Food and Commercial Workers v. Brown Group, Inc., 517 U.S. 544, 5 (1996)

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Opinion of the Court


At the outset, Brown Shoe argues that the WARN Act grants a union no authority to sue for damages on behalf of its members. Because the question on which we granted certiorari (whether Congress has the constitutional authority to alter the third prong of the associational standing enquiry) assumes that the WARN Act does grant the union such authority, Brown Shoe urges us to declare the writ of certiorari improvidently granted. In North Star Steel, however, we noted, contrary to Brown Shoe's position, that "[t]he class of plaintiffs" who may sue for backpay under the WARN Act "includes aggrieved employees (or their unions, as representatives)." 515 U. S., at 31, and on further consideration we have no doubt that we were reading the statute correctly.

The key requirement of the Act is found in 2102, which prohibits an employer from ordering "a plant closing or mass layoff until the end of a 60-day period" running from the date of the employer's written notice of the closing or layoff "(1) to each representative of the affected employees as of the time of the notice or, if there is no such representative at that time, to each affected employee," and "(2) to the State dislocated worker unit . . . and the chief elected official of the unit of local government within which such closing or layoff is to occur." 29 U. S. C. 2102(a). Congress defined the "representative" to which 2102(a)(1) refers as the employees' union, "an exclusive representative of employees within the meaning of section 9(a) or 8(f) of the National Labor Relations Act (29 U. S. C. 159(a), 158(f)) or section 2 of the Railway Labor Act (45 U. S. C. 152)." 102 Stat. 890, 29 U. S. C. 2101(a)(4).

Enforcement of the 2102 notice requirement is addressed

in 2104(a), the following provisions of which answer Brown Shoe's argument. Section 2104(a)(1) makes a violating employer liable to "each aggrieved employee" for backpay and

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