Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. NLRB case brief

Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. NLRB case brief summary
535 U.S. 137 (2002)

Respondent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) awarded backpay to an undocumented alien employee who was not legally authorized to work in the United States, finding that petitioner employer unlawfully terminated the alien for union activity. The employer petitioned for review of the NLRB's order. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied the petition. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

The alien employee presented false documents to the employer that appeared to verify his authorization to work in the United States, in violation of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). The employer violated the National Labor Relations Act by laying off the employee for supporting a union-organizing campaign. During a compliance hearing, the employee testified that he had never been legally admitted to, or authorized to work in, the United States.

  • The Court determined that the NLRB was precluded from awarding the employee backpay because the award was beyond the bounds of the NLRB's remedial discretion. 
  • The backpay award to an illegal alien ran counter to policies underlying the IRCA. 
  • Allowing the NLRB to award backpay to illegal aliens would have unduly trenched upon explicit statutory prohibitions critical to federal immigration policy, as expressed in the IRCA. 
  • The NLRB had no authority to enforce or administer federal immigration policy.


The judgment of the appellate court was reversed.

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