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The law that governs an agency's significant departure from its own prior precedent is clear. The agency cannot do so without explicitly recognizing that it is doing so and explaining why. The dominant law clearly is that an agency must either follow its own precedents or explain why it departs from them.
In the midst of a union representation campaign, Charles Wyatt, Shaw’s Supermarkets’ vice president for distribution, told the employees that if they were to turn their affairs over to a union, they would be guaranteed minimum wages and workmen’s compensation. The National Labor Relations Board (the "Board") determined that Wyatt’s statement constituted a threat of reprisal against collective organizing, a threat that NLRA §§ 8(a)(1) and 8(c) make illegal. The Board issued an order finding that Wyatt violated § 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.S. § 158(a)(1), and called for a new election. Wyatt petitioned for review, and the NLRB cross-petitioned for enforcement.
Under the circumstances, did Wyatt violate § 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.S. § 158(a)(1), thereby, necessitating the holding of a new election?
The court held that pursuant to NLRB precedent, and without further evidence of unlawful activity, the statement in question was well within the boundary of being lawful. The court found that the NLRB determination was therefore inconsistent with its prior decisions, and it failed, as required, to adequately explain the significant departure. Accordingly, the court declined to enforce the NLRB's order.