The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that a Transport Workers Union (TWU) collective bargaining agreement’s union security clauses requiring that covered nonmember employees pay collective bargaining fees and annually opt out, and setting forth an escrow and rebate procedure to refund money to objectors, was constitutional under the First Amendment. In rejecting the Envoy Air Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co. workers’ claims, the court ruled that the Supreme Court’s holding in Railway Employees Department v. Hanson in 1956, which found the Railway Labor Act’s (RLA) union shop provision constitutional under the commerce clause, was controlling. The court also relied on former Fifth Circuit precedent holding that the RLA’s opt-out requirement was permissible. The TWU removed the annual renewal requirement, and the constitutional argument concerning that requirement was deemed moot. Jose Serna, et al. v. TWU of America.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held that Quicken Loans Inc. violated the NLRA by maintaining confidentiality and non-disparagement policies that infringed employees’ Section 7 rights. The company’s confidentiality provision prohibited its mortgage bankers from disclosing personnel information to any person except as authorized by the company in writing. Personnel information included employee lists and rosters, and coworkers’ contact information. The non-disparagement rule prohibited employees from publicly criticizing, ridiculing, disparaging, or defaming the company or its officers, employees, or products. The court agreed with the NLRB that employees would reasonably view the rules as limiting their freedom to engage in protected, concerted activity under the NLRA, despite the lack of evidence that any employees were disciplined under the rules. Quicken Loans, Inc. v. NLRB.
Joining the Seventh and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that a plaintiff is not required to show a breach of a union’s duty of fair representation in order to make out a prima facie case of discrimination under Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The appellate court held that a material handler suing the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 99 for its failure to adequately represent him in post-discharge grievance proceedings could maintain claims of race, age, and disability discrimination despite the dismissal of his claim for breach of the duty of fair representation as untimely under the six-month statute of limitations, noting that discrimination claims were not subject to the same time limit. The federal district court’s ruling conflicts with a ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which held that a prima facie showing of discrimination under Title VII required a showing that the union breached the duty of fair representation. Banks v. Operating Engineers Local 99.
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa denied the Board’s Section 10(j) motion for injunctive relief against corn products processor Ingredion, Inc. because the company’s alleged failure to bargain in good faith with the Iowa local of the Bakery, Confectionary and Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers did not cause the union to lose any of its members. The alleged unfair labor practice underlying the complaint arose when the processor unilaterally implemented changes to the collective bargaining agreement after the union rejected the company’s last, best, and final offer. The NLRB’s general counsel issued a complaint, and sought Section 10(j) relief prior to the administrative law judge’s ruling on the merits of the complaint. Citing the union’s stability, the Iowa federal court denied the Section 10(j) motion, noting that in cases where such extraordinary relief was granted, more egregious violations have warranted a finding that irreparable harm would occur absent the requested relief. Osthus v. Ingredion, Inc.
A California court of appeals upheld an injunction banning two unions from protesting inside Wal-Mart stores in California. Upholding the ruling of the trial court, the appellate court panel held that Wal-Mart’s trespassing claim against the Food and Commercial Workers Union and Organization United for Respect was not preempted by the NLRA because the protestors’ conduct, including marching through the stores silently, singing and handing out fliers, is not protected by the NLRA, and does not override the local interest in preventing trespassing. The court also noted that similar findings were upheld on appeal in Colorado, Maryland, and Florida. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., et al. v. United Food and Commercial Workers Union, et al.
The Department of Labor and U.S. Steel Corp. settled a lawsuit challenging the company’s safety reporting policies in a whistleblower action filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. In the lawsuit, workers were disciplined and suspended without pay for not immediately reporting injuries under the company’s safety rules, which required employees to “immediately” inform supervisors of on-the-job injuries or illnesses. The workers alleged that because their injuries manifested slowly, they did not realize they suffered reportable injuries until at least two days after the respective incidents. The workers filed whistleblower complaints with OSHA under Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which gives workers a right to report injuries and accidents to employers without fear of reprimand. OSHA agreed that the workers were disciplined for reporting injuries and filed suit. As part of the settlement, U.S. Steel agreed to replace its immediate reporting mandate with a requirement that once a worker becomes aware of an injury or illness, he or she must report it no later than eight hours after becoming aware. Perez v. U.S. Steel Corp.