Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Any discussion of labor-management relations naturally assumes two parties: labor and management. Fundamental to both the industrial philosophy and labor legislation of the United States has been the assumption of mutually exclusive and largely adversarial camps of "employers" and "employees." This rigid dichotomy, however, fails to recognize the existence of a third group of workers that fits neither the labor nor the management typology. These workers are best described as hybrid employees: workers who arguably deserve many of the statutory protections afforded to labor but who may be aligned too closely with the employer's interests to warrant the protection of the National Labor Relations Act (the Act or-NLRA).

The primary justification for excluding the hybrid group from the protections of the Act is a "conflict of interest" rationale. Justice Powell noted in his partial dissent in NLRB v. Hendricks County Rural Electric Membership Corp. that including these hybrid employees, whose interests are aligned with managements, in a group of rank-and-file employees necessarily hinders the functioning of the adversarial model of labor-management relations. Under this adversarial model, the "conflict of interest" rationale is a persuasive reason for excluding the hybrid group from the protections of the Act. This rationale, however, looses some of its persuasiveness upon consideration of a cooperative model of labor-management relations. The continuing decline in unionization and the trend toward greater cooperation between labor and management call for a reconsideration of the overall scheme of labor-management relations and increased efforts to incorporate the hybrid group into the system.

Part II of this Special Project Note examines the Act itself in order to determine which workers are excluded from the statutory definition of "employee."' Next, Part III examines certain specific groups of hybrid employees as they have been defined and treated by the United States Supreme Court. Part IV discusses possible alternative protections for employees excluded from the coverage of the Act. Possible protections include The Age Discrimination in Employment Act( ADEA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and employment-at-will actions. Part V concludes that United States labor legislation should be modified to accommodate the hybrid employees if labor-management relations truly are becoming more cooperative than adversarial.