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Asplundh Tree Expert Co. v. National Labor Relations Board

365 F.3d 168 (2004)

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Asplundh Tree Expert Co. v. National Labor Relations Board

United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

365 F.3d 168 (2004)

Facts

Asplundh Tree Expert Co. (Asplundh) (defendant) primarily provided tree-trimming and tree-clearing services for utility companies throughout the eastern United States. In January 1998, the provincial government of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, retained Asplundh’s services following a major ice storm. A crew of 20 Asplundh employees volunteered for the Canadian job and were told by their supervisor that they would be compensated in part with per diem payments of $25 for food and $75 for hotel rooms. The crew caravanned to Ottawa in Asplundh trucks. Once in Ottawa, the foreman reserved and paid for hotel rooms at a negotiated price of $61 per night. At the same time, the employees began to feel that $25 per diem for food was not enough to cover the actual cost of food. At least four employees, including Dennis Brinson (plaintiff), met and decided that they wanted a $14 increase in their per diem payments, representing the amount Asplundh was saving on hotel rooms (difference between $75 and $61), or else they might not work. Brinson conveyed the employees’ wishes to the foreman, who relayed the same to the supervisor in Cincinnati. The supervisor emphatically denied the request, indicated that Brinson and the complaining employees would be laid off when they returned, and stated that anyone who refused to take the trucks out would effectively quit their jobs. When the foreman confronted the employees about their intentions, Brinson and another employee continued to express their dissatisfaction about the payment situation. The foreman then said, “this means you quit,” and confiscated their truck keys. The employees were not allowed to work for Asplundh at any point thereafter. Brinson filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board (the board), alleging Asplundh’s unfair labor practices and interference in employees’ protected rights under the National Labor Relations Act. The board found in favor of Brinson and ordered Asplundh to cease and desist its unfair labor practices. Asplundh appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (McKee, J.)

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