By Amanda A. Sonneborn.

In National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) v. Gimrock Construction, Inc. (Case No. 11-11561), the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision denying a request by the NLRB to enforce its order requiring an employer to meet with a union a set number of hours a week.  In doing so, the Court reminded the Board that it had no ability to modify a court order, including a modification that required more specific behavior by an employer.

This case began with a 1995 strike by certain Gimrock employees and the employer’s permanent replacement of those employees.  When those employees agreed to return to work, the employer refused to reinstate them, claiming that the employees engaged in an unlawful jurisdictional strike.  The union challenged the employer’s refusal to reinstate the workers and after years of litigation, the NLRB and the Eleventh Circuit ordered the employer to reinstate the employees with backpay and meet with them for bargaining.

On a subsequent additional appeal, the NLRB ordered the employer to meet with the union no less than 16 hours a week for bargaining.  The Eleventh Circuit previously had not established a specific number of hours that the parties were required to meet.   The employer then refused to comply with the NLRB’s order to meet a specific number of hours for bargaining and the NLRB sought enforcement of its order at the appellate court.

Considering the Board’s request that the Court enforce the Board’s new order, the Court refused to do so.  In reaching this conclusion, the Court stated that: “Once issued, only this court had the power to modify its order and, for example, require Gimrock to meet with the union at set times.”  The NLRB had no authority to modify the Court’s more general order simply requiring the employer to bargain with the union.  The Court also noted that if the Board had thought it appropriate to order Gimrock to meet at specific times, it could have petitioned the Court for such a modified order.  Importantly though, without such a modified Court order, the Board had no authority to require the employer to do anything more than the Court originally required.