The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has found its first target under recent guidance issued in a memo from its General Counsel claiming that noncompete agreements may violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). According to Bloomberg Law, “[t]he NLRB’s first enforcement action against an employer’s noncompete agreement targeted a Michigan cannabis processor and ended with a recent private settlement resolving the alleged labor law violations.” (The enforcement action predates the guidance memo). Bloomberg obtained redacted documents from the case via a Freedom of Information Act request.
The National Labor Relations Board’s top lawyer, Jennifer Abruzzo, issued a General Counsel memo today instructing the Labor Board’s Regional Directors of her position that noncompete clauses for employees protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) (i.e., nonmanagerial and nonsupervisory employees) in employment contracts and severance agreements violate federal labor law except in limited circumstances. The memo, while not law, outlines her legal theory which she will present to the National Labor Relations Board, which makes law primarily through adjudication of unfair labor practice cases. The memo instructs the agency’s field offices of the position that the General Counsel is instructing them to take when investigating unfair labor practice charges claiming that such clauses interfere with employees’ rights under the NLRA.
In an Advice Memorandum dated April 20, 2022 and released on November 30, 2022, the Division of Advice within the National Labor Relations Board’s (“NLRB” or “Board”) Office of the General Counsel urged the Board to overturn existing Board law to significantly lower the standard for when an employer must furnish the union with its general financial information. This latest push to bolster unions during bargaining follows the NLRB’s General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo’s (“GC”) issuance of Memorandum GC 21-04 regarding Mandatory Submissions to Advice on August 12, 2021, wherein she signaled her intent to change this standard.
On October 31, 2022, the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) released Memorandum GC 23-02 urging the Board to interpret existing Board law to adopt a new legal framework to find electronic monitoring and automated or algorithmic management practices illegal if such monitoring or management practices interfere with protected activities under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (“Act”). The Board’s General Counsel stated in the Memorandum that “[c]lose, constant surveillance and management through electronic means threaten employees’ basic ability to exercise their rights,” and urged the Board to find that an employer violates the Act where the employer’s electronic monitoring and management practices, when viewed as a whole, would tend to “interfere with or prevent a reasonable employee from engaging in activity protected by the Act.” Given that position, it appears that the General Counsel believes that nearly all electronic monitoring and automated or algorithmic management practices violate the Act.
On April 7, 2022, Jennifer Abruzzo, General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”), issued Memorandum GC 22-04, titled “The Right to Refrain from Captive Audience and other Mandatory Meetings” (“GC Memo”). It is no secret that the General Counsel has been an advocate for policies and practices that would increase union representation and make it easier for unions to gain recognition and win votes on representation. This includes restricting steps employers can take to share their views with employees. Such a step that the GC Memo calls for is a series of restrictions on what have been called “captive audience speeches,” that is, meetings on company time where employers present their views.
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