Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board

PETITIONER: Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc.
RESPONDENT: National Labor Relations Board
LOCATION: United States District Court Eastern District of Michigan

DOCKET NO.: 00-1595
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 535 US 137 (2002)
ARGUED: Jan 15, 2002
DECIDED: Mar 27, 2002

ADVOCATES:
Ann Elizabeth Reesman - for the Equal Employment Advisory Council et al. as amici curiae urging reversal
Daniel V. Yager - for the Equal Employment Advisory Council et al. as amici curiae urging reversal
Paul R. Q. Wolfson - Argued the cause for the respondent
Ryan D. McCortney - Argued the cause for the petitioner

Facts of the case

Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. hired Jose Castro on the basis of documents appearing to verify his authorization to work in the United States. After Castro engaged in union-organizing activities, Hoffman laid him off. The National Labor Relations Board (Board) found that the layoff violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and ordered backpay for Castro. At a compliance hearing, Castor testified before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) that he was born in Mexico, that he had never been legally admitted to, or authorized to work in, this country, and that he gained employment with Hoffman only after tendering a birth certificate that was not his. The ALJ found that Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), which makes it unlawful for employers knowingly to hire undocumented workers or for employees to use fraudulent documents to establish employment eligibility, precluded Castro's award. In reversing, the Board noted that the most effective way to further the immigration policies embodied in IRCA is to provide the NLRA's protections and remedies to undocumented workers in the same manner as to other employees. The Court of Appeals enforced the Board's order.

Question

Does the National Labor Relations Board have the discretion to award backpay to an undocumented alien employee who was not legally authorized to work in the United States?

Media for Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 15, 2002 in Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 27, 2002 in Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board

William H. Rehnquist:

I have the opinion of the Court to announce in No. 00-1595, Hoffman Plastic Compounds versus the National Labor Relations Board.

Petitioner Hoffman Plastic Compounds hired Jose Castro after Castro tendered documents appearing to verify his authorization to work in the United States.

Petitioner later fired Castro and other employees after they supported a union-organizing campaign at petitioner’s plan.

The Board found these layoffs to violate the National Labor Relations Act and ordered Hoffman to award backpay to Castro and other workers.

At a hearing to determine the amount of backpay to be awarded, Castro testified that he was an illegal alien and that he fraudulently gained employment with petitioner by tendering a birth certificate that was not his own.

The Board nonetheless ordered petitioner to pay Castro $66,000 in backpay plus interest.

The Court of Appeals enforced the Board’s orders in an opinion filed with Clerk of the Court of today, we reversed.

We have consistently set aside the Board’s backpay awards to employees found guilty of serious illegal conduct in connection with their employment that is precisely the situation here.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 expressly prohibit the employment of illegal aliens in the United States.

This statute among other things makes it a criminal offense for any illegal alien to gain employment by tendering false or fraudulent document.

There is no dispute that Castro’s use of a false birth certificate to gain employment with petitioner violated this criminal provision.

To award him backpay moreover would require that he violate other provisions of the immigration laws.

The Board admits that Castro qualifies his backpay only so long as he remains inside the United States.

But Castro can only remain the United States illegally.

The Board further admits that Castro has a duty to mitigate his damages by seeking new employment but Castro can only seek new employment illegally.

In light of these factors, we need not defer to the Board’s remedial authority under the National Labor Relations Act.

Deference is inappropriate where the Board chooses a remedy that trenches upon federal statutes or policies outside the Board’s competence to administer, such as those relating to the Federal Immigration Laws.

We have recognized in previous cases that the Provisions of IRCA violated here our central to Federal Immigration Policy.

Therefore, however broad the Board’s discretion to fashion remedy is when dealing only with a National Labor Relations Act, it is simply not so vagrant and unbounded as to it authorized this sort of an award.

Justice Brerye has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justices Stevens, Souter, and Ginsburg join.