In an interesting turn foreshadowing a coming change in its leadership, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has withdrawn the rule it proposed in September 2019 to exclude student workers at private colleges and universities from coverage under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The proposed rule would have excluded students whose studies included working as teaching or research assistants at private higher education institutions from the definition of “employees” under the NLRA.

“Employees” under the NLRA have protected rights to unionize and engage in collective bargaining. The proposed rule would have categorically excluded student workers from these protections.

The NLRB has repeatedly shifted its position on the status of student workers. However, since 2016, the Board has held that an employment relationship can exist under the NLRA between a private college or university and its employee, even when the employee is simultaneously a student. Columbia University, 364 NLRB No. 90. The proposed rule would have reversed Columbia University and, as a rule, would have placed the non-employee status of student workers beyond the reach of NLRB case decisions. With the withdrawal of the proposed rule, Columbia University will remain controlling precedent.

Further, following the expiration of NLRB Member William Emanuel’s term in August 2021, President Joe Biden will have the authority to establish a new (presumably Democratic) majority of the NLRB. Perhaps in light of that, the Board “decided to withdraw this rulemaking proceeding … to focus its time and resources on the adjudication of cases currently in progress.”

For more details on the Board’s action, see our article published by Jackson Lewis’ Higher Education Industry Team, or contact our attorneys in the Labor Relations Group or Higher Education Industry Team about the NLRA and its application to student workers.

Print:
EmailTweetLikeLinkedIn
Photo of Michael R. Bertoncini Michael R. Bertoncini

Michael R. Bertoncini is a Principal in the Boston, Massachusetts, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He practices labor and employment law, with a particular emphasis on labor relations, employment law counseling and litigation, and data privacy and security law.

In labor relations matters…

Michael R. Bertoncini is a Principal in the Boston, Massachusetts, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He practices labor and employment law, with a particular emphasis on labor relations, employment law counseling and litigation, and data privacy and security law.

In labor relations matters, he regularly counsels clients on the practice of positive employee relations, negotiates collective bargaining agreements on behalf of organized clients, represents clients in labor arbitrations and National Labor Relations Board proceedings, and counsels clients with respect to rights and obligations under collective bargaining agreements and applicable labor and employment laws. He also has extensive experience in advising organizations responding to corporate campaigns and negotiating neutrality agreements.

Mr. Bertoncini’s privacy and data security practice focuses on advising clients on complying with HIPAA and other state and federal privacy and data security laws. He regularly reviews and develops policies and procedures, written information security plans and integrated compliance programs to assist clients in meeting their obligations under privacy and data security laws. Mr. Bertoncini has represented clients in investigations of alleged data breaches and advises them on their reporting obligations in the event of a data breach. He also conducts workplace training programs on HIPAA compliance and related privacy and data security topics.

Before joining Jackson Lewis, Mr. Bertoncini was Deputy General Counsel for a hospital system that is the largest fully integrated community care organization in New England. He was responsible for all of the system’s labor and employment law matters, and was involved in its acquisition by a private equity firm as well as its growth from six to ten hospitals in a twelve-month period. His three years as in-house counsel for this large health care system give Mr. Bertoncini a keen understanding of the impact of labor and employment law issues on clients’ business operations.

In addition to his labor relations and privacy experience, Mr. Bertoncini has extensive experience in conducting internal investigations and counseling clients on whistleblower and retaliation matters, as well as negotiating executive agreements, both employment and separation agreements. Mr. Bertoncini also represents clients in the litigation of employment matters. His litigation experience includes matters before federal and state courts and administrative agencies. He has appeared before United States Courts of Appeals and District Courts, Massachusetts and New York state courts, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

Mr. Bertoncini is a frequent speaker and trainer on labor and employment law topics for various organizations including Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, Council on Education in Management, Lorman Education Services, the Boston Bar Association, and several chambers of commerce.

While attending Boston College, he received the John A. McCarthy, SJ Award for the most distinguished Scholar of the College thesis.

Photo of Jonathan J. Spitz Jonathan J. Spitz

Jonathan J. Spitz is a principal in the Atlanta, Georgia, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. and co-leader of the firm’s Labor Relations practice group.

Photo of Richard F. Vitarelli Richard F. Vitarelli

Richard F. Vitarelli is a principal in the Hartford, Connecticut, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is the co-leader of the Labor Relations practice group, the firm’s national labor practice.