The Catholic University of America

Welcome to the Employment Law section of our webpage. Employment law issues are complex, often subject to state and local law (not ordinarily covered on CLIC pages) as well as federal law. This front page will reflect our most current information on employment law affecting educational institutions.


Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York and Graduate Workers of Columbia-GWC, UAW,Case 02-RC-143012, August 23, 2016 NLRB 

In this case the NLRB decided students who perform services at a University in connection with their studies are statutory employees within the meaning of 2(3) of the National Labor Relations Act. In so holding the Board overruled the earlier decision by the Board in Brown University, 342 NLRB 483 (2004), where the Board found that graduate student assistants were not employees. 

The holding states: 

The Board has the statutory authority to treat student assistants as statutory employees, where they perform work, at the direction of the university, for which they are compensated. Statutory coverage is permitted by virtue of an employment relationship; it is not foreclosed by the existence of some other, additional relationship that the Act does not reach.***

Thus, we hold today that student assistants who have a common-law employment relationship with their university are statutory employees under the Act. We will apply that standard to student assistants, including assistants engaged in research funded by external grants. Applying the new standard to the facts here, consistent with the Board’s established approach in representation cases, we conclude (1) that all of the petitioned-for studentassistant classifications consist of statutory employees; (2) that the petitioned-for bargaining unit (comprising graduate students, terminal Master’s degree students, and undergraduate students) is an appropriate unit; and (3) that none of the petitioned-for classifications consists of temporary employees who may not be included in the unit. Accordingly, we reverse the decision of the Regional Director and remand the proceedings to the Regional Director for further appropriate action. 


The Board discarded the finding in Brownsupra, that in order to find an employment relationship, the relationship must be primarily economic in character, arguing that the intent of the NLRA was to maximize collective bargaining opportunities for other than the narrow categories specifically excluded (e.g., agricultural workers and those involved in family enterprises). The Board held it would define mandatory subjects of collective bargaining for student assistants on a case by case basis. The dissent argued much of what had been the prior majority opinion, including the impracticality of strikes (you shut off the access to the education you are there to receive)  and that NLRB involvement is not warranted simply because "students may occupy a variety of academic positions in conjunction with their education." 

See NLRB: Graduate Students at Private Universities May Unionize, August 24, 2015 Inside Higher Ed

Defining and Delimiting the Exemptions for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Outside Sales and Computer Employees, Final Rule, 80 Fed. Reg. 32391, May 23, 2016.

This rule is effective Dec. 1, 2016. Under this final rule, white collar employees subject to the salary level test earning  less than $913 per week (or $ 47,476 per year for a full time worker) will not qualify for the EAP exemption, and therefore will be eligible for overtime, irrespective of their job duties and responsibilities. Employees earning this amount or more on a salary or fee basis will qualify for exemption only if they meet the standard duties test, which is unchanged by the final rule. See the summary on the DOL web page for more. The DOL web page also includes Guidance for Higher Education Institutions on Paying Overtime under the New Rule.   

Hogan Lovells LimeGreen Employment: Web site with some of the key legal issues arising from employment relationships and how they differ from country to country.