Second Circuit Confirms LMRDA Only Protects “Members In Substance”

Brady v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, No. 13-cv-2038 (2d Cir. Feb. 3, 2014): The Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of a Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) claim against a union and its local for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the plaintiff was neither a formal member nor a “member in substance” of the union. At various times during his employment, the plaintiff obtained work through International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 817’s hiring hall, which eventually resulted in his request to join the union through the formal application process. Local 817, however, twice denied the plaintiff’s requests for an application, which the plaintiff claimed was in retaliation for prior complaints he had made about a Local 817 member. Notwithstanding his lack of formal membership in the union, the plaintiff claimed that the LMRDA protected him because he was a “member in substance” of the union; that is, was a person who satisfies all of the requirements for membership set forth in a union’s constitution but merely lacked formal admission. The Second Circuit agreed that the LMRDA protects “members in substance” but disagreed that the plaintiff satisfied the requirements. Consistent with sister circuits, the Second Circuit held that the LMRDA protects “members in substance,” but stated that such protection applies only where the union does not retain discretion to refuse membership of qualified candidates. Here, the union’s constitution did not require Local 817 to accept every eligible applicant for membership (i.e., it retained discretion on membership), so the plaintiff could not rely on the “member in substance” protections under the LMRDA to invoke federal court jurisdiction. Of note, the decision provides clarity regarding the potential scope of LMRDA claims in the Second Circuit.

Note: This article was published in the February 2014 issue of the New York eAuthority.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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