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1/16/2008


Rail News: Labor
Supreme Court backs unions' position on unpaid leave



On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with 11 rail labor unions and declined to overturn lower courts' decisions finding railroads relied on the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) statute to override labor agreements governing unpaid leave.

In 2005, a coalition of 11 unions challenged railroads' policy requiring employees to exhaust vacation and personal leave days for FMLA purposes before taking unpaid leave provided under federal law. In 2006, a U.S. district ruled the FMLA statute doesn't allow railroads to "force" employees to substitute paid vacation and personal leave for unpaid leave when existing collective bargaining agreements enable workers to decide when to use their paid leave.

Railroads appealed the ruling, but the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Seventh Circuit upheld the decision in March 2007. Two months later, the circuit court denied a rehearing request, prompting railroads to file an appeal with the Supreme Court.

"This is an important victory for BLET members and all of rail labor," said Don Hahs, national president of coalition member the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, in a prepared statement.

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