John O’Connor

Another month, another arbitration victory.

In July, federal officials released a rule permitting arbitration agreements for incoming residents. While the measure had some heavy-handed limitations, at least it possessed this redeeming quality: It allowed the agreements to continue.

Then last week, the National Labor Relations Board served up more good news on the arbitration front. This time, the board ruled that firms can require such agreements for workers who opt into a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act or state wage-related laws. Moreover, refusing to sign can be grounds for dismissal.

This second win also has a few qualifiers. For example, your facility cannot punish employees for filing class or collective actions intended to improve workplace conditions. Still, in balance, it’s yet another victory for operators courtesy of a realigned National Labor Relations Board.

Better yet, it is not just a rule that apples to unionized facilities. If your business is covered by the National Labor Relations Act — and the odds are overwhelmingly good that it is — the ruling applies to you, regardless.

Which just goes to show how things can change. A few years ago, as in under the Obama administration, Democrats ruled the labor roost. That was true both in the White House (where Labor Department cabinet secretaries are chosen) and the NLRB (which at the time had a majority of Democratic-leaning members). Those were not what you would call pleasant times for skilled care operators. If it seemed like unions and workers were getting all the close and not-so-close calls, well, that was hardly a coincidence.

But times have changed. In case you are just emerging from a lengthy coma, Republicans are now in charge. As a practical matter, we are seeing a lot of what might be described as make-ups emanating from both places. And the odds are more than good that the trend will continue until the next election, possibly longer.

So enjoy it while it lasts. 

John O’Connor is McKnight’s Editorial Director.