South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Locking Up Union Workers Is False Imprisonment, Not Labor Dispute
Description Appeals court held that when an employer locked union workers inside a gated area and called the police, the workers had a cause of action against the employer for false imprisonment. The fact that there was also a dispute with a union did not mean that the matter was only subject to review by the National Labor Relations Board.
Topic Torts
Key Words False Imprisonment; National Labor Relations Act
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Several construction workers, who belonged to a union, responded to an ad by Kinney Contractors that it was taking applications for employment. When the workers were on the grounds of the construction site to submit applications for employment, James Kinney, the company owner, closed the gates to the property, trapping the workers inside the site, and called the police. The workers sued Kinney for false imprisonment. The trial court dismissed the suit, holding that the matter was under the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) because the incident was part of a larger labor dispute between Kinney and a union. Hence, the matter was subject to a hearing by the NLRB under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), not tort litigation. The workers appealed.

Reversed. False imprisonment is an action that requires the plaintiff to establish that his or her personal liberty was unreasonably or unlawfully restrained against his or her will and that the defendant caused or procured the restraint and actually intended the restraint. This cause of action is not preempted by the NLRA. The indignity, humiliation and disgrace allegedly suffered by the workers would not be remedied by the relief the NLRB could grant, whereas state law remedies would attempt to compensate the workers in an effort to make them whole.

Citation Russell v. Kinney Contractors, Inc., 795 N.E.2d 340 (App. Ct., Ill., 2003)

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