NLRB Members Lean Toward Possible Easing of Restrictions on Off-Duty Employee Access Rules
Two of the four members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have indicated they are willing to rethink a key element of the Board’s more-than-40-year-old precedent regarding employers’ off-duty employee access rules under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Southern Bakeries, 368 NLRB No. 59 (Aug. 28, 2019).
Members William Emanuel and Marvin Kaplan, both nominated by President Donald Trump, wrote in a footnote in Southern Bakeries that they were prepared to “reconsider … in a future appropriate case” the “third prong” of the test in Tri-County Medical Center, 222 NLRB 1089 (1976), for determining the validity of employer off-duty employees access rules.
Under Tri-County, an employer’s rule prohibiting access by off-duty employees is valid only if three conditions are met: “it (1) limits access solely with respect to the interior of the plant and other working areas; (2) is clearly disseminated to all employees; and (3) applies to off-duty employees seeking access to the plant for any purpose and not just to those employees engaging in union activity.” . The third prong of the test has proven to be vexing for employers because it does not even permit an employer to maintain a rule that allows an employee to return to the workplace for innocuous reasons, such as to pick up a paycheck.
NLRB General Counsel Memo
Among other responsibilities, the NLRB hears appeals of decisions made by administrative law judges in unfair labor practices cases. In connection with their desire to review the Tri-County test, Members Emanuel and Kaplan will find a willing ally in NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb. The General Counsel decides which unfair labor practice charges to prosecute and, therefore, to shepherd through the NLRB processes to the Board. In a memorandum issued on December 1, 2017, Robb listed the types of cases he would like to present to the Board with the goal of convincing the NLRB to reverse or modify current law (“to present [to the Board] an alternative analysis” to the existing one). NLRB Memorandum GC 18-02 (“Mandatory Submissions to Advice”). Among them were cases arising under Tri-County.