Our latest briefing dives into new local laws about AI and how it affects both employment and insurance industries, the launch of NIST’s Trustworthy & Responsible Artificial Intelligence Resource Center and the plans for it moving forward, new guidance from the FDA on cybersecurity and on artificial intelligence/machine-learning frameworks, and the Coalition for Health AI’s quality assurance standards for use of AI in the health care and related industries.
On March 22, 2023, the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or the Board), Jennifer Abruzzo, issued guidance about the Board’s McLaren Macomb decision from earlier this year. The guidance made clear that the General Counsel will, when given the opportunity, prosecute a case before the Board to have the NLRB invalidate provisions in severance agreements that attempt to restrict the rights of departing employees to engage in activity protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The General Counsel also emphasized her view of the retroactive application of the decision, noting that employers attempting to enforce old severance agreements will face new unfair labor practice liability even if the statute of limitations has run since the execution of the now-unlawful agreement. Although the General Counsel’s memorandum is not law, employers should pay close attention as the guidance indicates the position the General Counsel will take in prosecuting allegedly unlawful severance agreements.
The decision of the National Labor Relations Board (the Board) in McLaren Macomb, 372 NLRB No. 58 ( Feb. 21, 2023), reinstates a limit on the confidentiality, non-disclosure, and non-disparagement clauses that employers may include in severance agreements with most of their lower-level employees. While the Board bills its decision as a return to the standard applied in earlier cases, this decision suggests that the Board will take a broader view of how such agreements infringe on employees’ rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.
On February 13, 2022, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) held that Starbucks violated federal labor law at multiple locations in Philadelphia in 2019 and 2020. The decision, issued by the NLRB’s three Democrats, found that Starbucks unlawfully threatened, surveilled, and interrogated employees, prohibited discussion of terms and conditions of employment, reduced the work hours of union supporters, and ultimately terminated two employees for engaging in protected activity.
On August 29, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or the Board) overturned a 2019 decision concerning the lawfulness of employer-promulgated dress codes and workplace apparel policies. In Tesla, Inc., the Board majority held that a workplace rule or policy that limits an employee’s ability to wear union insignia and logos is presumptively unlawful unless the employer can show that special circumstances exist to justify such a rule.
National Labor Relations Board and Federal Trade Commission execute Memorandum of Understanding to promote fair competition and advance workers’ rights.
On July 19, 2022, the NLRB and FTC formalized a partnership between the agencies that, among other things, will seek to protect worker rights from algorithmic decision-making. This is the most high-profile instance of the NLRB identifying algorithmic decision-making as something that could impact employee rights protected by the National Labor Relations Act. Employers with organized workforces (or workforces that could be the target of union organizing) should be aware of this development and the NLRB’s growing cooperation with the FTC.