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UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside v. NLRB   (3rd Circuit)

Court limits on NLRB's subpoena authority

The NAM filed an amicus brief with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside v. NLRB. In the case, the NLRB issued subpoenas requesting information to UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside Hospital, and under a “single employer” theory, to its corporate parent, UPMC, purportedly in connection with an NLRB investigation of unfair labor practice charges filed by the SEIU against Presbyterian Shadyside.

The district court found that those subpoenas are unprecedented in breadth and unrelated to the union’s underlying unfair labor practice charges. Indeed, the district court indicated that in view of “the NLRB’s efforts to obtain said documents for, and on behalf of, the SEIU, arguably moves the NLRB from its investigatory function and enforcer of federal labor law, to serving as the litigation arm of the Union, and a co-participant in the ongoing organization effort of the Union.” Although the district court found that (i) “there is a minimal or no relationship between the Subpoenas and the underlying unfair labor practice charges”; (ii) “the unfair labor practices are being used, under the guise of the ‘single employer’ rubric, to attempt to legitimize a massive document request”; and (iii) compliance with the subpoenas “would be an expensive, time-consuming, and potentially disruptive of the daily business activities” of the Appellants, the court nonetheless granted the NLRB’s application to enforce the subpoenas. According to the court, the “practical effect” of the Third Circuit’s “case law as to enforcement of subpoenas of federal government agencies is that [the district court] is constrained to essentially ‘rubber stamp’ the enforcement of the Subpoenas at hand.”

The NAM brief argued that the NLRB lacks the authority to compel an employer to produce information, such as documents demanded by an administrative subpoena. Instead, that authority, which necessarily requires impartial evaluation of an employer’s objections to the subpoena, is vested exclusively in Article III courts. This structural limitation on the NLRB’s authority, emanating from the Constitution’s separation of powers and due process requirements, protects against abuse of subpoena power.

Related Documents:
NAM brief  (April 14, 2015)


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