News & Commentary

June 18, 2024

John Fry

John Fry is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s news and commentary, the EEOC’s regulations requiring abortion accommodations survive; the Bird Union seeks its first contract; and the NLRB applies its standard for when misconduct loses the protection of Section 7.

On Friday, a federal judge rejected a challenge to the EEOC’s recent regulations implementing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The statute requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees experiencing “pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions,” and the regulations, which Sunah covered when they were finalized this spring, clarify that this includes accommodation of employees’ abortion procedures and recovery. While 17 attorneys general from Republican-led states swiftly challenged the EEOC’s interpretation in court, Friday’s ruling held that the challenge lacked standing. Among other reasons, the judge reasoned that the regulations would not force the states to subsidize their public employees’ abortion procedures or related travel expenses, a possibility that the states had argued would violate their abortion bans.

The workers who constitute the Bird Union, a CWA affiliate, are working to secure their first union contract with the National Audubon Society. While the nonprofit’s employees voted to unionize nearly three years ago, the union is still fighting for worker priorities such as paid parental leave. An internal audit contemporaneous with the union drive revealed “a culture of retaliation, fear and antagonism toward women and people of color” at the Society. Women in the union are accusing the Society’s CEO Elizabeth Gray of hypocrisy, arguing that her rhetoric about supporting women in the environmental movement does not match the employer’s bargaining proposals about employment conditions that disproportionately impact women.

The NLRB ruled Monday that a tape company unlawfully disciplined two union members after a safety-related dispute, in an application of the Lion Elastomers standard that the Board announced in 2023 for analyzing workplace outbursts. In Monday’s case, a worker had shut off a machine after it caught on fire, but his manager thought the machine should have been left on. The worker requested a union steward to help him make his case, and the meeting between the three of them became contentious. While the two disciplined employees were accused of insubordination and rude remarks, the Board explained that their conduct was not “so opprobrious that [they] lost the protection of the Act,” especially because they were confronting the manager about “a departure from past practice and a safety concern that constituted a potential contract violation.”

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