Walker v. Southern Railway Company

RESPONDENT: Southern Railway Company
LOCATION: Multnomah County Circuit Court

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 385 US 196 (1966)
ARGUED: Nov 10, 1966
DECIDED: Dec 05, 1966

Facts of the case


Media for Walker v. Southern Railway Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 10, 1966 in Walker v. Southern Railway Company

Earl Warren:

Number 89, Roy Walker, petitioner versus Southern Railway Company.

Mr. Hamrick.

J. Nat Hamrick:

Mr. Chief Justice, Honorable Court.

I'd like to review for just a moment the factual situation in this case.

Roy Walker was employed by the Southern Railroad sometime in 1944.

In -- on March 3, 1957, he was informed that he had been displaced by an employee with greater seniority.

He then informed the call clerk that he was sick and was going home.

He went home and on April the 29th, a letter was directed to him to report for duty.

In between these times, it was contended by Mr. Walker that he had informed the railroad of his illness.

This record said, “Dear sir, I understand you were displaced from the regular job at airline junction March 3, 1957 and I was yourself since?

This is to advise you that you stand for work in your seniority and unless you protect your seniority standing within 30 days from the date of this letter, you will have opted your seniority.

Yours very truly, Superintendent.”

That letter was dated April the 29th in Greenville, South Carolina.

It was signed for May the 30th by Mr. Walker's daughter.

He was on the hospital at the time and didn't have knowledge of it for four days.

He then went down on May the 29th to report for duty and discovered that his name had been stricken from the seniority list because he had not reported in 30 days.

This is actually the turning point of the wrongfulness of the discharged.

They told him he couldn't go to work that he had been fired.

He went to see the superintendent the next day.

The Superintendent of that division, Mr. Brad and in this connection, there has been some suggestion here that taken a man's seniority doesn't fire him, if this is just a grievance or some technical situation?

Well, the day after he reported and was told that his seniority was taken.

The Superintendent of the Railroad wrote him this letter, he reported this letter was written to him on the -- on the -- “Please refer to my letter dated April the 29, 1957, advising you to protect your seniority within 30 days.

You did not report and protect your seniority as instructed and this is stood by you that under the provisions of fireman's agreement and so forth.

Your name has been stricken from the firemen seniority list and you are no longer considered an employee of the Southern Railroad.

Please turn in all company property you have in your possession to train met -- to Terminal Train Master Curly.

Now, there's no question I think that Roy Walker was fired and he was fired because the railroad said he didn't protect his seniority within 30 days.

We tried this case in the Western District Court before Judge Craven and Judge Craven found this fact.

Walker reported for work on May 29, 1957, it is adjudged that this was the last day of the 30-day period within which he was required to report.

Southern for job his seniority as of May 28, 1957 was therefore unlawful and constituted a violation of his contract.

So we have a finding of fact by the trial court, we tried it before Judge Craven to the effect that Walker was wrongfully discharged.