The second half of 2014 was a whirlwind of activity on the labor and employment front, and I expect that trend to continue in 2015 with manufacturers having to navigate the rapids created by these developments.
The United States Supreme Court will be called on to address the Constitutionality of state medical and recreational marijuana laws now that Nebraska and Oklahoma have filed an “original jurisdiction” lawsuit against Colorado. Under Article III of the United States Constitution, only the United States Supreme Court has jurisdiction over lawsuits between two or more states, so it may be difficult for the Court to duck the issue. The result could either put the brakes on the “legalization” train or force employers to consider the serious issues presented by marijuana users working in high risk occupations and industries. Read the Complaint here: http://www.ok.gov/oag/documents/NE%20%20OK%20v%20%20CO%20-%20Original%20Action.pdf
The National Labor Relations Board’s recent “quickie” election rule and decisions regarding use of emails, deferral to arbitration awards, mandatory arbitration and confidentiality policies likely will result in significant new claims against manufacturers. Manufacturers will have to consider wholesale revisions to their employment policies or risk litigation. Read the Final Election Rule here: http://www.nlrb.gov/news-outreach/news-story/nlrb-issues-final-rule-modernize-representation-case-procedures
Ballot initiatives addressing a plethora of workplace standards – paid sick leave, higher minimum wages, break time, and other workplace protections – will likely find their way onto the ballots in numerous states and localities. Read the blog entry on this topic here: https://www.manufacturinglawblog.com/2014/11/the-show-in-2015-pass-the-popcorn-please/
Some multi-employer and single-employer pension plans which face funding challenges will certainly seek to take advantage of the newly enacted 2014 Pension Reform Act. The complex process required to permit pension reductions for retirees – application to the Department of Labor followed by an election among pension plan participants – likely will postpone actual pension reductions until 2016, but the process to implement those cuts will begin. Read the Act here: http://edworkforce.house.gov/uploadedfiles/bill_text_bipartisan_multiemployer_pension_reform.pdf
And while the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) has been silent so far on the new and more stringent “labor persuader” rule, I would not be shocked to see that rule come out in the Q1 2015 as the Obama Administration heads into its last act. If adopted as proposed, labor relations professionals and the manufacturers who use their services may have to file detailed financial disclosure reports with the DOL (even if the services do not relate to union avoidance efforts).
All-in-all, the combination of these developments will likely keep the HR and Labor Relations departments of manufacturers pretty busy in 2015.