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W.R. Grace & Co. v. Local Union 759

461 U.S. 757 (1983)

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W.R. Grace & Co. v. Local Union 759

United States Supreme Court

461 U.S. 757 (1983)

Facts

W.R. Grace & Co. (the company) (plaintiff) entered into a conciliation agreement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) aimed at correcting prior sex discrimination by giving seniority rights to female employees. The conciliation agreement conflicted with seniority provisions contained in a collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) between the company and Local Union 759 (the union) (defendant), which was not a party to the conciliation agreement. The company complied with the conciliation agreement, not the CBA, when it came time for layoffs, and male employees demanded arbitration under the CBA. The company sought a judicial declaration concerning the parties’ respective rights under the two contracts, and the district court held that the conciliation agreement superseded the CBA. However, the court of appeals overruled the district court’s judgment and ordered the parties to arbitrate the claims of male employees under the CBA. In one such arbitration, the arbitrator, Barrett, found the company liable for back wages to male employees who were laid off in violation of the CBA. The company then sought to overturn the Barrett decision. The district court granted summary judgment for the company, holding that public policy precluded enforcement of the CBA during the time before the court of appeals reversed the district court’s decision in the previous action. The court of appeals reversed. The company appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Blackmun, J.)

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