Page is loading...
Print Logo Logo

D.C. Circuit Rebukes NLRB’s Power Grab Over Religious Universities

The National Labor Relations Board generally has the power to enforce labor laws against private employers that meet certain benchmarks of revenue and involvement in interstate commerce. However, the Board does not have jurisdiction over religious institutions, including churches and educational institutions. 

For decades, the NLRB has ignored this rule and attempted to broaden its power over religious schools, arguing they are different (less religious) than churches. This reasoning was rejected by the Supreme Court and several other courts, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. 

In fact, the D.C. Circuit set forth the following three-part test in 2002: the NLRB cannot assert jurisdiction over any school or university that holds itself out as a religious institution, is a nonprofit, and is religiously affiliated.

Fast forward to 2012, when faculty at Duquesne University voted to form a union. The university resisted those attempts and argued the NLRB did not have jurisdiction over it because it was a Catholic-affiliated nonprofit university. The Board relied on new Obama-era precedent to exercise jurisdiction over faculty members not “playing a specific role in the school’s religious educational environment.” This led the Board to remove faculty teaching theology from the unit, but certifying the unit of other faculty and ordering the university to bargain. 

Last week, the D.C. Circuit checked the NLRB’s continued attempt at broadening its power. The court found that it was undisputed that the university met the three-factor D.C. Circuit test, and that the Obama-era Board’s rule delving into what role employees play in the school’s religious mission “impermissibly intrudes into religious matters.” 

The court’s ruling is a succinct rebuke and a reminder that the NLRB does not have jurisdiction over religious universities.


Labor Law Recap: 2022 Was The ‘Year of the Strike’

January 10, 2023 | Labor Relations, Strikes and Picketing

Labor Law Changes To Be Aware Of In The New Year

January 3, 2023 | Labor Relations, National Labor Relations Board

Prices Keep Rising: Labor Board Significantly Expands Remedies Available To Employees

December 14, 2022 | Labor Relations, National Labor Relations Board

Triple Threat: NLRB Facing Staffing Shortages, Increased Workload, and Budgetary Constraints

November 30, 2022 | Labor Relations, National Labor Relations Board

Reversing the Call: NLRB Seeks to Rescind 2020 Rule, Protect Union Status

November 8, 2022 | Labor Relations, National Labor Relations Board


Do you want to receive more valuable insights directly in your inbox? Visit our subscription center and let us know what you're interested in learning more about.

View Subscription Center
College and Universities
Trending Connect
We use cookies on this site to enhance your user experience. By clicking any link on this page you are giving your consent for us to use cookies.