National Labor Relations Board v. Transportation Management Corp, No. 82-168

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtWHITE
Citation462 U.S. 393,76 L.Ed.2d 667,103 S.Ct. 2469
PartiesNATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, Petitioner v. TRANSPORTATION MANAGEMENT CORP
Decision Date15 June 1983
Docket NumberNo. 82-168

462 U.S. 393
103 S.Ct. 2469
76 L.Ed.2d 667
NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, Petitioner

v.

TRANSPORTATION MANAGEMENT CORP.

No. 82-168.
Argued March 28, 1983.
Decided June 15, 1983.
Syllabus

Acting on unfair labor practice charges filed by an employee of respondent, petitioner National Labor Relations Board found that respondent had discharged the employee, a bus driver, for his union activities, in violation of §§ 8(a)(1) and 8(a)(3) of the National Labor Relations Act. The Board applied its rule that the General Counsel has the burden of persuading the Board by a preponderance of the evidence that an antiunion animus contributed to the employer's decision to discharge the employee, and the employer can avoid the conclusion that it violated the Act by proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the employee would have been fired for permissible reasons even if he had not been involved in protected union activities. The Board concluded that respondent failed to carry its burden of persuading the Board that the employee's discharge would have taken place, even if he had not been engaged in protected union activities, because of his practice of leaving his keys in the bus and taking unauthorized breaks. The Court of Appeals refused to enforce the Board's order, based on its view that it was error to place the burden on the employer, and that the General Counsel carried the burden of proving not only that a forbidden motivation contributed to the discharge but also that the discharge would not have taken place independently of the employee's protected conduct.

Held:

1. The burden of proof placed on the employer under the Board's rule is consistent with §§ 8(a)(1) and 8(a)(3), as well as with § 10(c) of the Act, which provides that the Board must prove an unlawful labor practice by a "preponderance of the evidence." The Board's construction of the statute, which is not mandated by the Act, extends to the employer what the Board considers to be an affirmative defense but does not change or add to the elements of the unfair labor practice that the General Counsel has the burden of proving under § 10(c). This is a permissible construction, and the Board's allocation of the burden of proof is reasonable. Cf. Mt. Healthy City Board of Education v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 97 S.Ct. 568, 50 L.Ed.2d 471. Pp. 397-404.

2. The Board was justified in this case in finding that the employee would not have been discharged had respondent not considered his pro-

Page 394

tected activities. Such finding was supported by substantial evidence on the record considered as a whole. P. 2 75.

674 F.2d 130 (1st Cir.1982), reversed.

Lawrence G. Wallace, Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Martin Ames, Chelmsford, Mass., for respondent.

WHITE, Justice, delivered the opinion of the Court.

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or Act), 29 U.S.C. § 151 et seq., makes unlawful the discharge of a worker because of union activity, 29 U.S.C. §§ 158(a)(1), (3),1 but employers retain the right to discharge workers for any number of other reasons unrelated to the employee's union activities. When the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (Board) files a complaint alleging that an employee was discharged because of his union activities, the employer

Page 395

may assert legitimate motives for his decision. In Wright Line, 251 N.L.R.B. 1083 (1980), enforced, 662 F.2d 899 (CA1 1981), cert. denied 455 U.S. 989, 102 S.Ct. 1612, 71 L.Ed.2d 848 (1982), the National Labor Relations Board reformulated the allocation of the burden of proof in such cases. It determined that the General Counsel carried the burden of persuading the Board that an anti-union animus contributed to the employer's decision to discharge an employee, a burden that does not shift, but that the employer, even if it failed to meet or neutralize the General Counsel's showing, could avoid the finding that it violated the statute by demonstrating by a preponderance of the evidence that the worker would have been fired even if he had not been involved with the Union. The question presented in this case is whether the burden placed on the employer in Wright Line is consistent with §§ 8(a)(1) and 8(a)(3), as well as with § 10(c) of the NLRA, 29 U.S.C. § 160(c), which provides that the Board must prove an unlawful labor practice by a "preponderance of the evidence." 2

Prior to his discharge, Sam Santillo was a bus driver for respondent Transportation Management Corp. On March 19, 1979, Santillo talked to officials of the Teamster's Union about organizing the drivers who worked with him. Over

Page 396

the next four days Santillo discussed with his fellow drivers the possibility of joining the Teamsters and distributed authorization cards. On the night of March 23, George Patterson, who supervised Santillo and the other drivers, told one of the drivers that he had heard of Santillo's activities. Patterson referred to Santillo as two-faced, and promised to get even with him.

Later that evening Patterson talked to Ed Wes , who was also a bus driver for respondent. Patterson asked, "What's with Sam and the Union?" Patterson said that he took Santillo's actions personally, recounted several favors he had done for Santillo, and added that he would remember Santillo's activities when Santillo again asked for a favor. On Monday, March 26, Santillo was discharged. Patterson told Santillo that he was being fired for leaving his keys in the bus and taking unauthorized breaks.

Santillo filed a complaint with the Board alleging that he had been discharged because of his union activities, contrary to §§ 8(a)(1) and 8(a)(3) of the NLRA. The General Counsel issued a complaint. The administrative law judge (ALJ) determined by a preponderance of the evidence that Patterson clearly had an anti-union animus and that Santillo's discharge was motivated by a desire to discourage union activities. The ALJ also found that the asserted reasons for the discharge could not withstand scrutiny. Patterson's disapproval of Santillo's practice of leaving his keys in the bus was clearly a pretext, for Patterson had not known about Santillo's practice until after he had decided to discharge Santillo; moreover, the practice of leaving keys in buses was commonplace among respondent's employees. Respondent identified two types of unauthorized breaks, coffee breaks and stops at home. With respect to both coffee breaks and stopping at home, the ALJ found that Santillo was never cautioned or admonished about such behavior, and that the employer had not followed its customary practice of issuing three written warnings before discharging a driver. The

Page 397

ALJ also found that the taking of coffee breaks during working hours was normal practice, and that respondent tolerated the practice unless the breaks interfered with the driver's performance of his duties. In any event, said the ALJ, respondent had never taken any adverse personnel action against an employee because of such behavior. While acknowledging that Santillo had engaged in some unsatisfactory conduct, the ALJ was not persuaded that Santillo would have been fired had it not been for his union activities.

The Board affirmed, adopting with some clarification the ALJ's findings and conclusions and expressly applying its Wright Line decision. It stated that respondent had failed to carry its burden of persuading the Board that the discharge would have taken place had Santillo not engaged in activity protected by the Act. The First Circuit Court of Appeals, relying on its previous decision rejecting the Board's Wright Line test, NLRB v. Wright Line, 662 F.2d 899 (CA1 1981), refused to enforce the Board's order and remanded for consideration of whether the General Counsel had proved by a preponderance of the evidence that Santillo would not have been fired had it not been for his union activities. 674 F.2d 130. We granted certiorari, --- U.S. ----, 103 S.Ct. 372, 74 L.Ed.2d 506 (1982), because of conflicts on the issue among the Courts of Appeals.3 We now reverse.

Employees of an employer covered by the NLRA have the right to form, join, or assist labor organizations. NLRA § 7, 29 U.S.C. § 157. It is an unfair labor practice to interfere with, restrain, or coerce the exercise of those rights, NLRA

Page 398

§ 8(a)(1), 29 U.S.C. § 158(a)(1), or by discrimination in hire or tenure "to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization," NLRA § 8 a)(3), 29 U.S.C. § 158(a)(3).

Under these provisions it is undisputed that if the employer fires an employee for having engaged in union activities and has no other basis for the discharge, or if the reasons that he proffers are pretextual, the employer commits an unfair labor practice. He does not violate the NLRA, however, if any anti-union animus that he might have entertained did not contribute at all to an otherwise lawful discharge for good cause. Soon after the passage of the Act, the Board held that it was an unfair labor practice for an employer to discharge a worker where anti-union animus actually contributed to the discharge decision. Consumers Research, Inc., 2 N.L.R.B. 57, 73 (1936); Louisville Refining Co., 4 N.L.R.B. 844, 861 (1938), enforced, 102 F.2d 678 (CA6), cert. denied, 308 U.S. 568, 60 S.Ct. 81, 84 L.Ed. 477 (1939); Dow Chemical Co., 13 N.L.R.B. 993, 1023 (1939), enforced in relevant part, 117 F.2d 455 (CA6 1941); Republic Creosoting Co., 19 N.L.R.B. 267, 294 (1940). In Consumers Research, the Board rejected the position that "antecedent to a finding of violation of the Act, it must be found that the sole motive for discharge was the employee's union activity." It explained that "[s]uch an interpretation is repugnant to the purpose and meaning of the Act, and . . . may not be made." Ibid. In its Third Annual Report, the Board stated, "Where the employer has discharged an employee for two or more reasons, and one of them is union affiliation...

To continue reading

Request your trial
1178 practice notes
  • Surface coal mining hearings and appeals; special rules,
    • United States
    • Federal Register March 20, 2003
    • March 20, 2003
    ...the regulated party in several of its regulations. After noting the Department of Labor's reliance on NLRB v. Transportation Management, 462 U.S. 393 (1983), and on Judge Leventhal's analysis in the EDF v. EPA case, the Court held that ``We find this legislative history unavailing.'' Greenw......
  • Part II
    • United States
    • Federal Register September 20, 2004
    • September 20, 2004
    ...interpreting the National Labor Relations Act, as explained by the United States Supreme Court in NLRB v. Transportation Management Corp., 462 U.S. 393, 401 (1983). See Gummo v. Village of Depew, NY, 75 F.3d 98, 106 (2d Cir. 1996) (citing S.Rep. No. 158, 103d Cong., 2d Sess. 45 (1993), and ......
  • Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994; implementation,
    • United States
    • Federal Register September 20, 2004
    • September 20, 2004
    ...interpreting the National Labor Relations Act, as explained by the United States Supreme Court in NLRB v. Transportation Management Corp., 462 U.S. 393, 401 (1983). See Gummo v. Village of Depew, NY, 75 F.3d 98, 106 (2d Cir. 1996) (citing S.Rep. No. 158, 103d Cong., 2d Sess. 45 (1993), and ......
  • Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994; implementation,
    • United States
    • Federal Register December 19, 2005
    • December 19, 2005
    ...Congress intended that the evidentiary scheme set forth by the United States Supreme Court in NLRB v. Transportation Management Corp., 462 U.S. 393, 401 (1983), apply to the analysis of violations under USERRA. See S. Rep. No. 103-158, at 45 (1993), and H.R. Rep. No. 103-65, Pt. I, at 18, 2......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1162 cases
  • Gross v. FBL Fin. Servs., Inc., No. 08–441.
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • June 18, 2009
    ...in contexts other than pursuant to Title VII. See Brief for Petitioner 54–55 (citing, inter alia, NLRB v. Transportation Management Corp., 462 U.S. 393, 401–403, 103 S.Ct. 2469, 76 L.Ed.2d 667 (1983) (claims brought under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)); Mt. Healthy City Bd. of Ed.......
  • Agricultural Labor Relations Bd. v. Superior Court, No. F025641
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • August 26, 1996
    ...it ...,' and in these circumstances its position is entitled to deference. [Citations.]" (NLRB v. Transportation Management Corp. (1983) 462 U.S. 393, 402-403, 103 S.Ct. 2469, 2475, 76 L.Ed.2d 667.) Given the vague language of section 1156.4, we cannot dismiss ALRB's interpretation as clear......
  • Harris v. City of Santa Monica, No. S181004.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • February 7, 2013
    ...his union membership or his performance of other protected activities.” ( Ibid.; see also NLRB v. Transportation Management Corp. (1983) 462 U.S. 393, 401–402, 404, 103 S.Ct. 2469, 76 L.Ed.2d 667( Transportation Management ) [finding Wright Line's interpretation of the National Labor Relati......
  • McPherson v. Public Employment Relations Bd.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 11, 1987
    ...989, 102 S.Ct. 1612, 71 L.Ed.2d 848, followed, and conflicting decisions disapproved, in NLRB v. Transportation Management Corp. (1983) 462 U.S. 393, 103 S.Ct. 2469, 76 L.Ed.2d 667. (See also Mt. Healthy [189 Cal.App.3d 303] City Board of Ed. v. Doyle (1977) 429 U.S. 274, 287, 97 S.Ct. 568,......
  • 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