Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Five More Top Labor and Employment Developments in Illinois in 2014

Yesterday we reported on five legislative initiatives in Illinois that impacted employers in 2014. Today we list five case decisions which also impacted Illinois employers this year.

1. The NLRB issued several rulings which found employee misbehavior both on and off the job was protected concerted activity. Cursing by employees, both to and about their bosses was found to be protected activities. Complaining on social media about the workplace and supervisors was also pretty much uniformly upheld as protected activity. The most disturbing development to employers from the NLRB was the recent decision in Purple Communication holding that employer rights to control use of its e-mail system may be trumped by employee Section 7 rights.  This is case law likely to be adopted by the ILRB and IELRB. While this immediately effects private employers, it is widely believed that the state’s public employee labor relations board will follow suit.

2. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby the U.S. Supreme Court held that closely-held corporations with bona fide religious objections may exempt themselves from obligations under the ACA to include certain types of contraception methods in health insurance plans covering company employees. Did this herald the beginning of the end of “Obamacare”? 2015 may be an active year for revisions to the ACA.

3. The legislature and the Illinois Public Labor Relations Board handed public employers a bit of confusion with the City of Danville case which held that whether minimum staffing is a mandatory subject of bargaining may be a case by case determination while the legislature amended the Public Labor Relations Act to state that staffing is an issue that can be the subject of interest arbitration.

4. In Harris v.Quinn, the U.S.  Supreme Court resolved the issue of whether personal or home health care assistants are required to pay fair share dues if they reject union membership. This decision seems to overrule an earlier decision which upheld the fair share payments of non-union members. In Harris, though, the court weighed the fact that home health care workers, who are often family members to the patient, have few, if any ties to the bargaining unit.

5. In another case ruling in favor of employee protections, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held in Lane v. Franks that the First Amendment "protects a public employee who provided truthful sworn testimony, compelled by subpoena, outside the course of his ordinary job responsibilities." It serves as a reminder to employers that they may be liable for discharging an employee who testifies against them.