Chauffeurs Teamsters and Helpers Local No. 391 v. Terry

(Redirected from 494 U.S. 558)
Court Documents
Concurring Opinions
Dissenting Opinion

United States Supreme Court

494 U.S. 558

Chauffeurs Teamsters and Helpers Local No. 391  v.  Terry

No. 88-1719  Argued: Dec. 6, 1989. --- Decided: March 20, 1990


McLean Trucking Company and petitioner Chauffeurs, Teamsters and Helpers Local No. 391 (Union) were parties to a collective-bargaining agreement which covered respondent employees. When the Union declined to refer to the grievance committee respondents' charges against McLean-arising from McLean's layoff and recall policies-on the ground that the relevant issues had been determined in two prior proceedings concerning complaints that the Union had referred to the committee on respondents' behalf, respondents filed suit in the District Court. Alleging that McLean had breached the collective-bargaining agreement in violation of § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, and that the Union had violated its duty of fair representation, they requested injunctive relief and, inter alia, compensatory damages for lost wages and health benefits. They also made a jury demand for all issues triable by a jury. After McLean filed for bankruptcy, the action against it, and all claims for injunctive relief, were dismissed. The Union then moved to strike the jury demand on the ground that no right to a jury trial exists in a duty of fair representation suit. The District Court denied the motion, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the Seventh Amendment entitled respondents to a jury trial on their claim for monetary relief.

Held: The judgment is affirmed.

863 F.2d 334 (CA 4 1988), affirmed.

Justice MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, III-B, and IV, concluding that the Seventh Amendment entitles respondents to a jury trial. Pp. 563-564; 570-574.

(a) To recover money damages in an action for breach of the duty of fair representation, an employee must prove both that the employer's action violated the terms of the collective-bargaining agreement and that the union breached its duty of fair representation in handling the grievance. DelCostello v. Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 163-164, 103 S.Ct. 2281, 2289-2291, 76 L.Ed.2d 476. P. 563-564.

(b) The remedy respondents seek entitles them to a jury trial on all issues presented in the suit. That remedy-compensatory damages-is traditionally legal relief and has none of the attributes that must be present before this Court will characterize money damages as equitable. The relief is not restitutionary, because the backpay sought is not money wrongfully held by the Union, but wages and benefits respondents would have received from McLean had the Union processed their grievances properly. Nor is the monetary award incidental to, or intertwined with, injunctive relief, because respondents here are seeking only money damages. Moreover, although backpay under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is considered an equitable remedy, this characterization does not require that money damages for breach of the duty of fair representation be considered equitable as well. Congress has specifically characterized Title VII backpay as a form of "equitable relief," but it has made no similar pronouncement regarding damages for breach of the duty of fair representation. Further, this Court has noted that Title VII backpay sought from an employer would generally be restitutionary in nature. Pp. 570-574.

Justice MARSHALL, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE, Justice WHITE, and Justice BLACKMUN, concluded in Part III-A:


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).