As I discussed on the blog earlier this year (and noted on my Twitter feed last week), the NLRB has gone ahead with its plan to consolidate Connecticut’s Region 34 Office with its Boston Region 1 office, effective today

Jonathan Kreisberg, who has served as Regional Director for Region 34 will now take over as head of Region 1. 

As of this morning, the Hartford Region still has its own website, but you can already see some changes in the map of coverage.  Officially, the Hartford office is now a subregion of the Boston office.

Kreisberg will speak about this and more at the CBA’s Labor & Employment Committee meeting this Thursday , December 13, at 5:30 p.m. at the Quinnipiack Club in New Haven.  You can sign up at the CBA’s website here.

In posts earlier this week, I’ve discussed what the NLRB’s Connecticut Office is doing and what to expect for 2010. 

But as I continue to recap the breakfast I attended earlier in the week with NLRB (Region 34) Regional Director Jonathan Kreisberg, of particular importance to employers was the discussion about what issues the NLRB may see reoccur from time to time.  The NLRB recapped some of these in its January 2010 newsletter and its worth a read through (page 4).

Here are some highlights from our discussion:

  • Kreisberg indicated that employer rules that have broad confidentiality provisions prohibiting employees from discussing wages, benefits and working conditions with co-workers are likely to be struck down. While protecting "trade secrets" is a legitimate concern, he indicated that many employer rules — in his view — go too far. 
  • He also said that rules that prohibit employees from discussing non-confidential matters with the media are likely overbroad, though rules that restrict an employee from talking with the media as the company’s "spokesman" may be more palatable. For more information, he pointed to a relatively new NLRB case which discusses this in more detail: Trump Marina Assocs., 354 NLRB 123 (2009).
  • Kreisberg also noted that anti-solicitation rules may be properly drafted so long as the rule does not prohibit employees from distributing written materials during non-working time in non-working areas.  Kreisberg said however that employers often run into difficulties in the selective application of the rule. (And in this time of Girl Scout cookies, it’s a good reminder.)
  • He did note that employers can prohibit the use of employer’s e-mail system for union solicitation but he again cautioned that selective enforcement of the rules could lead to issues with the NLRB down the road.  
  • We also discussed "anti-harassment" policies. For the most part, if such policies are in the context of discrimination/hostile work environment discussions, he did not see much of an issue with it.  But he indicated that the NLRB will look to see if the application of the rule is showing an anti-union bias.  He also reminded everyone that during elections, the NLRB seems to allow behavior (particularly from union personnel) that might not otherwise be tolerated if in the context of daily working activities.
  • Lastly,  Kreisberg indicated that the NLRB had produced a video designed to inform the public about the role of the Agency in conducting elections. It is also available on DVD upon request to employers and others.  (And he noted that if an employer uses this video during an election, it would pass muster as an neutral educational video.)

So what’s the bottom line for employers? 

  • Review your confidentiality, anti-solicitation and anti-harassment policies to ensure that they will pass muster under scrutiny.
  • Perhaps more importantly, educate staff about the appropriate application of the policy to union activities.
  • And finally, even if you do NOT yet have a union at the workplace, these rules (such as blanket prohibitions on employees’ discussions of wages) may still apply, so if you’re concerned, be sure to seek appropriate legal counsel.

 

As I indicated in my post yesterday, the bar-related breakfast with NLRB Region 34 office was a big success. 

In the presentation and discussion, Regional Director Jonathan Kreisberg made a few predictions and observations about what 2010 would bring.

  1. Kreisberg noted that the NLRB was going to be using press releases to a far greater extent than ever before. (He could not recall more than 10 instances in the last 30 years when press releases were issued by the Connecticut office).  He said that the NLRB’s hiring of two new media personnel in late 2009 would make it much easier to do so. As a result, he expected more publicity for notable complaints, settlements and findings. 
  2. Related to that, he indicated that the NLRB already had up an active Twitter feed @NLRB)  which would only be used even more frequently in 2010.
  3. Kreisberg noted that he hoped that the 3 vacancies at the Board level would be filled soon.  While two of the nominees were uncontroversial, the re-appointment of Craig Becker has stalled things. Because there is a desire to approve all 3 nominees at the same time, the Board is still only operating with 2 out of 5 possible members.  
  4. In discussing the Employee Free Choice Act, there remains a great deal of uncertainty whether it will be brought to the floor of Congress for a vote in 2010.  If it does come up, among the provisions to keep an eye out for are a provision that would expand the injunctive authority of the NLRB and would speed up elections to seven days.  As a result, of the latter provision, Kreisberg indicated that post-election challenges to ballots would become much more prevalent.  (Although he didn’t comment on it directly, it appears likely that card-check provision of EFCA is going nowhere.)
  5. Kreisberg also indicated that there would likely be a new Field Attorney hired in 2010. This might allow for even more enforcement actions and speedier proceedings.

What does this mean for employers?

It means that if you’re employer with a labor issue, you’re likely to get more press and publicity than you may be used to.  In addition, even if only a few provisions of EFCA get passed, it’s likely to impact how cases are processed at the NLRB-level.  

Whether or not you have a union at your workplace, now’s the time to refresh yourself and your workers about your legal obligations.  And if you do become entangled in an issue, have a labor counsel ready to go; you may not have a lot of time to respond when you get a notice.

The Connecticut Bar Association’s Labor & Employment Section sponsored an informal breakfast with NLRB (Region 34) Regional Director Jonathan Kreisberg earlier today to talk about various issues in the labor arena. (Also in attendance were John Cotter, Deputy Regional Director and Terri Craig, Supervisory Attorney). 

It was a terrific session with lots of substantive and useful information.  In fact, there was so much substance out of it, that I’m going to break my recap up into various posts for the rest of the week.

Today, I’ll focus on a few happenings around the Connecticut office and some region-specific information.

First, the Connecticut region released its "NLRB News", a newsletter chock full of notable items.  You can download a copy here. It includes a very helpful professional staff roster with phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

Second, Kreisberg indicated electronic filing would be used more frequently in the region as the year progressed and that mandatory e-filing would occur later this year. For employers, that means both preservation of data, but also making sure that the information is readily accessible via computer.

Third, Kreisberg indicated that the office will be moving to the federal office building at 450 Main Street in Hartford in approximately May 2010.  This move has been in the works for some time but it will give the office a needed upgrade. 

Fourth, Kreisberg indicated that his office will also be hiring another field attorney in 2010 to be able to handle more cases and litigate them. Already in 2009, the budget situation for the office has improved, so much so that they did their first hire since 2001 — a new field examiner named Andrew Starr. 

Lastly, the Region has — for some time — referred up to 5 cases a month out to the Buffalo NLRB region for investigation because of a lack of resources in this region to handle the caseload. Kreisberg indicated that may come to an end with the hirings last year and this year.

Much of the information discussed at the issue was contained in the newsletter referenced above but in upcoming posts, I’ll talk about some of the changes being discussed at a national level, as well as some of the trends that the NLRB has been seeing lately with regard to employer rules.

My thanks to the NLRB for its willingness to engage the bar association in this area and for providing useful information that will ultimately help both practitioners but their clients as well.

On Wednesday, May 27th, National Labor Relations Board Chairman Wilma Liebman and General Counsel Ronald Meisburg announced the appointment of Jonathan B. Kreisberg as the Regional Director of the NLRB’s Regional Office in Hartford, CT (Region 34).

Mr. Kreisberg succeeds former Director Peter B. Hoffman, who retired in March 2009.

Employers and attorneys in Connecticut will no doubt be familiar with Mr. Kreisberg. He has been a career NLRB employee, and has served as Regional Attorney in the Hartford Regional Office since 1989. He is also a former chair of the Connecticut Bar Association’s Labor & Employment Law Committee.

In a press release announcing the appointment, Chairman Liebman and General Counsel Meisburg stated:

Jonathan Kreisberg brings a wealth of experience and abilities to his new position. During his many years of service with the Agency, Jonathan’s excellent legal and organizational skills have resulted in the amicable resolution of many labor disputes and meaningful remedies for employees, unions and employers under the NLRA. We are confident that his considerable experience with the Agency and his active involvement with the labor-management community in Connecticut will enable him to continue the tradition of excellence in the Hartford Regional Office.

A native of Bayside, Queens, New York, Mr. Kreisberg earned his B.S. degree in 1974 from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, and his J.D. degree in 1977 from American University’s Washington College of Law.