NLRB Declines Jurisdiction Over Northwestern Football Players’ Petition

In a surprise decision, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) has declined to assert jurisdiction over the representation petition filed by the Northwestern University football players. This means that the petition will be dismissed without the Board making a decision on whether or not the scholarship athletes are statutory “employees.”

In March of last year, a Regional Director of the NLRB overseeing the Chicago region held that the football players were “employees” under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), and therefore had rights under that statute. The University appealed to the NLRB, arguing that the players are not employees under the NLRA. A representation election took place but the votes were impounded pending the outcome of this appeal. The Board punted on deciding whether the players are employees, so the results of the election will not be released.

The Board declined jurisdiction based on the fact that the majority of the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision teams represent schools that are state-run, and the NLRB, by statute, has no jurisdiction over those institutions. Thus, asserting jurisdiction in this case, the NLRB determined, would not promote stability in labor relations across the country. This decision applies only to this particular case and does not preclude reconsideration of this issue in the future.

For more information about this or any related area of law, contact Jake Fulcher at (812) 423-3183 or, or any member of the KDDK Labor & Employment Law Practice Team.

About the Authors

Jake Fulcher

Jake Fulcher, an Indiana labor and employment law attorney, is a partner at Kahn, Dees, Donovan & Kahn, LLP, in Evansville, Indiana. Jake represents a broad base of employers, including both private and public employers located in the U.S. and abroad, in all aspects of labor and employment law. Jake devotes much of his practice to daily client counseling, developing best practices, and providing management and supervisor training on a variety of labor and employment-related issues. He also reviews and drafts employment contracts, consulting agreements, handbooks, non-compete/trade-secret agreements and severance packages.

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