Citing a ruling last week from a federal judge in South Carolina, the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has halted implementation of a new rule that would have forced employers, including hospitals, to conspicuously post notices informing workers of their union rights.
Court puts union-notices rule on hold
The posting rule had been slated to go into effect on April 30, but the D.C. Circuit court on Tuesday imposed an injunction that maintains the status quo throughout an expedited appeals process. The D.C. Circuit's decision stems from a case in which the American Hospital Association is indirectly a plaintiff through its membership in an employers' rights interest group, the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace.
The National Labor Relations Board published a final rule last August that forces the posting of notices that say employees have the right under federal law to bargain collectively with an employer, to take action to improve working conditions, to strike and picket, and to choose not to do any of those activities. The posting gives examples of illegal labor conduct and provides contact information for the NLRB.
The NLRB had argued that its rulemaking on workers' rights was a necessary and “modest” step to carry out its mission from Congress to enforce the National Labor Relations Act.
Employers rights groups said among other things that the NLRB exceeded its authority under the law, and on April 13 a judge with the U.S. District Court in Charleston, S.C., agreed, granting a motion for summary judgment (PDF) to the United States and South Carolina chambers of commerce.
“The plain language and structure of the act compel a finding that the board lacks authority under Section 6 to promulgate the rule,” U.S. District Judge David Norton wrote. “The Act places no affirmative obligation on employers to post notices of employee rights or inform employees of those rights, so the rule cannot be ‘necessary' to carry out such a nonexistent provision.”
Five days after that ruling, a three-judge panel of D.C. Circuit judges cited Norton's ruling and granted an emergency request for an injunction from groups including Coalition for a Democratic Workplace. The judges wrote that because it wasn't clear whether the NLRB intended to try to enforce the posting ruling during appeals, that “uncertainty about enforcement counsels further in favor of temporarily preserving the status quo while this court resolves all of the issues on the merits.”
The case is set for oral arguments in the D.C. Circuit in September 2012.
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