One of the most difficult issues for New Jersey employment attorneys is when federal law preempts New Jersey employment law. One of the most thorny areas is the intersection of the Federal Labor Management Relations Act, which governs the interpretation and application of collective bargaining agreements (union contracts) in the private sector. Fortunately, New Jersey’s Appellate Division has recently issued an important opinion clarifying this complex area in the context of disability discrimination and retaliation by an employer against an employee for filing a workers compensation claim.
Brian Hejda was a truck driver for Bell Container Corp., and a member of Teamsters Local Union 813. He suffered a workplace knee injury. He had various restrictions on what he could do at work, and he was medically limited to light duty. He filed a workers compensation claim; Bell denied that he sustained a disabling injury. Eventually Hejda was asymptomatic and able to return to full duty, although his doctors advised that he would eventually need arthroscopic surgery to repair the damage. Hejda reported to work for a week but was not given much to do. When he returned the following week, he was told to leave.