide guided tours of New York City. He also maintained his own tour company, and booked and provided tours through his own company. The Board held that Party Shuttle failed to establish that that the Tour Guide was an independent contractor. In making its decision, the Board applied a common law test that considers a multitude of factors and places the burden on the employer to establish independent contractor status. In this case, the Board found that Party Shuttle failed to establish that the tour guide as an independent contractor.

After determining that the Tour Guide was an employee, the Board turned to the next issue, the Tour Guide’s termination.


Continue Reading NLRB Finds Discussions With Employees of Another Employer Can Constitute Protected Activity

For years, Pennsylvania courts have consistently denied unemployment compensation benefits to employees who accept early retirement incentive packages. Recently, however, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overruled this well-established precedent. In Diehl v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, the Supreme Court found that employees who accept early retirement packages offered pursuant to employer-initiated workforce reductions are eligible for

Last year, we reported on the first National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge decision examining an employee’s discharge for social media activity. Recently, the Board made Hispanics United its second decision examining an employee’s discharge for comments posted on Facebook. The Board held that the employer violated the National Labor Relations Act when it discharged five employees for criticizing another employee on Facebook. Although examining a new media, the Board stated that it was relying on established precedent to find that the activity in question was for “mutual aid or protection” within the meaning of Section 7 of the Act. Accordingly, the Board affirmed the ALJ’s decision ordering reinstatement of the discharged employees.
Continue Reading Board Affirms Decision Ordering Reinstatement of Employees Terminated for Facebook Comments

We have been getting a lot of questions from employers about how employees’ legal use of marijuana impacts an employer’s ability to enforce its drug testing policy. Colorado and Washington recently became the first states to approve the recreational use of marijuana, but numerous other states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes for several years. Now employers are asking: what happens if an employee tests positive for marijuana under our workplace drug and alcohol policy, but says that he or she used marijuana legally either for medicinal purposes or while in a state that has legalized marijuana for all purposes?
Continue Reading Drug Testing Policies Up in Smoke?

Last month, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed into law an unemployment compensation ("UC") reform bill. The law, considered by many to be largely pro-employer, is designed to restore solvency to the state’s unemployment compensation trust fund by 2019. Several of the major provisions of the UC reform law are outlined below.

  • The law authorizes the Commonwealth

Should an employee who agrees to resign her employment as part of the settlement of her workers’ compensation claim be eligible to receive unemployment compensation benefits? According to a recent decision from the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, the answer to this question is a firm “no.”

An employee who voluntarily quits her employment will not be

In June 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly enacted a law amending the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Law. Many of the amendments’ provisions took effect January 1, 2012, including additional “active search for employment” eligibility requirements for claimants to collect UC benefits.

In interpreting the active search requirement and statutory exceptions, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry established specific steps that a claimant must take to satisfy the active search requirement. L&I also added the caveat that, to be relieved from the active search requirement under the layoff/lack of work exception, the claimant must have a projected return to work date within 28 calendar days of when he last worked. The addition of the 28-day requirement caused significant concern for employers who engage in seasonal layoffs, particularly those in the construction industry.
Continue Reading Labor & Industry Revises New Active Search Requirements for UC Eligibility, Drops “28 Calendar Days” Recall Requirement for Temporary Layoff Exception

As a reminder, amendments to the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Law that provide for severance pay offsets against unemployment compensation benefits take effect January 1, 2012. We discussed in a prior post the amendments’ definition of “severance pay” and how the severance pay offset will be calculated.

Please note that severance agreements reached between an employer and employee in 2011 should not impact the employee’s unemployment compensation benefits, even if the severance pay continues into 2012. The offset will apply, however, to agreements reached on or after January 1, 2012.
Continue Reading REMINDER: Severance Pay Offset to Unemployment Compensation Benefits Takes Effect January 1, 2012 In Pennsylvania