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Principles of Labor Law
University of South Carolina School of Law
Seiner, Joseph A.

Principles of Labor Law
Seiner – Fall 2010
       I.            Introduction
a.      Laws:
                                                              i.      National Labor Relations Act – governs most labor organization activity
                                                           ii.      Title VII of Civil Rights Act
b.      Employment-at-will – foundation of the employer-employee relationship
                                                              i.      People [without a specific employment K] can be hired or fired, or apply or quit, for whatever reason, or no reason at all
                                                           ii.      Many exceptions carved out (examples):
1.       Can’t allow employer to terminate due to race
2.      NLRA – can’t be terminated due to union activity
                                                         iii.      Gives employer a lot of power and drives capitalism
                                                          iv.      About 100 million people employed at will
c.       Hypothetical #1
                                                              i.      Union activity – NLRA
                                                           ii.      Overtime and minimum wage –FLSA
1.       Problem with working 70 hour week for little pay
                                                         iii.      Age/child labor – FLSA
1.       Problem with 9 year old working in dangerous factory
                                                          iv.      Health/safety law, and worker’s comp – OSHA Act
1.       Frequent industrial accidents require health coverage and payment for time off
                                                            v.      Retirement and health plan laws – maybe safety net like Medicare; ERISA
                                                          vi.      Discrimination
1.       Willy Sr. too old to be working in plant
                                                       vii.      Unemployment laws
d.      NLRA – primary statute for enforcing labor laws; deals with labor disputes affecting interstate commerce
                                                              i.      Offshoot of Great Depression
                                                           ii.      Wagner Act (NLRA)
                                                         iii.      Employee is broadly defined and includes most private employees
                                                          iv.      Two key provisions:
1.       Sec. 7
a.      Can form, join, or assist labor organization and employer can’t take any action against you because of these actions
b.      Protected in bargaining collectively
c.       Allowed to engage in concerted activity for collective bargaining or for mutual aid
2.      Sec. 8 – enforcement mechanism for Sec. 7 rights (meaning you have a “Sec. 8 violation” against employer)
                                                            v.      Challenged on constitutional grounds but upheld
                                                          vi.      Once passed, labor organization numbers skyrocketed
                                                       vii.      Taft-Hartley Act – amendment to the NLRA; gave more protections to employers
                                                     viii.      Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) – mediation before strike and boycott stage (attempts to prevent union disputes)
                                                          ix.      Landrum-Griffin Act – dealt with corruption of “labor bosses”; levels the playing field for union members and for employers and employees
e.      Federal Supremacy
                                                              i.      NLRA is a FEDERAL LAW, meaning states can provide additional protections but cannot go lower
1.       Broadly interpreted as well
2.      Difficult for states to do anything not set forth already
3.      Considered preempted unless completely outside scope of NLRA
4.      No jurisdiction for state courts to interpret
                                                           ii.      Target goals:
1.       Industrial peace
2.      Collective bargaining rules and regulations
3.      Employee’s membership (rules of union membership)
4.      Restraints on labor relationships
5.      Impact on national welfare
f.        Who enforces?  NLRB
                                                              i.      NLRB is extremely political and there is almost no respect to past court decisions (little stare decisis)
                                                           ii.      Members appointed by president with advice and consent of Senate
                                                         iii.      5 members on the panel
                                                          iv.      Two main activities:
1.       Determines employee representatives (final and binding authority) – which union will be used
2.      Decides unfair labor practices (ULPs) – any violation of Sec. 7
                                                            v.      Complete and final authority
g.      Union rules and regulations are found in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which is an agreement on behalf of entire work force
                                                              i.      Covers all of the terms, conditions, and privileges of membership
                                                           ii.      Basically, just an employment K between the union (and the workers) and the company
                                                         iii.      Beauty is that it takes you out of employment-at-will
                                                          iv.      Enforceable as to everyone at the workplace part of the union
                                                            v.      Inclusions:
1.       Seniority
2.      Health insurance
3.      Wage
4.      Layoff/termination
5.      Vacation
6.      No strikes
7.      Retirement/pensions
8.     Hours
9.      ***Provisions for just-cause dismissal or discipline (must have good reason to take adverse action against employee)
a.      May first have to resort to progressive discipline (oral warning, written warning, then, etc.)
b.      Examples: attendance, work rules, duties, poor performance, “conduct” (either at or away work which would interfere with employer’s business)
                                                          vi.      Arbitration becomes method of settling disputes with CBA in place
1.       Grievance filed against employer, and dispute settled by arbitrator(s), where decision i

nference gone, and employee/applicant must carry ultimate burden of PERSUASION that discriminated against
a.      Typically, shown by proving that LNR was pretextual
b.      Factors usually come together at summary judgment and this is where battle normal fought
6.      To combat this, make all jobs slightly different (so no one can be entirely similarly situated, as most courts say almost identical)
                                                           ii.      Hypothetical #2(1):
1.       McD’l inference test:
a.      National origin
b.      Employee of month, so qualified
c.       $1/month reduction in pay
                                                                                                                                      i.      Might need to show how this is really adverse – SCt has never said exactly what is adverse ($12/year less might not be sufficient)
                                                                                                                                   ii.      In SC, must show ultimate employment action
d.      Discriminatory comments
2.      LNR – quality over quantity
3.      Pretext? Yes, because of above facts more than likely
                                                         iii.      Hypothetical #2(2):
1.       Inference test:
a.      She is part of the protected group (woman)
b.      She is qualified – 14 years and excellent performance
c.       Whether adverse action – questionable because giving her a slightly smaller desk, but desk was inferior; is this adverse? Would need to prove that this hurt her in some way, such as reputation or ability to wok
d.      Other evidence – met because of statements; also, similarly situated men got bigger desks
2.      LNR – Nancy is a smaller person and needs less room than the large, fat men that are the other secretaries; maybe men had more seniority; she’s a temp for Sam and new to him
3.      Pretext – fact that he didn’t give a response, turned, and walked away
g.      Direct Evidence of Discrimination
                                                              i.      Evidence, which if believed, proves the existence of the fact at issue without the inference of presumption (put another way: evidence, which if believed, does not leave any room for doubt that discrimination occurred)
                                                           ii.      Realistically, wouldn’t have signed proof of discrimination – more likely, age limit or language mandate (some sort of safety rationale)
1.       Ex: “You’re too old, you’re fired” or “You’re a woman, you can’t do the job”
                                                         iii.      Test: