The impact of the novel coronavirus has slammed employers across the globe, and federal agencies such as the National Labor Relations Board (“Board”) are no exception. The Board announced Thursday the unprecedented step that it was suspending all representation elections, including mail ballot elections, for at least two (2) weeks until at least April 3rd.
Just days earlier, the Agency implemented a nationwide telework policy in both its headquarters and regional offices, encouraging employees of the agency to work from home. While implementing the election freeze, the Agency highlighted that operations would be limited and open regional offices will maintain “minimal staff.” In a press release, the Agency stated “given the closure of several regional offices and limited operations and significant telework at others, the Board does not believe that it is possible to effectively conduct elections at this time.”
Likewise, due to the potential exposure of several agency personnel to the COVID-19 virus, the NLRB has announced temporary closures of various regional offices including those in Cleveland, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Manhattan, New Orleans and San Francisco as the agency managed potential Board Agent exposure to COVID-19. The Agency noted the closures are evolving and stated that it would continue to update the public on its website.
What This Means for Employers and Advocates
While the NLRB and its regional offices continue to function, processing newly filed petitions and unfair labor practice charges, the agency is functioning at a reduced level. Representation elections that had been scheduled to take place between now and April 3rd have been postponed, as have representation petitions and most other proceedings. NLRB personnel do continue to investigate ULP charges and attempt to secure agreements for elections in pending representation cases, asking parties to agree that any agreed elections will take place in the future on dates to be determined by the agency’s Regional Directors once operations return to something closer to normal. It is inevitable however that pending cases will be delayed and that backlogs in case processing and resolution will continue to grow. While the agency will continue to handle incoming cases, and Board employees will continue to work remotely, there will most certainly be a lag in case processing and hearing procedure as the Board navigates remote case-processing and strained adjudication and case-processing capabilities.
We will continue to provide updates as the Board’s guidance evolves.