Law School Case Brief
Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. NLRB - 535 U.S. 137, 122 S. Ct. 1275 (2002)
The National Labor Relations Board's award of backpay to an undocumented alien who has never been legally authorized to work in the United States is foreclosed by federal immigration policy, as expressed by Congress in the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
A corporation hired an employee who had presented documents that appeared to verify his authorization to work in the United States. The employee was laid off after supporting a labor union's organizing campaign and distributing authorization cards to coworkers. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), having found that the corporation had selected the employee and others for layoff in order to rid itself of known union supporters - in violation of 8(a)(3) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) - ordered the corporation to (1) cease and desist from further violations of the NLRA, (2) post a detailed notice to its employees regarding the remedial order, and (3) offer reinstatement and backpay to the affected employees. During a compliance hearing, the employee testified that he had never been legally admitted to, or authorized to work in, the United States. Thereafter, 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.
Was the illegal alien employee entitled to a backpay because of the employer’s action of unlawfully terminating the said employee for union activity?
The Court held that the backpay award to an illegal alien ran counter to policies underlying Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (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. As such, the Court ruled that the NLRB was precluded from awarding the employee backpay because the award was beyond the bounds of the NLRB's remedial discretion. Furthermore, the Court posited that the NLRB had no authority to enforce or administer federal immigration policy.
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