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Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals Enforces NLRB Orders Against RELCO Locomotives, Inc.

In a decision issued on August 20, 2013, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals enforced two decisions and orders issued by the National Labor Relations Board against Relco, Locomotives, Inc.  In enforcing the Board’s Orders, the Court agreed that Relco illegally terminated a total of eight employees in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

Relco repairs and rebuilds locomotives at its facility in Albia, Iowa.  In 2009, employees in the Albia facility sought union representation.  Relco suddenly discharged the leading employee Union adherents.  In addition, in 2010, Relco terminated two other employees who were involved in protests that Relco was overcharging employees to clean their uniforms.  After an investigation, Region 18 of the Board, located in Minneapolis, issued a complaint alleging the four terminations violated the National Labor Relations Act.  The legality of the terminations was litigated before an administrative law judge on September 14 through 16, 2010.

In 2011, employees again sought union representation.  In March 2011, Relco terminated two additional employees who not only were involved in the renewed union organizing, but who also testified in support of the discharged employees in the September 2010 NLRB proceeding.  Around the same time, Relco terminated another two employees who expressed concerns about job security when there were rumors in the plant that the company had terminated another employee.  Following a second investigation, Region 18 issued a second complaint against Relco alleging that the four additional terminations also violated the Act.  The legality of these four terminations was litigated before a different administrative law judge than the first complaint, on August 9 and 10, 2011.

In enforcing the Board Orders, the Eighth Circuit stated that there was substantial evidence that Relco terminated two employees in 2009 because of their union support; that Relco terminated two other employees in 2010 because of their protests involving overcharging for cleaning work uniforms; that Relco terminated two employees in 2011 because of their testimony before the NLRB in the case involving the 2009 terminations; and that two additional employees were illegally terminated because of their discussions and concerns about the rumored termination of another employee.  In doing so, the Court noted that the National Labor Relations Act “provides protections to workers who seek to form a union or otherwise engage in concerted labor activities.”

Finally, the Court (Circuit Judge Smith dissenting) found that Relco waived its right to challenge the Board’s decision on the basis that the Board panel deciding the cases was not constitutionally appointed. 

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