Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
National Labor Relations Board v. NP Palace LLC
Slot-machine technicians at Palace Casino voted to organize. The NLRB certified Local 501 to represent them. The union asked Palace to produce documents. Palace refused, believing that the union should not have been certified. Certification is not a final agency action, so an employer cannot seek judicial review but must first refuse to bargain and suffer an unfair labor practice charge to obtain judicial review, with the claimed invalidity of certification serving as an affirmative defense.The Board found that Palace violated 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(1) and (5). Palace claimed that an order to furnish all requested information would require disclosure of confidential information, like its plans to combat illegal gaming activity and money laundering. The Board concluded that Palace raised a specific confidentiality interest that was “legitimate on its face,” and ordered Palace to bargain over the union’s request. Separately, the Board ruled that the customer complaints requested by the union were not presumptively relevant to the union’s duty as the employees’ bargaining representative but might be relevant in a particular case, and remanded that issue “for further appropriate action.” The D.C. Circuit affirmed with respect to the confidentiality order but dismissed the “customer complaints” remand and not being a final order subject to review. View "National Labor Relations Board v. NP Palace LLC" on Justia Law
Trinity Services Group, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board
Trinity employee Victoria’s timecard indicated that she had earned three days of paid leave. The company’s records indicated otherwise. Victoria and her unionized coworkers had a unique paid-leave plan, different from the plan at Trinity’s other, nonunionized facilities. In response to the discrepancy, Victoria’s boss, Rivera, stated, “[T]hat is a problem that the Union created” and “You need to fix that with the Union.” A split panel of the National Labor Relations Board found that these remarks “had a reasonable tendency to interfere with” employees’ labor rights, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(1), because there was “no objective basis for blaming the Union” and the remarks came amidst “ongoing contract negotiations and grievance proceedings” regarding paid leave.The D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of Trinity, declining to enforce the Board’s order. The National Labor Relations Act protects an employer’s right to “express . . . any views, argument, or opinion,” 29 U.S.C. 158(c). Unless the employer threatens “reprisal or force” or promises “benefit[s],” such expressions “cannot be used as evidence of an unfair labor practice.” Rivera’s remarks were “opinion[s]” containing no threats or promises and evoking no future consequences. The court declined to recognize an exception for misstatements involving no threat or promise. Section 8(c) does not require fairness or accuracy and says nothing about materiality or knowledge. View "Trinity Services Group, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law
District No. 1, Pacific Coast District, Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Ass’n v. Liberty Maritime Corp.
At issue in this labor dispute case is who decides whether the arbitrator was validly (i.e., mutually rather than unilaterally) appointed: the challenged arbitrator himself, or instead a court. The district court concluded that the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) assigns to the arbitrator himself the authority to determine the validity of his own appointment.The DC Circuit vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for the district court to determine whether the challenged arbitrator was validly appointed. The court concluded that the dispute over the arbitrator's appointment involves the kind of question that is presumptively for judicial rather than arbitral resolution. The court also concluded that the parties' CBA does not overcome this presumption through a clear and unmistakable assignment of power to the challenged arbitrator himself to decide the validity of his own appointment. View "District No. 1, Pacific Coast District, Marine Engineers' Beneficial Ass'n v. Liberty Maritime Corp." on Justia Law
Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ v. Preeminent Protective Services, Inc.
Preeminent took over a security services contract but refused to hire two guards who had previously worked at the D.C. site. According to the Union, SEIU, the refusal violated a collective-bargaining agreement. In May 2018, the district court ordered the parties to arbitrate. Preeminent stalled for over a year, first refusing to commit to paying its share of the arbitration fees and then accusing an arbitrator of bias for seeking assurance of payment. SEIU moved for contempt. In November 2018, the court ordered Preeminent to pay half the cost. In January 2019, the court found that Preeminent had acted in bad faith and awarded SEIU attorneys’ fees. In June 2019, the court found Preeminent in civil contempt, imposed a $20,000 fine if Preeminent failed to arbitrate within 30 days, and awarded further costs and attorneys’ fees. A third arbitrator completed the arbitration. In November 2019, the court fixed the total amount of costs and attorneys’ fees at $51,000. Days later, Preeminent filed a notice of appeal, challenging the order compelling arbitration, the June 2019 contempt order, and the November 2019 fee order.The D.C. Circuit concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to review the arbitration and contempt orders, which were final decisions not timely appealed, 28 U.S.C. 2107(a), but affirmed the fee award. The 30-day filing deadline is jurisdictional. View "Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ v. Preeminent Protective Services, Inc." on Justia Law
RAV Truck and Trailer Repairs, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board
A complaint was filed with the Board alleging that the Company had violated sections 8(a)(3) and (1) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by discharging one employee, laying off another employee, and closing RAV because employees engaged in union activity. The Board reviewed the case after a hearing before an ALJ and issued a decision and order finding that petitioner had committed the unfair labor practices as alleged.The DC Circuit denied a petition for review with respect to the Board's determination that petitioner committed unfair labor practices by terminating one employee and laying off another, concluding that substantial evidence supports the Board's conclusion. Therefore, the court enforced the Board's proposed remedies, other than the restoration order and the bargaining order. The court remanded the issues of RAV's closure and the restoration order so that the Board may address the matters raised in this opinion regarding those issues. Furthermore, the Board must determine whether a unit of mechanics formerly employed by Petitioner at 3773 Merritt Avenue still exists, apart from Concrete Express, in a form that makes a bargaining order under the NLRA feasible. View "RAV Truck and Trailer Repairs, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law
Fisher v. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.
The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to PBGC, concluding that 29 C.F.R. 4044.4(b) is valid and that the PBGC Appeals Board reasonably applied section 4044.4(b) to deny appellant's lumpsum request. The court also concluded that, because fiduciaries must act in accordance with the terms of plan documents only "insofar as such documents and instruments are consistent with the provisions of" the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), Penn Traffic fulfilled its fiduciary duties by denying appellant's request in compliance with section 4044.4(b). Therefore, the court need not address appellant's contentions that Penn Traffic's handling of his lumpsum request was inconsistent with the Plan's terms. View "Fisher v. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp." on Justia Law
Communications Workers of America v. National Labor Relations Board
T-Mobile's call centers employ customer service representatives (CSRs). Since 2009, the union, CWA, has attempted to organize T-Mobile CSRs but has not filed a representation petition. In 2015, T-Mobile launched T-Voice to “Enhance Customers and Frontline experience by identifying, discussing, and communicating solutions for roadblocks for internal and external customers. Provide a vehicle for Frontline feedback and create a closed-loop communication with T-Mobile Sr. Leadership,” with T-Voice representatives at each call center. T-Mobile emailed all CSRs: You can raise issues by reaching out to your T-Voice representatives. Prospective T-Voice representatives were told that they would be “responsible for gathering pain points from your peers.”CWA alleged that T-Voice was a labor organization under the National Labor Relations Act (Section 2(5)), T-Mobile supported T-Voice (Section 8(a)(2)), and its operation of T-Voice constituted solicitation of grievances during an ongoing organizing campaign and an implied promise to remedy those grievances (Section 8(a)(1)). The Board concluded that T-Voice did not “deal with” T-Mobile as required for it to be a “labor organization” and its operation did not violate Section 8(a)(2); given the duration of CWA’s organizing campaign, there was no inference that T-Voice would tend to erode employee support for union organizing.The D.C. Circuit upheld the Board’s finding that the creation of T-Voice was not aimed at interfering with union organizing but remanded with respect to whether T-Voice constitutes a labor organization. The Board has two lines of precedent: one holding an organization is not engaged in “dealing with” an employer unless the organization makes “group proposals,” the other has no such requirement. The Board needs to identify what standard it has adopted for separating “group proposals” from proposals of employee representatives. View "Communications Workers of America v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law
The American Bottling Co. v. National Labor Relations Board
The DC Circuit denied the Company's petition for review of the Board's decision affirming the Regional Director's determination that the Company had failed to demonstrate that elimination of the position was both definite and imminent. In this case, after the Company planned to eliminate one of the jobs at its plant, the Company first planned to make the transition in the Spring of 2018. However, that did not work out. Then the Company told its employees that it planned to eliminate the classification around Super Bowl weekend in 2019, but it did not. Then the Company told them that it would definitely eliminate the classification on April 1, 2019, but it did not.The court concluded that, given the Company's track record, the Board reasonably concluded that termination of the position on July 21st was anything but certain. The court explained that the Board's decision to order an election in a unit containing representatives was supported by substantial evidence as the Company failed to show that contraction of the proposed bargaining unit was definite and imminent. The court also concluded that the Board correctly denied the Company's objections to the election process itself. View "The American Bottling Co. v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law
RadNet Management, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board
In consolidated petitions for review, RadNet challenges the Board's decisions finding unfair labor practices based on RadNet's refusal to bargain with the Union on behalf of six separate bargaining units, each representing certain technical workers employed at a different RadNet facility in Southern California. RadNet contends that all six certifications are marred by defects in election procedure, election misconduct, or underlying representation issues.The DC Circuit denied the petitions for review, concluding that the Regional Director did not abuse its discretion in determining that certain Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologists and Nuclear Technologists were not guards within the meaning of section 9(b)(3) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA); RadNet's claim that the elections were a priori defective because they were conducted pursuant to the Board's 2014 revised election rules lacks merit; although the Board abused its discretion in choosing to postpone the counting of ballots and the disclosure of results until the conclusion of voting in all ten of the individual unit elections, the error was harmless; the Board did not abuse its discretion by overruling RadNet's union affiliation objection, and in any event, RadNet has shown no prejudice; even assuming the veracity of RadNet's factual allegations, the court was unpersuaded that the Board abused its discretion in overruling the four separate objections concerning the conduct of individual elections, and the court saw no specific evidence of prejudice to the fairness of the election; and the Board did not abuse its discretion in granting summary judgment to the General Counsel without allowing relitigation of certain underlying representation issues. View "RadNet Management, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law
Secretary of Labor v. Knight Hawk Coal, LLC
The Federal Mine Safety and Health Amendments Act, 30 U.S.C. 801, requires the Secretary of the Department of Labor, through the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), to negotiate mine-specific ventilation plans with companies that operate the mines. In 2006-2018, Knight Hawk Coal operated its Prairie Eagle Mine pursuant to an MSHA-approved ventilation plan that permitted perimeter mining with 40-foot perimeter cuts. In 2018, MSHA conducted a ventilation survey at Prairie Eagle and concluded that the approved plan did not adequately ventilate the perimeter cuts. MSHA relied primarily on the results of chemical smoke tests, which involved survey team members observing smoke movement from a 44-foot distance. Months later, MSHA revoked the Prairie Eagle ventilation plan. After receiving a technical citation from MSHA for operating without an approved plan, Knight Hawk sought review by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission.The Commission’s ALJ found the revocation arbitrary and capricious, in part because the chemical smoke test results were unreliable and inconsistent and the Secretary ignored disagreements among MSHA ventilation survey team members regarding the results. The ALJ reinstated the previously-approved ventilation plan. The Commission affirmed, concluding that the Secretary failed to explain adequately why the existing ventilation plan was deficient. The D.C. Circuit denied the Secretary’s petition for review, finding that substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s finding. View "Secretary of Labor v. Knight Hawk Coal, LLC" on Justia Law