In a major victory for the business community, Judge Sam R. Cummings of the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a permanent nationwide injunction blocking the Department of Labor (DOL) from enforcing its new “persuader” rule. National Federation of Independent Business, et al. v. Perez, et al., Case No. 5:16-cv-00066. The rule attempted to expand disclosure requirements by employers and their consultants (including attorneys) related to union-organizing campaigns.
The new rule, which Judge Cummings had preliminarily enjoined prior to its effective date of July 1 of this year, would have greatly increased the reporting requirements under Section 203 of the Labor Management and Reporting Disclosure Act. That section requires employers and their labor relations consultants to disclose the terms (including financial terms) of any arrangement by which the consultant provides services that are intended to directly or indirectly persuade employees concerning their rights to organize a union or to bargain collectively with their employer.
For years, the DOL took the position that no reporting was required unless the consultant had direct contact with employees by way of in-person meetings, telephone calls, letters, or emails. Similarly, no reporting was required if the consultant’s activities were limited to providing sample materials such as speeches, postings, letters to employees, and the like that the employer was free to accept, reject, or modify.
However, the new persuader rule expanded the disclosure requirements to include indirect contact with employees by the consultant, including:
- Directing, planning, or coordinating the efforts of managers to persuade employees
- Providing materials such as speeches, letters, or postings that are intended to persuade employees
- Conducting union avoidance seminars if the consultant assists the employer in developing anti-union strategies
- Developing personnel policies intended to persuade employees in the exercise of their organizational or collective bargaining rights.
The attorneys general for 10 states as well as various business groups challenged the new rule as infringing on employers’ First Amendment rights and conflicting with the attorney-client privilege. Judge Cummings agreed that the rule is unlawful and should be set aside. Presently, it is unknown if DOL intends to appeal Judge Cummings’order.