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Student athlete is to college, as employee is to employer? On review, perhaps that analogy would fall into the SAT gray zone, to be debated hotly among rising high school seniors and then promptly forgotten once early acceptances to college begin to roll in. However, a number of recent decisions and advice memoranda indicate the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has directed its attention to colleges and universities, and is currently re-evaluating how student athletes enrolled at those institutions fall under the NLRB’s purview, if at all. This article discusses recent NLRB decisions and provides recommendations for how to draft social media policies that will survive NLRB scrutiny.


The NLRB is an independent federal agency tasked with protecting the rights of employees within the private sector and enforcing the National Labor Relations Act. It does this by investigating allegations of unfair labor practice by employers or labor organizations. There are 26 regional offices of the NLRB across the United States, which are overseen by a five member quasi-judicial board headquartered in Washington, D.C. Board members serve staggered five-year terms, and are appointed by the president with Senate consent.

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