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COVID-19 Pandemic Causes NLRB to Suspend All Representation Elections

March 20, 2020

On the heels of closing the Regional Offices in New Orleans and Cleveland, the National Labor Relations Board announced it was suspending all representation elections effective March 19. Elections will be suspended for a period of two weeks, through and including April 3. The suspension includes mail ballot elections.

The New Orleans and Cleveland Regional Offices were closed after one employee in each office was tested for COVID-19. The Board’s Regional Offices in Manhattan, Detroit and Chicago closed earlier in the week for the same reason. On March 16, the Board implemented agency-wide telework for all employees, other than minimal staffing, until at least April 1.

In the immediate aftermath of these operational changes, the Board announced suspension of all representation elections through April 3. Explaining its decision, the Board cited the “extraordinary circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.” According to the Board, the suspension is “necessary to ensure the health and safety of our employees, as well as those members of the public who are involved in the election process.” Citing its closure of several Regional Offices, limited operations at others and agency-wide telework, the Board added that it did “not believe that it is possible to effectively conduct elections at this time.” The Board says it will continue monitoring the situation surrounding the pandemic and determine whether the suspension should be extended.

Although it will slow current efforts to organize, the Board’s move is certainly a wise one from a public health standpoint and the nation’s effort to flatten the curve of COVID-19. In addition, Board’s decision likely will be welcomed by employers involved in ongoing efforts to adapt to the changing landscape caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In related news, the NLRB pushed back the start date of its changes to election procedures. The new rule, which is being challenged by the AFL-CIO in court, will now go into effect June 1. The NLRB announced the 45-day delay in a court filing Friday. The judge hearing the AFL-CIO’s lawsuit also put the case on an expedited schedule, which means a decision could come before the rule goes into effect.