NLRA Protects a Union Member's Right to Lie on Application

November 17, 2005 ( - The US Supreme Court let stand a case holding that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) preempted state law claims brought by a non-union company against a union "salt" - a union organizer who tries to get hired at a non-union company in order to organize the company from within.

Mondaq reports that the Supreme Court agreed with the Minnesota Court of Appeals’ September 2004 decision in Wright Electric, Inc. vs. Thomas A. Ouellette, et al., that the company’s claims under state law were preempted by the NLRA.   The appellate court had reversed a lower court’s findings and noted that the NLRA protects a union member’s right to “salt” in non-union workplaces, including the right to lie on employment applications to hide his or her union affiliations.

Ouellette failed to list a previous employer and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) contractors for whom he had worked, instead extending the dates of employment for his previous job, according to the appellate court opinion.   While on an assignment with Wright Electric, a contractor who had worked with Ouellette previously recognized him and tipped off his employer of his union status.   Wright fired Ouellette for falsifying information on his employment application.

IBEW filed unfair labor practice charges with the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) claiming Wright had fired Ouellette because of his union status in violation of the NLRA, according to the court document.   The NLRB regional director dismissed the charges saying there was insufficient evidence that this was true.  

The appellate court said the IBEW had proven there was an arguable case for preemption and it must defer the case to the NLRB to avoid state interference with national policy.

The appellate court’s opinion left alone by the Supreme Court is  here .