Displaying 3 category results for January 2014.x

NLRB Abandons Controversial Posting Rule

By Stacey Mark
January 9, 2014

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced this week that it will not seek U.S. Supreme Court review of two Court of Appeals decisions invalidating its controversial posting rule.  The rule required most private sector employers to post a notice advising employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act, including the right to:

  • Organize a union to negotiate with employers concerning wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment;
  • Form, join or assist a union;
  • Bargain collectively through representatives of employees’ own choosing for a contract setting wages, benefits, hours, and other working conditions;
  • Discuss terms and conditions of employment or union organizing with co-workers or a union;
  • Engage in protected concerted activities with one or more co-workers to improve wages, benefits and other working conditions; and
  • Choose not to do any of these activities, including joining or remaining a member of a union.

Since the initial injunction barring the NLRB from enforcing the posting requirement, the NLRB has increased its scrutiny of employer rules and policies that could be interpreted as chilling employees' rights to engage in concerted activity.  The policies and rules that tend to be problematic are those that could be construed as limiting employee communication about working conditions and terms of employment, including social media, confidentiality, and non-disparagement policies.  Such policies routinely come under review when the NLRB receives a charge alleging an unfair labor practice (ULP), even when the ULP does not implicate the particular rule or policy.   Given the NLRB's decision to abandon the posting rule, its scrutiny of employer policies is likely to continue in 2014. 

Oregon Court of Appeals Adopts Broad Definition of "Employee" for Minimum Wage Statute

By Shemia Fagan
January 6, 2014

Last month, in Cejas Commercial Interiors, Inc., v. Torres-Lizama, the Oregon Court of Appeals adopted the “economic realities test” for determining whether an individual is an employee under Oregon's minimum wage statute.  The statute, ORS 653.025, provides that “no employer shall employ * * * any employee” at a wage lower than the “Oregon minimum wage.”  A challenge for courts is to determine whether a worker is an employee of the purported employer.

Before last month’s ruling, trial courts in Oregon applied two different tests to determine whether an individual is an “employee” for purposes of the minimum wage statute.  One test, called the “right-to-control test,” looks at whether the presumed employer has formal control over the individual workers. A second test, the one adopted by the Court of Appeals, focuses more broadly on whether “an entity has functional control over workers even in the absence of the formal control.”  The goal of the economic-realities test is to determine whether, “as a matter of economic reality,” the worker is dependent on the alleged employer.

In Cejas Commercial Interiors, Inc., v. Torres-Lizama, the workers alleged that Cejas, a drywall contractor, was their employer while they did drywall work that Cejas had subcontracted to Viewpoint Construction, LLC. The workers sought compensation from Cejas when Viewpoint disappeared without paying them, claiming that Cejas and not Viewpoint was their employer.  The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that, even applying the broader economic-realities test, the workers were not “employees” of Cejas, and therefore Cejas did not owe them minimum wages.  The court found that Cejas “neither formally nor functionally controlled the terms and conditions of employment.”  Further, the court found that the workers were not economically dependent on Cejas and Cejas was a “mere business partner” of the workers' direct employer, Viewpoint.

Oregon Court of Appeals holds the line on pleading prejudgment interest

By Lori Irish Bauman
January 2, 2014

Last week the Oregon Court of Appeals reinforced the challenges facing parties seeking prejudgment interest.  In Davis v. F.W. Financial Services, Inc., defendant asserted a counterclaim for conversion of funds, and sought interest accruing on that sum of money through the date of judgment. 

According to the court, a claim for prejudgment interest is properly pleaded when the claimant alleges the exact amount due and the dates during which the claimant was deprived of the funds.  While the defendant in Davis did allege in its counterclaim the exact amount converted by plaintiff, defendant was denied prejudgment interest because it incorrectly stated the date on which the conversion began.  The court reached that result even though the plaintiffs themselves had properly stated in their complaint the date on which they took control of the funds.  Because defendant "pleaded only legally erroneous dates" it was not entitled to prejudgment interest.