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American Bar Association, business group object to Labor Dept. ‘persuader’ rule

By Kimberly Atkins
Dolan Newswires

The American Bar Association and other groups have raised concerns over a proposed Labor Department rule that would revise the interpretation of “advice” with respect to the persuader reporting requirements of Section 203 of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act.

The law requires the disclosure of agreements or arrangements between employers and labor relations consultants when a consultant acts directly or indirectly to persuade workers concerning a decision about whether to bargain collectively.

According to the DOL, the proposed amendment would adopt a plain language meaning of “advice” and provide that an agreement would be reportable in any case where the consultant engages in persuader activities that go beyond the plain meaning of “advice.”

But in a letter to Labor Department officials, ABA President William T. “Bill” Robinson III expressed concerns that the proposed rule would jeopardize “confidential client-lawyer relationships” and urged the DOL “not to impose an unjustified and intrusive burden on lawyers and law firms and their clients.”

“[T]he Department’s current broad interpretation of the advice exemption – which excludes lawyers from the Act’s ‘persuader activities’ reporting requirements when they merely provide advice or other legal services directly to their employer clients but have no direct contact with the employees – should be retained with respect to lawyers and their employer clients,” Robinson wrote.

The National Federation of Independent Business has also objected to the proposed rule, saying it would force lawyers and law firms that counsel small businesses on any labor relations matters, whether union-related or not, to disclose their work.

“With no in-house counsel on their side, this will hit small business owners disproportionately hard since they are left with no option when seeking advice on labor law,” Karen Harned, executive director of NFIB’s Small Business Legal Center, said in a statement. “Small business owners will be left trying to figure out complicated questions on labor law on their own because of this rule.”

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