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Employers can ask jury to decide when collective bargaining agreement was ratified

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

A case that has made it up to the U.S. Supreme Court and back down to the trial court is now making its way up the legal ladder again. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ­issued a new decision, ruling that an em­­ployer that challenges a union’s claim that employees have ratified a collective bargaining agreement can make their case to a jury.

Recent case: At the heart of the dispute between Granite Rock and the Teamsters union was whether union members engaged in an illegal strike after allegedly ratifying a collective bargaining agreement reached between negotiators for the company and the Teamsters.

The union claimed the agreement hadn’t been ratified and therefore wasn’t in effect when members went on strike.

Granite Rock demanded a jury trial and wanted to have a jury decide whether, in fact, the union membership had accepted, or ratified, the agreement before striking.

The 9th Circuit said the concept of whether a contract has been created is a legal question that can be resolved by a jury if the plaintiff ­desires. While the union wanted to send the question to arbitration, the appeals court nixed that idea. (Gran­ite Rock v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, et al., No. 07-16142, 9th Cir., 2011)

Final note: Don’t take anything for granted when labor relations law is concerned. Get expert help from an experienced labor attorney. He or she can best guide you through the union formation process and subsequent collective bargaining.

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