Notice & Comment

D.C. Circuit Review – Reviewed – The collateral order doctrine, defining a “labor organization”

The D.C. Circuit issued three opinions last week, one about interlocutory appeals, another what constitutes a “labor organization” under the NLRA, and a third FERC case.

One interesting development is that the D.C. Circuit recognized another class of immediately appealable orders under the “collateral order doctrine.” The normal rule is that only decisions that “trigger the entry of judgment” are considered appealable “final decisions” under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. There are few exceptions. But the panel (Srinivasan, Millett, Wilkins) in Abdelhady v. George Washington University, No. 22-7148, announced another: an “order denying a motion to seal documents referencing medical treatments and diagnoses” is an appealable collateral order. Op. 3. The panel was careful to note that its holding is limited and that the court did not decide “whether the collateral order doctrine categorically applies to any order denying a motion to seal”–an issue on which there is apparently a circuit split. Op. 4 (emphasis added).

In T-Mobile USA, Inc. v. NLRB, No. 22-1310, the majority (Srinivasan, Garcia, Randolph [dissenting]) approved the NLRB’s test to determine when a representative group of employees is a “labor organization,” which employers are prohibited from “dominating” under the NLRA. See Op. 2. The key holding concerns the NLRB’s interpretation of language stating that a “labor organization” must exist “for the purpose . . . of dealing with employers concerning grievances, labor disputes, wages, rates of pay hours of employment, or conditions of work.” Op. 10 (quoting 29 U.S.C. § 158(a)(2)). T-Mobile argued that a group of employee representatives does not “deal with” an employer if the group simply submits “proposals of individual members of such a group.” Op. 11. But the majority held that it was reasonable for the NLRB to conclude that the group “deals with” an employer if the “group’s individual members make proposals to management while acting in a representative capacity.” Id. (emphasis added). Judge Randolph dissented with pith: “I respectfully dissent for the reasons stated by Board Member Ring in his dissent.” Op. 27.

Finally, in East Texas Electric Cooperative, Inc. v. FERC, No. 22-1166, the panel (Katsas, Childs, Pan) denied the petitions for review of certain rates set by FERC.

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