Vaca v. Sipes

LOCATION: Canada Packers LTD. Headquarters

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)

CITATION: 386 US 171 (1967)
ARGUED: Nov 17, 1966
DECIDED: Feb 27, 1967

Facts of the case


Media for Vaca v. Sipes

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 17, 1966 in Vaca v. Sipes

Earl Warren:

Number 105, no, no. Number 114, Manuel Vaca, et al., petitioners, versus Nile Sipes, Administrator of the estate of Benjamin Owens, Jr., deceased.

Mr. Feller.

David E. Feller:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This case is here on writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Missouri as that court imposed a judgment of $10,000; $7,000 compensatory and $3,000 punitive on the members of the National Brotherhood of Packinghouse Workers were represented here by the petitioners who had been sued as representative of the class of the members of that union.

The basis of the suit to originally found -- filed in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri was in essence that the union had failed to process the grievance, a grievance to arbitration.

The facts, I think, are relevantly simple.

Benjamin Owens who was originally the plaintiff, now deceased, was a worker in a Swift Packinghouse in Kansas City, Missouri.

The union there is the National Brotherhood of Packinghouse Workers, an independent union.

Mr. Owens had a long history of heart trouble and high blood pressure.

He had been treated in hospitals since 1956.

In May of 1959, he felt so bad that he felt he had to take off work and did take off work.

Under the contract, it was a sick leave provision.

You have to be disabled in order to draw the sick leave.

He reported to the company doctor.

The company doctor took his blood pressure and he said, “You won’t hold, you'll get your sick leave.”

Abe Fortas:

How old was he at that time?

David E. Feller:

I'm not precisely sure.

Abe Fortas:

Never -- never mind.

David E. Feller:

In any case, he went home, in fact went to the hospital, remained under treatment.

He made one effort to come back to work.

He was then examined, the company doctor said he was unfit to work.

He made a second effort when his sick leave had expired, he had 6 months, 27 weeks of sick leave to come back to work.

The company refused to permit him to come back to work and he filed a grievance under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The union asked him to produce doctor's certificates saying he was able to work and he produced a great number of certificates saying either what his blood pressure was, reciting his blood pressure or reciting that he was able to work.

And the union processed the grievance through the four steps provided under its Collecting Bargaining Agreement beginning up a Foreman's level and working up to the National Union Level and the company refused to put him back to work.

Now the fourth step involved the national representatives of the union and we do have in the record here report of what happened in the fourth step.

The company took the position that it could not in view of its own records as to its previous history and as to its doctor's report put him back to work simply on certificates saying Mr. Owens is able to work or Mr. Owens' blood pressure is so and so.

But it would require further evidence.

The union then after the fourth step making tried to persuade -- there was a joint effort to try to persuade Mr. Owens to apply to do other work or to apply for Social Security Disability Pension under Social Security.

He rejected that and so the union said, “Go to your doctor, we will pay for it, and get an examination, a complete examination that will give us the kind of evidence we need to get you back to work.”