National Labor Relations Board Affirms Decision in Favor of Clients in Moua v. Supply Technologies

December 28, 2012

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has affirmed the decision by an Administrative Law Judge in Supply Technologies, LLC and Teamsters Local 120. Case 18-CA-019587. The NLRB held that Supply Technologies, an Ohio-based supply and logistics corporation, violated Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act by mandating a grievance-arbitration program that stripped workers of their right to file labor claims against the company and by firing all employees who did not agree to the unlawful policy.

In October 2010, Supply Technologies fired twenty Hmong and Hispanic employees at its facility in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as the employees were filing Charges with the EEOC to combat workplace discrimination. Two union campaigns and several verbal and written complaints had done little to end the company's unfair treatment of minorities, so the workers contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to file formal Charges of Discrimination against the company. Corporate headquarters then instructed management in Minneapolis to give all the workers an ultimatum--sign an arbitration agreement that covers current and future disputes or face termination.

The workers fired by Supply Technologies then utilized the NLRB to file charges, and in May 2011, an Administrative Law Judge issued a decision that awarded them complete relief. The order mandated that the grievance-arbitration policy be revoked and that the workers who had been terminated due to their refusal to agree to the policy be reinstated in substantially equivalent positions and be made whole for their losses of earnings and other benefits. Supply Technologies appealed this order to the Board, which affirmed the ALJ's rulings.

The Lawyers' Committee and Nichols Kaster have represented the workers throughout other legal proceedings to ensure that the workers' rights are protected. In early 2011, employees won a hearing on their unemployment benefits claims, in spite of the company's argument that the workers voluntarily quit. Additionally, the attorneys filed amended Charges of Discrimination in 2011 to include Title VII charges against Park Industries (Ohio), the parent company to Supply Technologies, and also to include charges under the Minnesota Human Rights Act against the staffing agency that was engaged in advance of the firing to provide replacements to report the same day the employees were fired. The attorneys also assisted the staff of the EEOC to conduct a thorough investigation to serve as a basis for a Title VII lawsuit. 

Litigation is not the only approach that the Lawyers' Committee has taken to protect Hmong workers in the area. In 2012, the Lawyers' Committee launched a "Right to Know" Campaign for the Hmong communities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. The campaign aims to increase awareness of employment rights and the resources available to address workplace discrimination. The Hmong Cultural Center, based in Minnesota, is a key partner in the campaign, providing advisory, translation, and distribution support to the Lawyers' Committee.

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