Robb Slated for Labor Board’s Top Lawyer Job

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By Chris Opfer

Vermont management lawyer Peter Robb is set to be named general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board pending a background check, sources familiar with the situation told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 21.

Robb, who represents businesses in labor disputes as an attorney at Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC, would replace outgoing NLRB General Counsel Richard Griffin (D). The Federal Bureau of Investigations is currently performing the background check, which is standard for White House nominees.

The five-member labor board is on the verge of having its first Republican majority in nearly a decade. The general counsel position is considered key to helping this board reconsider a number of decisions issued during the Obama administration, including moves to expand joint employer liability for affiliated businesses and limit employers’ use of contracts to block class actions by their workers.

Robb worked early in his career as an NLRB staff attorney and later as counsel to former board member Robert P. Hunter (R). He has represented Otis Elevator Co. and the Elevators Manufacturing Association, among other clients.

A White house spokesman declined to comment, and Robb didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Changes in Store?

Griffin is scheduled to argue the class action waivers issue before the U.S. Supreme Court Oct. 2. The Justice Department recently split with the NLRB in that case, arguing that the waivers don’t violate workers’ right to collective activity.

Griffin will likely be gone by the time the high court reaches a decision on the issue; his term expires Oct. 31.

The next general counsel will also play a role in determining whether the board continues to take an expanded approach to joint employer liability. The board in its 2015 Browning-Ferris Industries decision—and Griffin in subsequent charges against McDonald’s—have said a company may be considered a joint employer of another business’s workers even if it exerts indirect control over them.

The Browning-Ferris decision is pending before an appeals court in Washington. Regardless of how the panel comes down on the joint employer issue, the next general counsel will have some leeway to decide whether to continue to pursue the litigation against McDonald’s, which is based on the theory that the fast-food behemoth is a joint employer of workers at franchise restaurants.

Bloomberg News reporter Josh Eidelson contributed to this story.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com;

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