Last month, two courts reached different conclusions about the legality of companies’ diversity equity and inclusion programs under Section 1981. The cases display different tactics and defenses and raise questions about how different courts will respond to these kinds of claims in the future.
Before the Supreme Court’s ruling in Students for Fair Admissions vs. Harvard, four Fortune 150 companies were sued over their diversity, equity and inclusion, and environmental, social and governance practices. This alert provides an update on those cases.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Students for Fair Admissions vs. Harvard, the American Alliance for Equal Rights has now sued two large law firms for alleged violations of Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 over their fellowship programs offered to law students. Despite the Alliance’s complaints referencing gender, LGTBQ+ status and/or disability, the claims are limited to Section 1981 which addresses only racial discrimination in the fellowship programs.
On September 6, 2022, a split National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or the Board) released its long-anticipated Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would lessen the burden in proving that two companies jointly employ workers under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). This proposed standard, in effect, would increase the scope of joint employment relationships to include indirect and unexercised control over the essential terms and conditions of a job. In contrast, the prior standard — adopted in April 2020 by a Republican-majority Board — required that an employer have direct and immediate control over these essential terms and conditions. Moreover, the putative joint employer had to actually exercise that control. Before that, in 2015, a Democrat-majority Board issued a decision holding that a company need only hold indirect control over the terms and conditions of employment to be considered a joint employer.
On Friday, February 4, 2022 President Joe Biden signed Executive Order 14063, requiring project labor agreements (PLA) for all federal construction projects costing more than $35 million. PLAs are agreements between contractors and one or more labor organizations that establish the terms and conditions of employment, such as wage rates and benefits, for specific construction projects. Because of their project-based specificity, the terms and conditions of a PLA often (depending upon the PLA’s terms) supersede the provisions of an existing, but more geographically generalized, area collective bargaining agreements (CBA).
The order takes effect immediately and will apply to many of the projects funded by the recent infrastructure bill.