Once a lawsuit has been filed, courts sometimes issue immediate orders—called injunctions—to prevent irreparable harm. But to get an injunction, the party seeking the order has to show what harm could occur—and convince the court it will probably win the case on its merits.
That’s unlikely if the litigant waits too long to ask for relief.
Recent case: Shortly after nurses at Veritas Health Services voted to form a union,allegedly began discouraging the organizing effort and tried to erode employee support. For example, the nurses claimed that supervisors told them they would lose vacation benefits and shift flexibility if they ratified the union.
After the nurses formally unionized, management allegedly punished some of the nurses by enforcing rules it had let slide before the vote.
A year later, the union asked the court for an immediate injunction rescinding disciplinary notices and scheduling rule changes, claiming the moves were unfair labor practices.
But the court refused, telling the union that because it had waited a year before asking for an injunction, the problems couldn’t have been all that urgent. There was no danger or irreparable harm at that point. (McDermott v. Veritas Health Services, No. 11-2852, CD CA, 2011)
Practical impact: Unions may begin filing unfair labor practice lawsuits earlier rather than later. That will give them a greater shot at actually getting injunctions issued against employers.