Thursday, September 03, 2015

Case Again Examines NLRB Jurisdiction Over Religious Colleges

Last year in the Pacific Lutheran University case, the National Labor Relations Board developed a new test for when it will assert jurisdiction over a religiously-affiliated college. Even if the college holds itself out as providing a religious educational environment, the NLRB will assert jurisdiction unless the faculty members seeking to organize are themselves held out as performing a specific role in maintaining the college's religious character. (See prior posting.) Last March, applying that test, an NLRB Regional Director held that it had jurisdiction over a faculty union election at Seattle University. (See prior posting.) The University appealed to the full NLRB, and in June it ordered the Regional Director to reopen the record so the parties could introduce additional evidence relevant to the NLRB's new Pacific Lutheran test. (Docket).

In an August 17, 2015 opinion (full text), the Regional Director examined at length that additional evidence relating to how the faculty is held out and again concluded that the NLRB has jurisdiction over them.  Lexology analyzes that decision. On August 31, the University filed a 50-page request for review of the Regional Director's latest decision (full text), arguing not just that the Pacific Lutheran test was misapplied, but arguing also:
The new test under PLU  contravenes the United States Supreme Court’s holding in  National Labor Relations Board v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago ... which held that Congress did not intend to bring teachers at church-operated schools within the  jurisdiction of the Act. The PLU  test contains the same constitutional infirmities as existed in the Board’s former “substantial religious character” test, which caused the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to require a simple, “bright line” test to determine Board jurisdiction over religiously-affiliated colleges and universities.....