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Employment Law: A Case Study from a Legal Perspective

The employer is a small, nonunion furniture manufacturer with 15 employees engaged in interstate commerce. Both of the employees involved in this case worked in the machine shop building as band-saw operators. Because the band saws were located near the shop's large overhead door, to facilitate the disposal of sawdust, the band-saw operators were often subject to lower temperatures and drafts on cool or cold days, whereas other employees farther from the overhead door often felt too warm. To resolve this long standing problem, the plant manager established a rule that stated: "The overhead door will remain open when the temperature in the shop exceeds 68 degrees and closed when the temperature is at or below 68 degrees."

On the day in question, employees Drake and Keeler, who were both band-saw operators, complained to the shop supervisor that they were too cold and requested that the overhead door be closed. When questioned by the shop supervisor, the majority of the other shop employees present responded that they thought the shop door should be left open. The thermometer on the wall of the shop supervisor's office, located in approximately the center of the machine shop building, read 72 degrees.

On this day, employee Drake was wearing a sleeveless shirt and shorts. Employee Keeler was dressed in blue jeans, a short sleeved shirt, a flannel shirt and a heavy sweater. Both Keeler and Drake claimed it was too cold and drafty at their workstations near the open overhead door. The shop supervisor refused to close the overhead door because the majority of the employees wanted it left open. During a scheduled lunch break, Drake and Keeler discussed their problem and decided to walk off the job for the remainder of the day to protest the cold temperature at their workstations.

Upon returning to work the following morning, Drake and Keeler were informed by the plant manager that they had been fired for leaving the previous day without management's permission. Drake and Keeler subsequently filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB alleging their discharge represented unlawful discrimination of their right to engage in concerted and protected
activity under Section 7 of the LMRA. Drake and Keeler requested a remedy to include reinstatement with full back pay and restoration of any lost privileges.

*** Write 600 words or more for each question, include references ***

1. Because Drake and Keeler's employer meets the standard for coverage under the LMRA by engaging in interstate commerce, which specific employee right protected by Section 7 of the LMRA could Drake and Keeler argue they were engaged in which at least partially motivated the employer's decision to discharge them?

2. On what grounds might the employer try to argue that the discharge of Drake and Keeler was an appropriate (legal) exercise of management's rights?

Solution Preview

Step 1

Because Drake and Keeler employer meets the standard for coverage under the LMRA by engaging in interstate commerce, the specific employee right protected by section 7 of the LMRA is that they have been wrongfully discharged because of their protected, concerted activities.

Sec. 7. [§ 157.], protects the rights of employees to self organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations to bargain collectively through representation of their own choosing and to engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection and shall also have the right to refrain from any or all of such activities except for activities that are explicitly included in the union agreement. Now both Drake and Keeler had claimed that it was too cold and drafty at their workstations near the open overhead door but the supervisor refused to close the overhead door because other employees wanted to leave open (a). Drake and Keeler acted in a concerted manner and walked off the job for the remainder of the day to protest the cold temperature at their workstations. This action was taken to bargain an issue related to their working condition and is protected by Section 7.
Now according to Sec. 8. [§ 158.] (a) It is an unfair labor practice by the employer for an employer to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in section 157. Section 8 specifically disallows the discharge, constructive discharge, suspension, layoff, fail to recall from layoff, demote, discipline, or take any adverse action against the employee because of their protected concerted activities. Since the action of Drake and Keeler is a protected concerted activity, it is protected under Section 7 and the action of the employer is disallowed under Section 8. Section 7 of NLRA guarantees employees the rights of Drake and Keeler, and Section 8 makes the action of discharging Drake and Keeler an unfair labor practice. ...

Solution Summary

This solution explains the case study from the legal perspective. The sources used are also included in the solution.

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