Biden Nominates NLRB General Counsel

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. February 18, 2021
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National Labor Relations Board logo on a tablet

On Feb. 17, President Joe Biden nominated Jennifer Abruzzo to be the next National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) general counsel. Abruzzo currently serves as special counsel for strategic initiatives for the Communications Workers of America. Prior to that, she was acting general counsel at the NLRB. We've gathered articles on the news from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets.

Announcement's Timing

The announcement of Abruzzo's nomination preceded Biden's meeting with labor leaders at the White House about his coronavirus relief proposal and infrastructure. Abruzzo will need to be confirmed by the Senate, which is split evenly 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats have a slight majority, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting tie-breaking votes.

(The Hill)

Acting General Counsel Has Been Active

NLRB Acting General Counsel Peter Sung Ohr announced Feb. 1 that he was rescinding 10 memos that he considered inconsistent with the National Labor Relations Act's (NLRA's) purpose, including one memo on employee handbook rules. The rescinded memo on employee handbooks outlined three categories of rules: ones that are generally lawful, provisions warranting individualized scrutiny and rules that are lawful. Most of the rules mentioned in the memo were deemed to usually be lawful.

(SHRM Online)

Former General Counsel Ousted

Ohr was named as acting general counsel after Biden removed Peter Robb from the general counsel position. Robb was ousted from his post on Jan. 20. His term was set to expire on Nov. 17. The NLRB general counsel makes decisions as to which cases the board will prosecute. The board oversees union elections and upholds workers' rights to organize.

(SHRM Online)

Opinion: Was Robb's Removal Lawful?

The U.S. Supreme Court hasn't clearly defined the president's power to remove federal officials. But there is legal precedent that the president's power to fire does not extend to independent agencies.

(Fortune)

Robb Targeted Obama NLRB Decisions

When he was the new general counsel for the NLRB, Robb signaled in a Dec. 1, 2017, memo an interest in overturning more than two dozen Obama-era board decisions. Robb sought in part to clarify that an employer may lawfully terminate an employee who refers to his or her supervisor on Facebook in outrageously obscene language. He also sought to restrict the use of employers' e-mail systems for work only. In addition, Robb urged the board to prohibit off-duty employees from picketing on an employer's property directly in front of its doorways. And he sought for employers to have the right to suspend or terminate an employee before entering into a collective bargaining agreement without bargaining with a newly certified union over the decision.

(SHRM Online)

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