C. A. 4th Cir. Reported below: 643 F.2d 1017.
JUSTICE REHNQUIST, dissenting.
In this case, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that petitioner had committed an unfair labor practice by filing a civil action for damages in state court against a discharged employee who had filed unfair labor practices charges with the NLRB. The NLRB ordered petitioner to dismiss the state court action and reimburse the employee for all legal expenses she had incurred in defending the lawsuit. Because I believe that principles of federalism and comity should preclude the NLRB from interpreting the National
Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to empower the NLRB to enjoin a state-court damages action between two private entities, I dissent from the denial of certiorari.
Tonia Anderson was hired by petitioner as a probationary employee for a period of 120 days. After discussing working conditions with other employees, Anderson spoke with her supervisor, informing him of her desire for a number of benefits. After a subsequent meeting attended by Anderson and two supervisors, Anderson was informed that her employment was terminated because her attitude toward her job had changed and, therefore, she would be unable to perform her work satisfactorily.
Anderson then filed unfair labor practices charges with the NLRB, which issued a complaint against petitioner alleging violations of §§ 8(a)(1), (3) of the NLRA, 61 Stat. 140, as amended, 29 U. S. C. §§ 158(a)(1), (3). One day prior to the NLRB hearing on these charges, petitioner filed a damages action against Anderson in state court. Petitioner's complaint alleged that Anderson had contrived a fraudulent scheme in order to obtain a paid vacation with her new husband. The complaint alleged that Anderson knew that if she could provoke petitioner into discharging her, NLRB settlement procedures, following the filing of her unfair labor practice charge, would result in her reinstatement with backpay within a relatively short period of time. The NLRB subsequently issued a second complaint, alleging that petitioner violated §§ 8(a)(1), (4), 29 U. S. C. §§ 158(a)(1), (4), by initiating the damages action against Anderson.
Based solely on the complaint petitioner filed in the state-court action,*fn1 the NLRB concluded that petitioner violated §§ 8(a)(1), (4) because its damages action "was filed purely for purposes of retaliation to punish Anderson for seeking redress
for her discharge from the [NLRB] and to discourage other employees from ever emulating Anderson in seeking to enforce their rights."*fn2 242 N. L. R. B. 921, 926 (1979). The employer's allegations that Anderson had schemed to obtain a paid vacation were rejected by the NLRB as mere "speculation."*fn3
The NLRB ordered petitioner to dismiss its damages action and reimburse Anderson for her legal expenses incurred in defending that suit.*fn4 The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit enforced the NLRB's order, rejecting, inter alia, petitioner's contention that its state-court action was not pre-empted by federal labor law jurisdiction under Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Carpenters, 436 U.S. 180 (1978).
By ordering petitioner to dismiss its damages action against Anderson, it is clear that the NLRB has enjoined a pending lawsuit in state court, even though the NLRB's order is addressed to petitioner and not the state court. See Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v. Locomotive Engineers, 398 U.S. 281, 287 (1970). Since 1793, the Anti-Injunction Act has prohibited federal courts from enjoining state-court proceedings, unless the injunction may be justified by one ...