Republic Steel Corporation v. Maddox

PETITIONER: Republic Steel Corporation
RESPONDENT: Maddox
LOCATION: Longshore and Warehouse Union

DOCKET NO.: 43
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 379 US 650 (1965)
ARGUED: Nov 18, 1964
DECIDED: Jan 25, 1965

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Republic Steel Corporation v. Maddox

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 18, 1964 in Republic Steel Corporation v. Maddox

Earl Warren:

Number 43, Republic Steel Corporation, Petitioner, versus Charlie Maddox.

Mr. Burr.

Samuel H. Burr:

Mr. Chief Justice may it please the Court.

This case comes here on petition for certiorari from the Supreme Court of Alabama.

It presents one single but we feel a very important question of law involving industrial relations under the National Labor Relations Act.

That question is simply this that the person asserting a claim for severance pay based solely on the provisions of a collective bargaining contract governed by the Labor Management Relations Act as amended have to exhaust the binding grievance arbitration procedure provided for in the contract before he can sue in a court of law an effort to enforce his claim.

All of the Alabama courts below held that he was not required to exhaust these administrative or grievance and arbitration procedures.

We feel that this holding was fairly erroneous and contrary to the controlling federal substantive law enunciated by this Court since the Lincoln Mills decision.

At the outset I think it might be well for me to state that this is not a case like that in Humphrey versus Moore where the individual claimant might assert that he was unable to have a fair determination of his trial under the grievance and arbitration procedure because of some conflict -- conflicting interest on the part of his union or some connivance on the part of the union and the employer.

The complaint contains no allegation that the respondent ever requested his union to even invoke the arbitration and grievance procedure in this case.

It was -- it has been simply the respondent's position throughout this litigation that under the Alabama law that he was not required to resort to the grievance arbitration procedure before suing in Court.

The facts are relatively undisputed and in -- and as a matter of fact, they've quoted by stipulation of facts which we entered into in order to avoid the necessity of a lengthy trial so that this matter could be presented as a question of law and decided properly for the courts of Alabama.

First, I like to point out that the labor contract in this case was between the petitioner and the exclusive bargaining agent of the respondent and covered two mines located in Jefferson County, Alabama, Spaulding and Edwards mines.

It was in the usual form and was very comprehensive in nature, covering every phase of the employment relationship.

Petitioner was admittedly engaged in interstate commerce.

In that contract was Section 14 which set out a severance or separation pay provision.

This particular provision was of the conditional type.

That is a person was entitled a separation pay only upon a determination that the man or a substantial portion of the man, a plant where he worked was closed down permanently within the meaning of that particular contract.

He was not entitled to separation pay because of layoffs for economic reasons, automation or lack of hours or lack of business.

Is there any common law right to severance pay?

Samuel H. Burr:

No sir, none whatsoever.

The severance pay provision is purely a creature of this contract that the -- but -- that the respondent is suing upon.

That same contract --

As if -- but the -- the right you -- you claim that this is being sued upon arises out of the --

Samuel H. Burr:

Out of the contract.

-- the collective bargaining agreement?

Samuel H. Burr:

Yes sir.

He -- there's no other possible basis for his claim for severance pay.

Would this case be different if it was a case for a wrongful discharge?

Samuel H. Burr:

I do not think so.