Sometimes It’s Good for Human Resources to Not Know What’s Going On

Employees Kingsmore and Alexander worked for Gestamp in South Carolina and tried to organize their co-workers into joining the United Steelworkers union. Their union organizing activity was known by their supervisors, but not by the human resource department. Kingsmore and Alexander were terminated for falsifying their application and time sheet, respectively. The termination was solely the decision of the HR Department, and the person who terminated the employees did not seek input from the workers’ supervisors.

The Administrative Law Judge and the NLRB on appeal agreed that the terminations were unlawfully motivated because of the employees’ union organizing efforts. According to them, the supervisors’ knowledge of the workers union organizing activity was imputed onto the HR Department. On further appeal, though, the Fourth Circuit overturned the ALJ and NLRB decisions. According to the Fourth Circuit, the union never proved, through circumstantial evidence or otherwise, that the person who decided to terminate the employees had knowledge of their union organizing activity. This is good news for employers in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.