Labor and Employment: U.S. Supreme Court Declares President Obama’s NLRB Recess Appointments Unconstitutional (6/14)

by Bond Schoeneck & King PLLC

On June 26, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the decision issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that President Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on January 4, 2012, were unconstitutional. The Supreme Court’s decision in NLRB v. Noel Canning means that the NLRB did not have a valid quorum of three members from the date of the recess appointments to early August of 2013, when four new members were sworn in after being confirmed by the Senate. Every decision issued by the NLRB during that approximately 19-month time period without a valid quorum has been rendered invalid by the Supreme Court’s Noel Canning decision. It remains to be seen how the NLRB will deal with this development, but it may now have to reconsider and issue new decisions in each and every case that was decided without a valid quorum in place. However, in light of the fact that the majority of the NLRB members is still staunchly pro-union, it would be unrealistic to expect significantly different outcomes in cases that were decided against employers.

Although the Supreme Court affirmed the D.C. Circuit’s conclusion that President Obama exceeded his authority under the Recess Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the Supreme Court disagreed with the D.C. Circuit’s narrow interpretation of the Recess Appointments Clause. The Recess Appointments Clause permits the President to "fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session." The D.C. Circuit held that the phrase "the Recess of the Senate" applies only to recesses that occur in between sessions of the Senate – not to breaks in activity that occur during a session of the Senate. The January 4, 2012, recess appointments were not made during a recess that occurred in between sessions of the Senate. The D.C. Circuit also interpreted the phrase "Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate" to mean that the vacancy actually must arise during the Senate’s inter-session recess in order for the President to have the authority to fill the vacancy without going through the Senate confirmation process. None of the three vacancies that President Obama sought to fill on January 4, 2012 arose during the Senate’s inter-session recess.

The Supreme Court adopted a broader interpretation of the scope of the President’s authority under the Recess Appointments Clause. The Supreme Court held that the phrase "the Recess of the Senate" applies both to inter-session recesses (breaks that occur between sessions of the Senate) and intra-session recesses (breaks that occur in the midst of a formal session of the Senate) of substantial length. The Supreme Court also held that the phrase "Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate" applies both to vacancies that first arise during a recess and vacancies that initially occur before a recess but continue to exist during the recess. The Supreme Court nevertheless determined that President Obama’s recess appointments during a three-day intra-session recess of the Senate were unconstitutional because the three-day recess was not of substantial length. The Supreme Court held that a recess of less than ten days is presumptively too short to permit the President to make recess appointments, but left open the possibility that unusual circumstances might require the President to exercise recess appointment authority during a recess of less than ten days.

Some of the NLRB decisions that have now been rendered invalid include: (1) the NLRB’s September of 2012 holding in Costco Wholesale Corp. that an employer’s social media policy was overly broad and in violation of Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA); (2) the NLRB’s December of 2012 holding (and reversal of 50 years of precedent) in WKYC-TV, Inc. that an employer’s obligation to check off union dues continues after the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement; (3) the NLRB’s December of 2012 holding (and reversal of 35 years of precedent) in American Baptist Homes of the West d/b/a Piedmont Gardens that witness statements related to employee discipline are not necessarily shielded from disclosure to the union; and (4) the NLRB’s July of 2012 holding in Banner Health System that an employer violated Section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA by asking employees not to discuss ongoing investigations with their co-workers.

Although these decisions and many others will likely be revisited, it seems unlikely that the NLRB will issue significantly different rulings. Accordingly, employers should assume at this point that the invalid decisions will be affirmed by the current NLRB.



Written by:

Bond Schoeneck & King PLLC

Bond Schoeneck & King PLLC on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.