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Union Membership and Wage Claims

On May 8th, 2012, in Sciborski v. Pacific Bell Directory (California Courts of Appeal – 4th District, No. D056440), the court held that union members cannot be prevented from filing a suit regarding unlawful wage deduction. The court stated that to determine whether preemption applies one must look to whether the claim arises from independent or state law. If the claim arises from state law, the court must look to whether the interpretation of a labor agreement is necessary—and the plaintiff may be preempted. However, if the claim arises from independent law, labor agreement interpretation is not necessary.

In Sciborski, the plaintiff worked for Pacific Bell. During her tenure at Pacific Bell, she was a union member, which meant that the terms of her employment were governed by a collective bargaining agreement. Under this agreement, the plaintiff was entitled to commission on advertising sales that she undertook. In 2007, the plaintiff sold an ad campaign that entitled her to $36,000 in commission. Pacific Bell, however, determined that the assignment was given to her by clerical error and attempted to recover the commission paid. As a result, the plaintiff resigned her employment to prevent Pacific Bell from collecting the commission. Further, she sued Pacific Bell for the deductions that had already taken place as a violation of the Labor Management Relations Act.

To determine whether the plaintiff was preempted by state law, the court applied the aforementioned test. The court determined that because this claim arose out of independent law, the plaintiff was entitled to recover the wrongfully deducted commission.

If you have experienced a wage dispute at your place of employment, or have suffered wrongful termination, please do not hesitate to contact a Southern California Employment Law attorney today.

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