In June, more than 140 plaintiff and management-side attorneys, academics, and government representatives participated in the annual conference of the NYU Center on Labor and Employment Law. Titled “Initiatives, Proposals, and Developments During the Trump Administration,” the two-day event provided an overview of labor and employment policy changes under President Donald Trump, with keynote addresses by John Ring, chair of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and by Kate O’Scannlain, the chief legal officer for the US Department of Labor (DOL).

Dwight D. Opperman Professor of Law Samuel Estreicher presided over the conference, which featured a number of NYU Law alumni and students and was supported by Charles River Associates, a global consulting firm headquartered in Boston. Estreicher and Alan Klinger ‘81, co-managing partner of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, discussed the implications for US labor unions and US politics of the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, et al., which ruled in a 5-4 vote that public employees who do not join unions cannot be required to pay union fees. Frederick Braid LLM ‘79, a partner at Holland & Knight, moderated a session on changes at the NLRB. James Philbin of Philbin Law Firm, formerly general counsel at Maersk, spoke on a panel about workplace harassment. Zoe Salzman ’07, an attorney at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, discussed Sinclair v. Lauren Hills and the use of liquidated damages claims against employees, and Mark Risk ’84 of the Law Office of Mark Risk, an advisory board member of the NYU Law Center for Labor and Employment Law, focused on tactical and ethical issues as they relate to witnesses.

John Ring

In his keynote address, Ring discussed the recent NLRB ruling that vacated a December 2017 decision in a case concerning Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors due to ethical violations. The inspector general of the NLRB found that William Emanuel, a member of the NLRB, had a conflict of interest because the Hy-Brand case was closely tied to a separate case, Browning-Ferris Industries, that involved Emanuel’s former law firm. “To address the recusal and ethical issues—and they’re very serious issues that need to be looked at by the board—we are initiating a comprehensive internal ethics and recusal review to make sure we have, at the board, rules and regulations, guidelines on how we deal with recusal and ethical issues,” said Ring. The chair also defended the NLRB’s reorganization, rejecting accusations that the changes are an effort to undermine the agency’s ability to carry out its mission.

Describing his vision for the NLRB, Ring noted that labor regulations and restrictions in recent years may have ignored the effect of those regulations on jobs and economic growth. “It’s great we can protect you from class action waivers… But if your businesses are not creating jobs, or worse, if they’re reducing jobs, or if you don’t have a job, class action waivers aren’t worth much no matter how well-intentioned [they are],” said Ring.

Posted July 24, 2018