Achieving a Major Success for a Client Accused of Unfair Labor Practices
Epstein Becker Green recently achieved a significant victory on behalf of a client in the waste and recycling industry in connection with petitions filed by its employees to have an election to decertify a union as their collective bargaining representative. Shortly after the filing of the petitions, the union filed numerous unfair labor practice charges against our client, accusing it of unlawfully influencing/coercing its employees to file the decertification petitions and seeking to invalidate the decertification petitions. While this is a common delay tactic employed by unions seeking to avoid decertification elections, this case was particularly unusual and complex given both the number of claims filed against our client and the important political and business implications an adverse judgment would have had for our client. Specifically, an adverse judgment could have seriously impaired, if not destroyed, our client’s ability to do business in a city in Southern California due to its agreements with the city and related political pressure.
After a 10-day trial, our client prevailed on 14 of 17 claims (five of which were dismissed prior to trial). Our client had expected to lose the three claims on which it did not prevail; in fact, our client had admitted to two of them but felt vindicated as the judge specifically found that these were “unintentional,” minor, and purely technical violations, which the client had promptly corrected at the time. Most importantly, the judge rejected all of the more serious allegations involving union negotiations and the termination and discipline of pro-union employees, finding absolutely no evidence of union animus, bad faith bargaining, or discriminatory retaliation against any pro-union employees. The result of this case will likely have positive implications for our client’s business interests in Southern California.
The Epstein Becker Green team responsible for this impressive outcome included Adam C. Abrahms, Christina C. Rentz, and Brock Olson.
Epstein Becker Green Successfully Negotiates Union Agreements on Behalf of Nuclear Generating Station
On May 18, 2013, Epstein Becker Green completed the final step of negotiations on behalf of Southern California Edison for a significantly revamped successor collective bargaining agreement and a reorganization/reduction-in-force effects agreement with the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 246, covering the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Despite taking place under the most difficult of circumstances, including political pressure, regulatory uncertainty, and the significant reduction in force, both agreements were reached without any job action or disruption.
Adam C. Abrahms led Epstein Becker Green's team, which also included Evan Rosen and Lisa M. Watanabe.
Epstein Becker Green Obtains Dismissal of Wage and Hour Class Action Brought Against Health Care Client
In March 2014, Epstein Becker Green obtained a significant victory in a wage and hour class action brought against a health care client in California. Although our client was confronted with potential exposure in the millions of dollars, the case was resolved without any payment by our client. Epstein Becker Green obtained this result by first filing motions to dismiss and to strike portions of the Complaint. Those motions were granted in part, essentially cutting the case in half (the court dismissed the class claims, subject to plaintiff's right to attempt to amend the Complaint). When the plaintiff's attorneys chose not to try to amend the Complaint during the time permitted, Epstein Becker Green was able to convince the plaintiffs to dismiss the rest of the case based on documentation showing that the remaining claims were meritless.
The Epstein Becker Green team representing our client included Adam C. Abrahms, Michael S. Kun, and Deanna L. Ballesteros.
Obtaining Victory for Large Nonprofit Organization in Disability Discrimination Suit
On October 13, 2016, Epstein Becker Green (“EBG”) won a significant victory for a large nonprofit agency in Southern California when the California Court of Appeal upheld the demurrer and judgment granted in our client’s favor in the trial court.
The case involved a single plaintiff who brought multiple causes of action alleging various forms of disability discrimination under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) and public policy law, following her termination. Plaintiff had fractured her foot and requested a four-week leave of absence. Believing that plaintiff’s injury was not a disability that necessitated such a leave of absence, a manager denied the leave and terminated the plaintiff’s employment.
Recognizing that our client could face potential liability if plaintiff were considered disabled and thus entitled to a reasonable accommodation, the EBG team demurred to the complaint, asserting that a fractured foot is not a “disability” under California law. Although there was a dearth of California precedent on the issue, the EBG team convinced the trial judge to look to federal authority holding that such an injury is not a disability. The trial judge granted the demurrer without leave to amend and entered judgment for our client.
Plaintiff appealed, arguing that California law is more expansive than federal law and that the judge erred in not finding a disability under the more expansive definition. The appellate court affirmed the dismissal, finding that “an injury does not necessarily constitute a disability,” and “the FEHA regulations provide that conditions with little residual effect, such as sprains and other mild conditions, often do not qualify as disabilities under FEHA.”
The EBG team included Adam C. Abrahms and Amy B. Messigian.
Epstein Becker Green Achieves Victory—Employee Micro-Unit in Southern California Votes Down the Teamsters in Union Election
On February 10, 2017, the Teamsters served a petition seeking to represent a 21-employee micro-unit at a single site of an Epstein Becker Green client, one of the largest nonprofit agencies in Southern California. When the petition was filed, only three of the tight-knit group of employees expressed any company loyalty or disinterest in the union.
Epstein Becker Green’s team negotiated a favorable election date, unit description, and other logistics to place the client in the best possible position. Our firm’s team also trained and counseled the client’s leadership, reviewed and revised the client’s communications, and worked with line-level supervisors to ensure maximum legal compliance and impact.
Once the employees learned the facts about unionization, the employees ultimately chose not to be represented by the union by exercising their right to vote “No.”
On March 7, 2017, the election was held and the tally of the ballots conducted, resulting in 11 votes for the company and eight for the union, with two challenged ballots that remained unopened. (Had the challenged ballots been opened, the final tally would likely have been 13 for the company and eight for the union.)
The union acknowledged its defeat when it failed to file any objections to the outcome of the election; the election was certified on March 16.
Epstein Becker Green’s team was led by Kat Paterno and included Adam Abrahms and Christina Rentz.