Giant Food, Inc. v. Dept. of Labor, No. 15

CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtCATHELL.
Citation738 A.2d 856,356 Md. 180
Decision Date07 October 1999
Docket NumberNo. 15

738 A.2d 856
356 Md. 180


No. 15, Sept. Term, 1999.

Court of Appeals of Maryland.

October 7, 1999.

738 A.2d 857
Roger W. Titus (Mitchell Y. Mirviss, John A. Roberts, Kathleen E. Wherthey of Venable, Baetjer and Howard, LLP, Rockville and Harry W. Burton of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP, Washington, DC, all on brief), for petitioner

Andrew H. Baida, Asst. Atty. Gen. (J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Atty. Gen. of Maryland and Matthew W. Boyle, Asst. Atty. Gen., Baltimore, Daniel G. Orfield of Zwerdling, Paul, Leibig, Kahn, Thompson & Wolly, P.C., Washington, DC, John R. Mooney and Mark J. Murphy, Mooney, Green, Baker, Gibson and Saindon, P.C., Washington, DC and Jonathan G. Axelrod, Barbara Kraft and Hugh J. Beins of Beins, Axelrod & Kraft, P.C., Washington, DC, all on briefs), for respondents.

Dianna M. Louis, Carey R. Butsavage, Marc A. Stefan, Butsavage & Associates, Washington, DC, amicus curiae on behalf of respondent Commercial Workers, Local 400.

David A. Skomba, Rudolph L. Rose, Anthony G. Lardieri, Semmes, Bowen & Semmes, Baltimore, amicus curiae on behalf of Bell Atlantic-Maryland, Inc., Safeway, Inc., petitioner.

Argued before BELL, C.J., and ELDRIDGE, RODOWSKY, RAKER, WILNER, CATHELL and ROBERT L. KARWACKI, (retired, specially assigned), JJ.


Giant Food, Inc., petitioner, appeals from a decision of the Court of Special Appeals affirming an administrative ruling that certain of petitioner's employees were entitled to unemployment benefits during a work stoppage caused by a strike from December 15, 1996 to January 18, 1997. We hold that the employees are not entitled to the unemployment benefits and shall reverse.

738 A.2d 858
I. Background

Petitioner is a retail grocer which owns and operates two distribution and warehouse centers in Jessup, Maryland and Landover, Maryland. It also owns and operates a beverage plant and ice cream plant in Jessup, a dairy in Landover, and a bakery in Silver Spring, Maryland. Respondent Teamsters Local 639 consists of the truckers who deliver products from those two distribution and warehouse centers to all of petitioner's 174 stores in the Mid-Atlantic region.

The strike at issue in this case began when the collective bargaining agreement between petitioner and respondent Teamsters Local 639 expired and the local went on strike. The remaining union locals appearing as respondents in this case assisted in the strike either by actively refusing to cross picket lines or engaging in "sympathy strikes."1 As a result of the strike, petitioner's warehouse and distribution centers ceased operations as did the various manufacturing plants. Petitioner responded to the closings by having other wholesalers and suppliers ship products directly to its retail stores. The record also reflects that they overstocked products in anticipation of the strike. Petitioner estimates that it lost approximately four million dollars in profits from the closing of the plants.

The 1,346 employees participating or assisting in the strike applied for unemployment benefits for the period during which they were out of work. After a hearing, the Board of Appeals of the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (Board), also a respondent to this appeal, ruled that the employees were entitled to the benefits. On judicial review, the Circuit Court for Montgomery County affirmed. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the circuit court. See generally Giant v. Department of Labor, Licensing & Reg., 124 Md. App. 357, 722 A.2d 398 (1999).

II. Standard of Review

Our review of an agency's decision "entails only an appraisal and evaluation of the agency's fact-finding and not an independent decision on the evidence." Catonsville Nursing Home, Inc. v. Loveman, 349 Md. 560, 569, 709 A.2d 749, 753 (1998); see Anderson v. Department of Pub. Safety & Correctional Servs., 330 Md. 187, 212, 623 A.2d 198, 210 (1993). When the agency is acting in a fact-finding or quasi-judicial capacity, we review its decision to determine "whether the contested decision was rendered in an illegal, arbitrary, capricious, oppressive or fraudulent manner." Department of Natural Resources v. Linchester Sand & Gravel Corp., 274 Md. 211, 224, 334 A.2d 514, 523 (1975); see Goodwich v. Nolan, 343 Md. 130, 148, 680 A.2d 1040, 1049 (1996); Weiner v. Maryland Ins. Admin., 337 Md. 181, 190, 652 A.2d 125, 129 (1995). When dealing with factual issues, "[w]e are also obligated to `review the agency's decision in the light most favorable to the agency,' since their decisions are prima facie correct and carry with them the presumption of validity." Catonsville Nursing Home, 349 Md. at 569, 709 A.2d at 753 (quoting Anderson, 330 Md. at 213, 623 A.2d at 210; Bulluck v. Pelham Wood Apts., 283 Md. 505, 513, 390 A.2d 1119, 1124 (1978)). We

738 A.2d 859
have noted that our review of an administrative agency's fact-finding decisions differs markedly from our review of the decision of a trial court
In the latter context the appellate court will search the record for evidence to support the judgment and will sustain the judgment for a reason plainly appearing on the record whether or not the reason was expressly relied upon by the trial court. However, in judicial review of agency action the court may not uphold the agency order unless it is sustainable on the agency's findings and for the reasons stated by the agency.

United Steelworkers v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 298 Md. 665, 679, 472 A.2d 62, 69 (1984).

We have stated that, "[a] court's role is limited to determining if there is substantial evidence in the record as a whole to support the agency's findings and conclusions, and to determine if the administrative decision is premised upon an erroneous conclusion of law." United Parcel Serv., Inc. v. People's Counsel, 336 Md. 569, 577, 650 A.2d 226, 230 (1994), quoted in Bucktail, LLC v. County Council, 352 Md. 530, 552-53, 723 A.2d 440, 450 (1999); see also Prince George's County v. Brown, 334 Md. 650, 658, 640 A.2d 1142, 1146 (1994); Catonsville Nursing Home, 349 Md. at 569, 709 A.2d at 753 (quoting Insurance Comm'r v. Engelman, 345 Md. 402, 411, 692 A.2d 474, 479 (1997)); People's Counsel v. Maryland Marine Mfg. Co., 316 Md. 491, 497, 560 A.2d 32, 34-35 (1989).

In the case subjudice, the factual determinations of the Board are generally not in contest. Thus, our review of the administrative agency's decision below is strictly concerned with whether their decision was based on proper legal standards.

III. Analysis

The issue before the Court, in general terms, is whether respondents were disqualified from receiving the requested unemployment benefits under Maryland Code (1991), section 8-1004 of the Labor and Employment Article. Section 8-1004 states:

(a) Grounds for disqualification.— Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section:
(1) an individual who otherwise is eligible to receive benefits is disqualified from receiving benefits for each week for which the Secretary finds that unemployment results from a stoppage of work, other than a lockout, that exists because of a labor dispute at the premises where the individual last was employed; and
(2) if separate branches of work that usually are conducted as separate businesses in separate premises are conducted in separate departments on the same premises, each department shall be considered a separate premises for the purposes of this subsection.
(b) Exception.—A disqualification under this section does not apply to an individual who satisfies the Secretary that the individual:
(1) is not participating in, financing, or directly interested in the labor dispute that caused the stoppage of work; and
(2) does not belong to a class or grade of workers that, immediately before the stoppage, had any members:

(i) employed at the premises; and

(ii) participating in, financing, or directly interested in the labor dispute. [Emphasis added.]

More specifically, the parties debate whether the "stoppage of work" required by subsection (a)(1) must be "at the premises where the individual last was employed." The statute clearly requires there to be a "labor dispute" at the premises where the employees worked and there is no question in this case that there was a labor dispute at the various

738 A.2d 860
sites where petitioner's employees struck.2 Respondents, who interpret section 8-1004(a)(1) as not limiting the stoppage of work to each individual "premises" of petitioner's business, argue that there was no work stoppage because petitioner's business as a whole was not "substantially curtailed." Petitioner argues that subsection (a)(1) does apply the "stoppage of work" language to each individual premises and thus, because its business was substantially curtailed at each of the distribution and warehouse centers and the manufacturing plants, those facilities experienced a work stoppage. The parties also debate the exact meaning of "premises" in their respective attempts to broaden or limit the geographic scope of the statute. Petitioner argues that premises refers to each individual unit of employment while respondents argue that it refers to petitioner's facilities as a whole

A. Rules of Statutory Construction

This Court has stated repeatedly that "[t]he cardinal rule of statutory interpretation is to ascertain and effectuate the intention of the legislature." Oaks v. Connors, 339 Md. 24, 35, 660 A.2d 423, 429 (1995). Legislative intent must be sought in the first instance in the actual language of the statute. Board of License Comm'rs v. Toye, 354 Md. 116, 122, 729 A.2d 407, 410 (1999); Anne Arundel County v. City of Annapolis, 352 Md. 117, 123, 721 A.2d 217, 220 (1998); Marriott Employees Fed. Credit Union v. Motor Vehicle Admin., 346 Md. 437, 444-45, 697 A.2d 455, 458 (1997); Coburn v. Coburn, 342 Md. 244, 256, 674 A.2d 951, 957 (1996); Romm v. Flax, 340 Md. 690, 693, 668 A.2d 1, 2 (1995); Oaks,...

To continue reading

Request your trial
43 cases
  • TOTAL AV SYS., INC. v. Dept. of Labor, 145
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • August 25, 2000 a contrary construction. Toye, 354 Md. at 122, 729 A.2d at 410; Giant Food, Inc. v. Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation, 356 Md. 180, 188-189, 738 A.2d 856, 860 (1999); Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Gussin, 350 Md. 552, 564, 714 A.2d 188, 193 (1998); Coleman v. State, 281 Md. 538, 546......
  • Dakrish, LLC v. Raich
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • January 30, 2013
    ...Dep't of Health and Human Servs., 381 Md. 188, 213–14 [849 A.2d 46] (2004); Giant Food, Inc. v. Dep't of Labor, Licensing & Regulation, 356 Md. 180, 185 [738 A.2d 856] (1999) (citing Dep't of Natural Res. v. Linchester Sand & Gravel Corp., 274 Md. 211, 224 [334 A.2d 514] (1975)); Bd. of Lic......
  • Young v. ANNE ARUNDEL CTY.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 11, 2002
    ...must view that decision in the light most favorable to the agency. Giant Food, Inc. v. Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, 356 Md. 180, 185, 738 A.2d 856; Marsheck, 358 Md. at 402, 749 A.2d 774; Board of Education v. Paynter, 303 Md. 22, 35-36, 491 A.2d 1186 (1985). Moreover, "[......
  • Caffrey v. Dept. of Liquor Control, 127
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • August 23, 2002
    ...interpretations designed to extend or limit the scope of its operation.' " Giant Food, Inc. v. Dep't of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, 356 Md. 180, 189, 738 A.2d 856, 861 (1999) (quoting 370 Md. 280 Tucker v. Fireman's Fund Ins. Co., 308 Md. 69, 73-75, 517 A.2d 730, 731-32 Pursuant to the......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT