United States: Supreme Court Rejects Obama’s Recess NLRB Appointments

On June 26, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously limited the President's power to make recess appointments under the Recess Appointments Clause of the Constitution, Art. II, Sect. 2, Cl. 3. While the decision involved 2012 Presidential appointments made to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or "Board"), the ramifications of the decision extend far beyond labor law appointments.

The NLRB is a five-member board which hears complaints about union and non-union employers regarding unfair labor practice charges. A 2010 Supreme Court decision held that, to constitute a quorum and issue valid decisions, the Board must have at least three members.1

In February 2012, the Board issued a decision finding that Noel Canning had committed an unfair labor practice. When the Board issued this decision, it had five members—but President Obama had appointed three of them under the power of the Recess Appointments Clause, during a three-day recess of the Senate on January 4, 2012. Noel Canning appealed the Board's decision and argued, first before the District of Columbia Circuit and then before the Supreme Court, that the Board's decision against Noel Canning was void because three of the five Board members had been invalidly appointed by President Obama, leaving the Board without the requisite three members necessary to act.

The Recess Appointments Clause authorizes the President "to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate," without first obtaining the "Advice and Consent" of the Senate. The company argued first that the Recess Appointments Clause only applies to inter session recesses of Congress, that is, recesses between sessions of Congress, and not merely "brief breaks" the Senate may take during a session. Second, Noel Canning argued that the President's power is limited to fill vacancies that first come into existence during a recess period, i.e., that "may happen" during a recess. Neither condition existed at the time the appointments were made. The District of Columbia Circuit agreed and overturned the Board's decision.

The Supreme Court was unanimous in affirming, but the majority affirmed on narrower grounds. The Court concluded that when, on January 4, 2012, the President appointed Terence Flynn, Richard Griffin, and Sharon Block to the Board, the appointments were invalid because they took place when the Senate was only in the midst of a three-day recess "and three days is too short a time to bring a recess within the scope of the Clause." Thus, the decision of the Board was invalid. The Court suggested that a 10-day recess would generally be sufficient as, historically, recess-appointments have been made during Senate recesses of 10 days or more.

The NLRB has not announced how it will deal with the cases in which one of the three January 4 appointees participated. NLRB records show that there were 436 contested cases decided by the Board in which the Board did not have a quorum in light of the Court's decision. Some of those cases involved significant and controversial changes from prior Board precedent, such as an employer's right to issue reasonable work rules concerning employee behavior; requiring employees to keep matters confidential during investigations by an employer; and requiring employers to disclose to a union the witness statements from the employer's internal investigation.

Also, administrative decisions made by the Board between January 4, 2012, and August 5, 2013, are also likely to be challenged, including the appointment of administrative law judges and Regional Directors, and perhaps the decisions they made.

The significance of the Court's decision will likely be somewhat limited by the recent amendment to the Senate filibuster rules, which no longer require a 60-person vote to approve a presidential appointment. Because of the change in those rules, it is more likely now that the President will get the "Advice and Consent" necessary to make appointments. But, of course, mid-term elections in the fall could change that calculation and, regardless, sometimes the confirmation process can drag on, leading the President to consider a recess appointment.

The Court's decision in Noel Canning will have repercussions for both unionized employers and those that are union-free. We will continue to update you as developments arise and provide a more detailed discussion of affected NLRB decisions and how the Board will deal with them in our August 2014 Employment Law Commentary.

Footnote

1. Under prior Supreme Court precedent, decisions issued when the NLRB does not have a quorum are void ab initio. New Process Steel v. NLRB, 130 S.Ct. 2635, 2640-41 (2010).

Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Morrison & Foerster LLP. All rights reserved

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions