Practice Areas & Industries: Hill, Farrer & Burrill LLP


Labor Relations and Union Avoidance Return to Practice Areas & Industries

Group Profile Lawyers in this Group Offices Locations for this Group

Practice/Industry Group Overview

Although the percentage of America's private workforce that is unionized is at an all-time low, the labor movement remains a powerful and organized force that wields enormous influence over the nation and its employers, organized or otherwise. Almost every business strategy or decision has the potential to be affected by labor issues. And if our client’s workforce is targeted by a labor union for an organizing campaign, then the potential effect on its business can be staggering.

For more than half a century, Hill Farrer has represented management in its dealings with organized employees and their union representatives, helping management push back against some of the world's most powerful labor organizations. Many of Hill Farrer’s labor attorneys began their legal careers at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and a number of have been recognized by Labor Relations Institute as being among “The Top 100 Labor Attorneys in America.”

Hill Farrer represents and advises clients with both union and non-union workforces in the health care, manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, construction, retail and service industries. The firm’s attorneys have wide-ranging experience in matters arising in representation and unfair labor practice proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board and California’s Agricultural Relations Board, collective bargaining negotiations, arbitrations, federal and state court litigation, and other administrative agencies. We assist unionized clients with matters involving collective bargaining, grievance handling, arbitration hearings, strikes, boycotts and corporate campaigns. The firm’s attorneys also have extensive experience and have developed effective legal strategies to help employers in a wide range of industries prevent, avoid and defeat union organizing efforts. Although the actual experience of many other law firms in this traditional area of labor law has diminished over time, our attorneys have substantial and recent experience in this practice area, and are successfully representing clients in union-related matters right now.

Hill Farrer’s labor attorneys take a strategic approach to every engagement:

  • counseling businesses on union avoidance strategies
  • managing labor representation elections, including union decertification;
  • negotiating union contracts and collective bargaining agreements;
  • preparing strike responses;
  • arbitrating grievances;
  • dealing with issues pertaining to public sector labor relations acts, including the federal Railway Labor Act (RLA); and
  • managing the effective response to corporate campaigns and union campaigns.

Hill Farrer labor attorneys have represented employers before hundreds of NLRB and state labor relations agency hearings and arbitrations, and have regularly defended and pursued clients' labor interests in the federal courts. We advise employers who have no experience with unions, as well as employers who have decades-old, mature bargaining relationships. Whether an employer is confronted with mass picketing outside its facility or has just learned that a union is trying to organize its employees, Hill Farrer has the depth of experience to guide management to advantageous, legal and practical solutions.

Representative Matters

  • Successfully litigated bargaining unit issues, obtained dismissal of ULP charges and ultimately forced Teamsters to withdraw petition on eve of NLRB supervised election at manufacturing and warehousing operation.
  • Defended employer in wage-hour union grievance class action arbitrations, as well as complex contract interpretation issues such as subcontracting and bargaining unit work issues
  • Provided legal guidance and support in multiple strike actions, including a strike that lasted over a year
  • Negotiated a groundbreaking "pay for performance" collective bargaining agreement
  • Obtained numerous arbitration awards upholding the discharges of union employees, including for job errors, poor documentation, attendance, sleeping on the job, poor patient care, poor performance, co-employee harassment and many other forms of misconduct
  • Vacated a multi-million dollar arbitration award against a major client based upon an alleged benefit liability assumed in acquiring a facility out of bankruptcy. This complex federal court action involved the interaction between bankruptcy and labor law and was finally decided in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.
  • Represented clients in numerous union election challenges and objection proceedings
  • Assisted major employer in developing and implementing effective responses to union "corporate campaigns"
  • Assisted large employer in acquiring and divesting several unionized facilities, including "effects bargaining" and the setting of initial terms and conditions of employment
  • Assisted a major healthcare system in negotiating nationwide "Labor Accords" with the California Nurses Association, the Service Employees International Union and the United Nurses Association of California, as well as accompanying collective bargaining agreements
  • Handled more than 100 NLRB elections in recent years

Articles Authored by Lawyers at this office:

Employers Must Provide Three Days of Paid Sick Leave Each Year, Starting July 1, 2015
, October 09, 2014
Beginning July 1, 2015, a new law will require California employers to provide virtually all of their employees with at least three days of annual paid sick leave. Signed by Governor Brown on September 3, 2014, the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 is very broad, applying to both...

New California Law Requires Training to Prevent Workplace Bullying
, October 09, 2014
California employers will soon be required to train supervisory employees on the subject of workplace bullying. On September 9, 2014, Governor Brown approved a bill that requires employers to add this subject to the biennial anti-harassment training they are already required to provide to...

Employers Cannot Re-Allocate Commission Wages Between Pay Periods to Satisfy the Minimum Wage
Elissa L. Gysi,Warren J. Higgins, September 15, 2014
Employers with commissioned sales people often ask whether they can attribute commission wages paid in one pay period to other pay periods in order to satisfy California’s minimum wage compensation requirements. The California Supreme Court has now answered that question, holding that such...

United States Supreme Court Rejects President’s Recess Appointments to the NLRB
Elissa L. Gysi,Warren J. Higgins, September 15, 2014
One of the most significant controversies during President Barack Obama’s presidency relates to whether he had the constitutional authority to appoint three members to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in 2012 while Congress stood in recess. In NLRB v. Noel Canning, the U.S. Supreme...

Good News For Employers Looking To Avoid Class Actions
, July 07, 2014
Today, the California Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC, regarding the enforceability of class-action waivers in arbitration agreements. The Court finally acknowledged precedent from the United States Supreme Court and held that the...

Minimum Wage Increase Effective July 1, 2014 - What You Need To Know
, July 07, 2014
Although many employers are aware of the upcoming change to the California state minimum wage, here is one last reminder. The California state minimum wage will increase to $9.00 an hour starting July 1, 2014. It will increase again to $10.00 per hour on January 1, 2016.

Before The National Labor Relations Board
, April 14, 2014
In D.R. Horton Inc., the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) held that an employer violated Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act by enforcing an arbitration policy that prohibited any participation in class, collective or similar action by employees. According to the NLRB, such a...