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ALJ orders Connecticut Humane Society to reinstate workers fired during organizing campaign, with backpay

A National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge ordered on Wednesday that two employees of the Connecticut Humane Society be reinstated and awarded backpay because they were unlawfully discharged following an organizing campaign.

The two terminated employees had been active in the early stages of a union organizing campaign by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, District Lodge 26, which resulted in a December 9, 2009 election won by the Union by a vote of 18-15.  However, prior to the election, the parties agreed that the two employees would not be included in the group of employees who were eligible to vote.  Shortly after the election, the Employer admittedly fired the two employees because of their early support for the Union, claiming that such support conflicted with their obligations to the Employer as either supervisory or managerial employees. The Employer also asked that the election results be set aside, under the claim that active support from supervisors/managers could amount to coercion of voters in favor of the Union.

Rejecting the Employer's claims, Administrative Law Judge Steven Fish found that neither employee was a supervisor or a manager under the National Labor Relations Act, thereby making unlawful their discharge for engaging in activities in support of the union. In ordering the reinstatement of both employees, the judge also rejected the Employer's contention that the employees had lost their right to reinstatement as a result of their post-discharge criticisms of the Employer's operations, management representatives, and members of the Board of Directors. The judge further found that the Employer violated the Act in the course of the Union campaign by coercively interrogating employees about their union activities, creating the impression among its employees that their union activities were under surveillance, informing employees that they cannot participate in union activities, instructing employees to report the union activities of other employees, threatening employees with discharge for engaging in union activities, and informing employees that they were being terminated because of their union activities.

The judge also dismissed the Employer's objections to the election, which were based solely on its claim that the two terminated employees were supervisors/managers, and ordered that Machinists District Lodge 26 be certified as the employees' exclusive collective bargaining representative.

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