474 U.S. 3 (1985), 84-1634, Cuyahoga Valley Railway Co. v. United Transportation Union

Docket Nº:No. 84-1634
Citation:474 U.S. 3, 106 S.Ct. 286, 88 L.Ed.2d 2, 54 U.S.L.W. 2443
Party Name:Cuyahoga Valley Railway Co. v. United Transportation Union
Case Date:November 04, 1985
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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474 U.S. 3 (1985)

106 S.Ct. 286, 88 L.Ed.2d 2, 54 U.S.L.W. 2443

Cuyahoga Valley Railway Co.

v.

United Transportation Union

No. 84-1634

United States Supreme Court

Nov. 4, 1985

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED

STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Pursuant to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (Act), the Secretary of Labor issued a citation to Cuyahoga Valley Railway Co. for a violation of the Act; the company contested the citation; the Secretary filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (Commission), and the company filed an answer; and the United Transportation Union, which represents the company's employees, intervened. At the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), over the Union's objection, granted the Secretary's motion to vacate the citation on the ground that the Secretary did not have jurisdiction over the relevant safety conditions. Despite the Secretary's objection, the Commission directed review of the ALJ's order and ultimately remanded the case to the ALJ for consideration of the Union's objections. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, because the adversarial process was well advanced at the time the Secretary attempted to withdraw the citation, the Commission, as the adjudicative body, had the authority to review the Secretary's withdrawal of the citation.

Held: The Secretary has unreviewable discretion to withdraw a citation charging an employer with violating the Act. The Court of Appeals' decision is inconsistent with the detailed statutory scheme, which contemplates that the rights created by the Act are to be protected by the Secretary, and that enforcement of the Act is the Secretary's sole responsibility. The Commission's function is to act as a neutral arbiter and to determine whether the Secretary's citations should be enforced. Its authority does not extend to overturning the Secretary's decision not to issue or to withdraw a citation.

Certiorari granted; 748 F.2d 340, reversed.

[106 S.Ct. 286] PER CURIAM.

The Secretary of Labor is authorized to inspect work sites to uncover noncompliance with the Occupational Safety and

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Health Act. 29 U.S.C. § 657(a). If, as a result of such an inspection, the Secretary discovers a violation of the Act, he is authorized to issue a citation to the employer fixing a reasonable time for the abatement of the violation, § 658(a), and assessing a penalty for the violation. § 666. The employer then has 15 days in which to contest the citation. §659(a). Similarly, employees have 15 days in which to challenge as unreasonable "the period of time fixed in the citation for the abatement of the violation." § 659(c) See generally Whirlpool Corp. v. Marshall, 445 U.S. 1, 9, n. 11 (1980). The statute and rules of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission also permit affected employees to participate as parties in any hearing in which the employer contests the citation. 29 U.S.C. § 659(c); 29 CFR § 2200.20(a) (1985).

If an employer contests the citation, and the Secretary intends to seek its enforcement, the Secretary must file a complaint with the commission within 20 days, and the employer must file an answer within 15 days. 29 CFR § 2200.33 (1985). Once these pleadings are filed, a hearing to determine the validity of the citation will be held before an administrative law judge (ALJ), with discretionary review by the Commission. 29 U.S.C. §§ 659(c), 661(j).

In the present cases, the Secretary cited Cuyahoga Valley Railway Company for a violation of the Act. Cuyahoga contested the citation, the Secretary filed a complaint with the Commission, and Cuyahoga filed [106 S.Ct. 287] an answer. Respondent United Transportation Union, which represents Cuyahoga employees, properly moved to intervene in the proceedings. At the hearing, however, the Secretary moved to vacate the citation on the ground that the Federal Railway Administration, not the Secretary, had jurisdiction over the relevant safety conditions. Despite the Union's objection, the ALJ granted the Secretary's motion and vacated the citation. Thereafter, the Commission directed review of the ALJ's order. The secretary promptly objected to this action, asserting

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that part of the citation involved matters beyond the reach of the Act and that additional portions of the citation did not warrant litigation because of the state of the evidence. He also stated that the record before the Commission was inadequate to resolve the issue posed.1 Some six years later, the Commission rejected this submission and remanded the case to the ALJ for consideration of the Union's objections.

The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the Commission'S holding that it could review the Secretary's decision to withdraw a citation. Donovan v. United...

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