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Home / Fourth Circuit / Labor & Employment – Union Member’s Complaint Not ‘Free Speech’ (access required)

Labor & Employment – Union Member’s Complaint Not ‘Free Speech’ (access required)

Trail v. Local 2850 UAW United Defense Workers of America A union member who alleged she was fired in retaliation for reporting to the regional union that she had seen the union local’s president and vice president viewing pornography on a union computer does not have a claim for violation of her free-speech rights under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act; the 4th Circuit says the district court ruled too broadly against union members’ speech rights under the Act, but nevertheless affirms dismissal of the claim. Appellant argued before the district court and again here that she need not allege that she was formally disciplined within the meaning of § 609 in order to state a retaliation claim under the LMRDA. The Supreme Court has indicated there is a freestanding retaliation claim under sections 101 and 102. This makes perfect sense, for Congress did not intend to provide union members an extensive list of free-speech rights only to then permit all sorts of retaliation against them so long as such retaliation fell short of formal discipline. In this respect, therefore, the district court went too far in curtailing the free-speech rights of union members under the Act. The circuits have disagreed as to what precisely constitutes actionable retaliation under §§ 101 and 102. We need not, however, address what qualifies as actionable retaliation because appellant’s complaint falters over the threshold question of whether her allegations fell within the ambit of § 101 in the first place.

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