Judge ruled that North Carolina identity protections don’t apply when union bosses retaliate against nonmembers by publicly posting social security numbers
Washington, DC (October 1, 2012) – Today, the U. S. Supreme Court denied a petition to hear a case brought by North Carolina-based AT&T (NYSE: T) employees asking the Court to review two state court decisions regarding a state identity theft law and federal preemption.
The workers appealed the case to the Supreme Court with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.
In the fall of 2007, Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 3602 union president John Glenn maliciously posted the names and social security numbers of 33 AT&T employees on a publicly accessible bulletin board at the company's facility in Burlington, N.C.
All the employees whose names and personal information were posted in a hallway close to the building entrance, accessible to the public, had exercised their freedom under the state's Right to Work law to resign from CWA union membership and cease paying union dues.
In North Carolina, it is a serious offense for a business or nonprofit organization to publicly reveal someone's name in combination with his or her social security number. Per the North Carolina Identity Theft Protection Act (ITPA), exposing any person to identity theft in this way carries a fine of up to $5,000 per violation.
In June 2008, AT&T employee Jason Fisher and 15 other employees, represented by Foundation attorneys, filed a lawsuit against Local 3602 and its parent unions in state court.
In an unprecedented decision, both the state trial court and the state court of appeals exempted union bosses from North Carolina's identity theft law. Both courts ruled that the National Labor Relations Act preempts the ITPA. Consequently, union bosses may not be punished by state authorities for exposing the workers' private information to the public.
"With today's announcement, the U.S. Supreme Court has left intact a new type of ugly union boss retaliation, allowing union officials to target workers for identity theft even when state law clearly makes such retaliation illegal," said Mark Mix, President of National Right to Work. "The Court's decision not to correct this injustice makes a mockery of state and federal labor laws, which purport to 'protect' workers but really protects union boss intimidation, and now will be used to escape from state laws protecting workers’ identities across the country."