NLRB Poised to Exclude Student Workers from Employee Status


The National Labor Relations Board has issued a proposed rule that would exclude from coverage under the National Labor Relations Act college and university students performing services for compensation in connection with their studies.

This is a matter of some controversy, and the Board has changed its position on this issue several times, beginning in 1972, in the case of Adelphi University, when it first determined that graduate student assistants were primarily students and should be excluded from a faculty bargaining unit. In 2000, however, the Board asserted in New York University that certain graduate student assistants were statutory employees. Four years later, the Board reversed course again, holding in Brown University that graduate student assistants were primarily students and not employees. This changed again in 2016, when the Board issued Columbia University, finding student assistants to be employees.

Now, the Board is seeking to reverse position yet again, on the grounds that students have a predominantly educational relationship with their school, rather than economic, and therefore should not be considered statutory employees under the Act. This time, however, the Board is proposing to solidify this position through rulemaking, which will be more difficult to reverse in the future.

Comments to the proposed rule may be submitted here. Once the 60-day comment period has closed on November 22, 2019, the agency will review the comments and may revise the rules before issuing them in final form.