NLRB Precedent Not Binding after Noel Canning, Labor Board Judge Declares, Rejecting Claimed Dues Deduction Violation

In an unusual move, an NLRB administrative law judge has disregarded Board law and held that an employer that stopped dues deductions after the expiration of its collective bargaining agreement did not commit an unfair labor practice, dismissing an unfair labor practice complaint.Lincoln Lutheran of Racine, 30-CA-11099 (JD-49-14 August 11, 2014) Relying on the United States Supreme Court’s decision in NLRB v. Noel Canning, which held the Board lacked the quorum necessary for the issuance of decisions from January 4, 2012 through August 4, 2013, the judge concluded he could not follow the Board’s precedent-setting dues check-off decision in WKYC-TV, 359 NLRB No. 30 (issued in December 2012), and instead should rely on Board law as it existed previously.

While NLRB administrative law judges normally must adhere to existing Board law, the Judge in Lincoln Lutheran of Racine refused to apply WKYC-TV. In that case, the Board found that “an employer’s obligation to check-off union dues continues after expiration of a collective bargaining agreement that establishes such an arrangement.” However, since WKYC-TV was issued during the quorum-less period, when the NLRB was without authority to render decisions under Noel Canning, the Judge decided the decision was not “valid precedent.” Instead, the Judge applied Bethlehem Steel, the decision that WKYC-TV overruled. Bethlehem Steel held that an employer does not violate the NLRA by ceasing to follow the dues check-off provision after expiration of the collective bargaining agreement. Bethlehem Steel, 136 NLRB 1500 (1962). Accordingly, the Judge dismissed the complaint.

It remains to be seen whetherother ALJs will follow suit when faced with the question of whether or not to follow Board decisions invalidated by Noel Canning.