NLRB v. Hendricks County Rural Elec.,
454 U.S. 170 (1981)

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U.S. Supreme Court

NLRB v. Hendricks County Rural Elec., 454 U.S. 170 (1981)

National Labor Relations Board v. Hendricks County

Rural Electric Membership Corp.

No. 8885

Argued October 5, 1981

Decided December 2, 1981*

454 U.S. 170


Held: There is a reasonable basis in law for the practice of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) of excluding from collective bargaining units only those confidential employees with a "labor nexus," while rejecting any claim that all employees with access to confidential information are beyond the reach of the definition of "employee" in § 2(3) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Pp. 454 U. S. 177-192.

(a) There is nothing in the Taft-Hartley Act's legislative history to support any inference, let alone conclusion, that Congress intended to alter, or disapproved, the NLRB's determination prior to the 1947 passage of the Act that only confidential employees with a "labor nexus" should be excluded from bargaining units. Rather, the contrary appears. Indeed, the Taft-Hartley Act's express inclusion of "professional employees" under the Act's coverage negates any reading of the legislative history as excluding confidential employees generally from § 2(3)'s definition of "employee." Pp. 454 U. S. 177-185.

(b) The dictum in NLRB v. Bell Aerospace Co., 416 U. S. 267, 416 U. S. 284, n. 12, that Congress "clearly thought that the [NLRA] did not cover confidential employees,' even under a broad definition of that term," cannot be squared with congressional intent. Nor is there any merit to the argument that the NLRB has applied the labor nexus test inconsistently. A review of the NLRB's decisions indicates that it has never followed a practice of depriving all employees who have access to confidential business information from the full panoply of rights afforded by the NLRA. Rather, for over 40 years, the NLRB, while declining to create any implied exclusion from the definition of "employee" for confidential employees,

Page 454 U. S. 171

has applied a labor nexus test in identifying those employees who should be excluded from bargaining units because of access to confidential business information. This consistent, longstanding interpretation of the NLRA by the NLRB cannot be ignored. Pp. 454 U. S. 186-190.

627 F.2d 766 and 631 F.2d 734, reversed and remanded.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. POWELL, J. filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which BURGER, C.J., and REHNQUIST and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, post, p. 454 U. S. 192.

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