The approaching holidays may have put Congress, the National Labor Relations Board and the United States Supreme Court in the “gift-giving” mood.  In the last week, three significant developments occurred which may radically affect manufacturers in 2015.

On December 11, in Purple Communications, a divided National Labor Relations Board ruled that employees had a statutory right to use their employers’ email systems and computers to organize.   The Board’s decision can be found here:

Impact:  While the Board’s decision will certainly be challenged in this and other cases, if left standing, employers will have to consider wholesale policy changes, and employees and their unions will have a new powerful organizing tool.

Next, on December 9, in Integrity Staffing Solutions, a unanimous United States Supreme Court held that the time warehouse employees spent waiting to pass through security screenings (an estimated 25 minutes each day) was not compensable time under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  The Court held that such security screenings, which solely benefited the employer by reducing theft, were “noncompensable postliminary activities” (and thus unpaid) even if the employer could have reduced the amount of time employees spent on these activities.  The Court’s decision can be found here:

Impact:  The Court’s decision, the second time this year where the Court has rejected employee claims that pre- and post-shift activities were compensable, gives employers greater latitude in dealing with wage issues.

Finally, over the weekend, the United States Senate approved the omnibus spending bill to keep the government open.  Tucked into that voluminous package is the “Multi-Employer Pension Reform Act of 2014.”  The 161-page amendment permits distressed multi-employer pension plans to unilaterally cut the vested retirement benefits of employees and retirees.  That legislation can be found here:

Impact:  This legislation significant alters the landscape for employers facing trustee or union demands to increase pension contributions to troubled multi-employer pension plans.  At the same time, for the first time since the 1974 adoption of ERISA, “vested” pension benefits of retired workers can be unilaterally reduced by pension trustees.

Each of these developments is worthy of extensive discussion.  In future posts, we will explore the implications of each.