National Labor Relations Board v. Hendricks County Rural Electric Membership Corporation

PETITIONER: National Labor Relations Board
RESPONDENT: Hendricks County Rural Electric Membership Corporation
LOCATION: Mississippi University for Women

DOCKET NO.: 80-885
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 454 US 170 (1981)
ARGUED: Oct 05, 1981
DECIDED: Dec 02, 1981

ADVOCATES:
Lawrence G. Wallace - on behalf of the Petitioner/Respondent
Russ R. Mueller - on behalf of the Respondent/Petitioner
Warren D. Krebs - on behalf of the Respondent/Petitioner

Facts of the case

Question

Media for National Labor Relations Board v. Hendricks County Rural Electric Membership Corporation

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 05, 1981 in National Labor Relations Board v. Hendricks County Rural Electric Membership Corporation

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - December 02, 1981 in National Labor Relations Board v. Hendricks County Rural Electric Membership Corporation

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in No. 80-885, National Labor Relations Board against Hendricks County Rural Electric Corporation and the consolidated case will be announced by Justice Brennan.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

These two cases, the first as the Chief Justice said, National Labor Relations Board versus Hendricks County Rural Electric Membership Corporation and its companion, National Labor Relations Board versus Malleable Iron Range Company are also here on certiorari from the Seventh Circuit.

The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit refused to enforce orders of the National Labor Relations Board holding the respondent employers in these two cases guilty of unfair labor practice.

In the first case, the Hendricks case, the Board found that Hendricks had committed an unfair labor practice by the discharge of the personal secretary of the company’s general manager, discharged because she had signed a petition seeking reinstatement of a dismissed fellow employee.

The Court of Appeals refused to enforce that order holding that the personal secretary was a confidential employee, not protected by the Act and therefore that her discharge was not an unfair labor practice.

In the second case, the Malleable Iron Range Company case, the Board found that Malleable had committed an unfair labor practice by its refusal to bargain with the unit certified by the Board which unit included 18 employees regarded by Malleable as confidential employees.

The Board's policy for some 40 years had been to include confidential employees and bargaining units except when such employees assist and act in a confidential capacity to superiors who formulate, determine, and effectuate management policies in the field of labor relations and none of these 18 employees served in that capacity.

The Court of Appeals held however that all employees working in a confidential capacity without regard to labor relations did not have the protection of the Act and therefore that Malleable's refusal to bargain for a unit including the 18 employees was not an unfair labor practice.

Well we disagree with the Court of Appeals.

Section 2(3) of the National Labor Relations Act expressly provides that the term employee shall include any employee with certain stated exceptions that do not include confidential employees.

Indeed, when the Taft-Hartley Act was passed in 1947, the House of Representatives made an effort to expand the exceptions in 2(3) to include confidential employees but the effort failed in conference.

Rather the conference accepted the Board's construction of Section 2(3) that confidential employees were covered by the Act which should not be certified in bargaining units if they assist superiors who perform labor relations responsibilities for the employer.

This is therefore we think particularly a case for application of the kind of construction that the interpretation of a statute by the agency charged with its execution should be followed unless there are compelling indications that it is wrong, especially whereas here, Congress acknowledged the Board policy has refused to order the administrative construction.

The judgments of the Court of Appeals in both cases are therefore reversed.

Mr. Justice Powell joined by the Chief Justice, Justice Rehnquist and Justice O'Connor has filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Justice Brennan.