NLRB V. GREAT DANE TRAILERS, INC., 388 U. S. 26 (1967)

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U.S. Supreme Court

NLRB v. Great Dane Trailers, Inc., 388 U.S. 26 (1967)

National Labor Relations Board v. Great Dane Trailers, Inc.

No. 781

Argued April 19, 1967

Decided June 12, 1967

388 U.S. 26


Respondent company and a union representing its employees entered into a collective bargaining agreement which contained a provision for employee vacation benefits, to be paid on the Friday nearest July 1 of each year. Most of the employees went on strike May 16, 1963, and many were gradually replaced by respondent. A demand for vacation pay by the strikers on July 12, 1963, was rejected by the company on the ground that the strike had terminated all contractual obligations. Thereafter the company announced that it would grant vacation pay, according to the terms specified in the old agreement, to all employees who had reported for work on July 1, 1963. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) held that respondent had violated §§ 8(a)(3) and (1) of the National Labor Relations Act by its actions in regard to vacation benefits, and ordered payment of such benefits to the strikers. The Court of Appeals held that the dispute concerned a "term or condition of employment," that the Board had properly exercised its jurisdiction, but that, although discrimination between striking and nonstriking employees was proved, the Board's unfair labor practice conclusion was not well founded, since there was no affirmative showing of an unlawful motivation to discourage union membership or to interfere with protected rights. Despite the fact that respondent had not introduced evidence of legitimate business purpose underlying its discriminatory action, the Court of Appeals speculated upon several motives, the possibility of which it felt was sufficient to overcome the inference of improper motive which flowed from the conduct itself, and it denied enforcement of the NLRB's order.


1. While there is little question that the refusal to pay vacation benefits to strikers was discrimination, and that such discrimination had a potential for discouraging union membership and activity, § 8(a)(3) normally requires proof that the discriminatory conduct was motivated by an anti-union purpose. American Ship Building Co. v. Labor Board, 380 U. S. 300. Pp. 388 U. S. 32-34.

Page 388 U. S. 27

2. If it can reasonably be concluded that the employer's discriminatory conduct was "inherently destructive" of important employee rights, no proof of anti-union motivation is needed, and the Board can find an unfair labor practice despite employer evidence of business justifications; but if the adverse effect of the discrimination on employee rights is "comparatively slight," an anti-union motivation must be proved if the employer has come forward with evidence of legitimate and substantial business justifications for the conduct. P. 388 U. S. 34.

3. Since discriminatory conduct carrying a potential for adverse effect on employee rights was proved and no evidence of a proper motivation was shown, the Board's conclusions were supported by substantial evidence, and the Court of Appeals should not have speculated upon respondent's motives, but should instead have enforced the NLRB's order. Pp. 388 U. S. 34-35.

363 F.2d 130, reversed and remanded.

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