Federal court rules in favor of labor union, awards Patterson Harkavy attorneys' fees

United States District Judge Terrence Boyle issued an order last Friday finding in favor of Patterson Harkavy's client, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 465, and ordering the defendant-employer to pay the union's attorneys' fees.

The case originated from the employer's termination of one of the union's shop stewards. Patterson Harkavy attorney Mike Okun represented the union at arbitration, arguing that the steward had been terminated on the basis of the employer's anti-union animus. The arbitrator sided with the union, and mandated that the employer, a contractor for the army, be reinstated with full back pay. The employer refused to comply with the order. It argued that the army would not allow the steward to return to the workplace, and that it was therefore impossible to comply with the order. It also argued that they should not pay the steward his full back pay, and instead only pay the difference between his former salary and the wages he earned at his next job.

Patterson Harkavy attorneys Narendra Ghosh and Paul Smith filed suit in federal court to enforce the arbitration award. In today's order, Judge Boyle granted all relief sought. Judge Boyle held that the employer waived any argument regarding the purported impossibility of reinstating the steward by failing to present that argument to the arbitrator. He held that the arbitrator's award of "full back pay" was unambiguous, and required that the steward receive all of his lost wages without any offset for his subsequent earnings. And he held that the employer had refused to comply with the arbitrator's award "without justification," and that it should therefore pay the union's attorneys fees.

Click here to read Judge Boyle's opinion.