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Court Sides With NLRB Against Hard Rock in Labor Union Case

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on March 27, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In the case of Hard Rock Holdings v. NLRB, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the National Labor Relations Board in the Board's request to seek enforcement of a court order directing Hard Rock Holdings, LLC., to bargain in good faith with a labor union.

Hard Rock Holdings owns the famous Hard Rock Cafe. The quick facts of the case are as follows: The NLRB certified an election where a bargaining unit was named to represent the valet parking employees of the company.

There were two issues-- first, that certain employees were never meant to be included in the union, as per the stipulated bargaining agreement. Eight of these contested employees voted and after election votes were tallied, the Union stepped up to challenge the allowance of those eight votes. The NLRB sided with the Union. Hard Rock argued that the NLRB erred in allowing the Union's challenge. The second problem in the case arose when an Agent of the NLRB failed to provide ID badges at an election, which some claimed caused confusion and disruption at the election, which may in turn have led to unfair results.

In looking at the bargaining unit's representation of the employees, the Court applied a three-prong test. The test for this was largely addressed in the case Associated Milk Producers, Inc. v. NLRB.

The first prong of this test looks at whether the description of the bargaining unit is ambiguous, as contained in the stipulated bargaining unit agreement. If ambiguous, then intent of the parties must be considered, in light of extrinsic evidence. If still unclear, the court must then apply the community-of-interests test.

Eight dual-role employees voted. These employees may have fallen out of the Union representation but they nevertheless appeared on the voting list. The NLRB sustained the Union's challenge and disallowed those votes, but Hard Rock raised the issue that the NLRB made a mistake in its initial analysis that the dual-role employees should have been excluded from the Union. The court ruled that the NLRB established a sufficient record of analysis under this test to support its conclusions on the intent of the parties and there was no error in the NLRB's application.

As for the conduct of the NLRB agent at the election, the court found that Hard Rock introduced no evidence that showed how the lack of ID badges materially affected the result of the election.

Given that the court found the NLRB to be within its discretion, the court allowed enforcement of the order that Hard Rock bargain with the union.

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