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When union tensions boil, make sure managers keep cool when tempted to make accusations

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

If your organization is a target for union organizing or your employees have recently voted to be represented by a union, be careful how you respond.

You should consult with an experienced labor lawyer before you do anything else. A good attorney can help you come up with a response strategy that won’t violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) or other federal and state laws.

Consider what happened in one recent case.

Recent case: Titan International was involved in a labor disagreement with its employees. The company president held a news conference during the protracted dispute. He said Titan had filed a federal racketeering lawsuit against the union and 130 union members. Then he handed out copies of the lawsuit to reporters.

Then he went even further, accusing the union members of breaking the law. He said employees had filed false workers’ compensation claims and committed mail fraud.

The union members sued for defamation.

The case twice went up to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals before finally being dismissed. During the first round, the court said that even if the president hadn’t specifically named the employees he said had filed false claims, his handouts implicated them. The case went to trial and was appealed.

The second time, the appeals court ruled that the union did not prove the employees’ reputations had been harmed. It dismissed the case on that technicality. (Brummett v. Taylor, No. 08-1062, 8th Cir., 2009)

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