Wednesday, January 29, 2020

DC Circuit Rejects NLRB's Test For Jurisdiction Over Adjunct Faculty At Religiously-Affiliated Colleges

In Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit v. NLRB, (DC Cir., Jan. 28, 2020), the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, held that the National Labor Relations Board lacks jurisdiction over adjunct faculty at Duquesne University.  In doing so, the majority rejected the test developed by the National Labor Relations Board in its 2014 Pacific Lutheran decision. The NLRB took the position that it lacks jurisdiction over adjunct faculty at non-profit religiously-affiliated colleges only if both the school holds itself out to the public as a religious institution and the particular faculty group petitioning performs a specific religious role. The majority held that the role played by the particular faculty may not be considered:
Pacific Lutheran impermissibly intrudes into religious matters. The Board suggests that it can avoid constitutional problems by considering only whether a religious school “holds out” faculty members as playing a specific religious role, ... but such an inquiry would still require the Board to define what counts as a “religious role” or a “religious function.” ... Defining which roles qualify would be far outside the competence of Board members and judges.
Judge Pillard dissenting said in part:
The Board’s approach has several advantages.... It recognizes the significant structural and functional differences between adjuncts and full faculty at many schools, as well as the heterogeneity of schools’ religious exercise. It thereby not only respects precedent and protects religious exercise, but also affords schools leeway to delineate for themselves the scope of the academic teaching corps that embodies their religious mission. In contrast to the automatic presumption of religiosity that the court adopts today, the Board’s approach adds a measure of tailoring at the exemption’s outer edge, eliminating needless sacrifice of adjuncts’ NLRA rights but extending the exemption to them where called for by a religious role the school itself identifies.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports on the decision.