Union Pacific Railroad Company v. Price

PETITIONER: Union Pacific Railroad Company
RESPONDENT: Price
LOCATION: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

DOCKET NO.: 414
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 360 US 601 (1959)
ARGUED: Mar 31, 1959
DECIDED: Jun 29, 1959

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Union Pacific Railroad Company v. Price

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 31, 1959 in Union Pacific Railroad Company v. Price

Earl Warren:

Number 414, Union Pacific Railroad Company versus L. L. Price.

Mr. Wilcox.

James A. Wilcox:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

The question in this case here on certiorari to the Ninth Circuit is whether in the absence of any due process or other constitutional question, a District Court has the jurisdiction to review and pass upon the grounds relied upon by the National Railroad Adjustment Board in denying respondent's claim of wrongful discharge, looked at from another view is the denial award of the National Railroad Adjustment Board, final and binding as Congress said it would be in the Railway Labor Act.

Also involved here is the question of whether respondent's election to proceed administrate -- under the administrative remedy of the Act, bars his subsequent action for damages in the course.

The facts in this case are not in dispute.

They are these: Respondent Price was employed by the petitioner Union Pacific as a brakeman at Las Vegas, Nevada.

Back in 1949, in July, he was called to work in about nine in the evening and he was told to “dead-head” to a small point in California, Nipton, 56 miles away.

Upon arriving at Nipton, he called his superior officer, the train dispatcher, and he was instructed to stay at Nipton for a few hours and then to work as a swing brakeman on a train coming back in to Las Vegas.

Mr. Price, the respondent objected to those instructions.

William O. Douglas:

What is a “swing brakeman”?

James A. Wilcox:

A swing brakeman, sir, is a brakeman that is required we say in the railroad industry unnecessarily but it's required under the state law, the -- the extra brakeman.

It is required under Nevada law.

Mr. Price objected this instruction of staying there, this three to four hours and he asserted that it was in violation of a provision in the collective bargaining agreement between the Union Pacific and the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen who represented for purposes of the Railway Labor Act, the man employed as brakeman on our property.

He was again told to stay at that point but Price took the matters into his own hands and proceeded back to Las Vegas.

As a consequence, he was charged with being insubordinate and pursuant to the provisions of the agreement, a hiring or investigation was scheduled to be held.

Price was directed to appear at this hearing.

Now, this hearing was twice postponed and when it was finally held, Mr. Price did not show up.

The hearing was, however, held in his absence, evidence taken and put in and taken down in short hand and a transcript prepared of that insubordinate action.

Following that, Price was discharged.

This was in July of 1949.

Subsequently, Price has requested the Brotherhood to handle his grievance over his alleged wrongful discharge with the carrier and sought there in his reinstatement would pay for all time loss.

That dispute was not settled on the property but was ultimately referred at Mr. Price's election to the National Railroad Adjustment Board pursuant to the provisions of 3 First (i) of the Railway Labor Act.

The claim at the Board was a claim for reinstatement with back pay, premised upon an alleged wrongful discharge.

The claim was handled in a usual manner at the Board.

At that -- before that tribunal, only Mr. Price urged two basic contentions.

First, he said that his disobedience, his failure to follow instructions was not insubordination.

It was justified because we had no right to make -- to command him to stay there.

The other point that he had was that we violated the labor contract in holding the hearing in his absence.

The Board deadlocked on that case.