NLRB Enhances Its View of Property Rights

By Patrick Scully

The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) has settled a long-brewing controversy over what constitutes “discrimination” with respect to non-employee access to employer property.  Twenty years ago, the Board held in Sandusky Mall, 329 NLRB 618 (1999), that an employer discriminates against non-employee union representatives if it bars them from its property while permitting access to charitable and civic organizations.

The Sandusky decision was widely criticized in the United States Courts of Appeals.  The decision also put employers in the unenviable position of weighing the legal risk of permitting the Girls Scouts and Salvation Army on their property.  Today, the NLRB finally overruled Sandusky and adopted a definition of discrimination that accords with the prevailing view in the federal courts.

Now the NLRB will only find that an employer has discriminated in its denial of access to union representatives if it permits access to other organizations for similar types of activities.  The Board no longer considers charitable, civic, and commercial activities to be similar to nonemployee union organizational activities.  In applying its new rule to the case at hand, the NLRB found that Kroger did NOT discriminate when it barred non-employees urging a boycott of Kroger while permitting various charitable and civic entities on its property.  In dissent, Member McFerran complained that the majority is issuing a series of cases making “it increasingly easy” for employers to exclude union organizers from property “open to the public”. 

Kroger Mid-Atlantic, 368 NLRB No. 64 (September 6, 2019).