Roy Walker was employed as a yard fireman in Southern Railway Company, where he had been working since the early forties. On March 3, 1957, Roy Walker was told by a crew clerk that he had been “rolled for a regular job,” which was their way of saying that he had been fired and replaced by another man with greater seniority. Roy Walker was sick at the time he received this notice. He said so to the crew clerk. On April 9 of that year, Roy Walker saw Edward R. Brinkley, the Terminal Trainmaster of Southern Railway and told him that he was unable to work because he had “an operation and adhesions. ”
Southern Railway sent a written reply though certified mail. The letter, dated April 29, instructed Roy Walker to report back to work within thirty days from the date of the letter to protect his seniority or else it would be forfeit, and he would be fired. Roy Walker reported to work on or about 11:00 A. M. in the morning of May 29, 1957, in order to protect his seniority. He was shown a message pinned to the Call Book saying that he would not be allowed to work under any circumstances because he had forfeited his seniority at midnight on May 28, 1957. This message was authorized and signed by J.
R. Brosnan, Division Superintendent. Roy Walker went to Greenville, South Carolina, to try to explain to Brosnan that he was sick but Brosnan refused to listen, saying that he was fired as of May 28. Case History Roy Walker sued Southern Railway in the Superior Court of Rutherford County, North Carolina claiming that his firing was done in an unlawful manner and was in violation of a collective bargaining agreement with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen. In the complaint, Roy Walker argued that he had acted appropriately to protect his seniority within the time alloted.
Southern Railway countered that it believed it had acted well within its rights, because if Roy Walker really wanted to protect his seniority he should have reported by midnight of May 28, 1957. Southern Railway then filed a petition to remove the case from the Superior Court of Rutherford County, North Carolina to the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina on the grounds of the amount involved and diversity of citizenship. The petition was granted and the case was moved to the Western District of North Carolina.
At the pre-trial conference, Roy Walker removed from his suit his prayer for reinstatement, leaving only a suit against Southern Railway Company for money damages by reason of his wrongful discharge. At trial, Roy Walker admitted that he had not exhausted his administrative remedies or filed any petition with the National Railroad Adjustment Board before bringing suit for wrongful discharge. According to him, any attempt to obtain relief through administrative channels set up under the contract would have failed because his own union wanted him discharged.
On January 16, 1965, the District Court rendered a decision in favor of Roy Walker and granted him damages in the amount of $4,500. 00. The District Court also ruled that Roy Walker would have earned $3,000. 00 per year as a fireman for Southern Railway from the date of his discharge until the time of trial, which was a little more than seven years. Without allegation or proof that Roy Walker could have mitigated his damages through other employment, the Court found as a fact that he could have earned $2400. 00 per year for seven years, reducing the recovery from $3,000. 00 per year to $600. 00 per year.
Unsatisfied with the decision, both Southern Railway Company and Roy Walker gave notice of appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. However, before the Court of Appeals could hear the case, on January 25, 1965, the United States Supreme Court decided Republic Steel Corporation v. Maddox (1965) which was decided on similar grounds. However, in Maddox, the United States Supreme Court ruled that “by refusing to extend Moore v. Illinois Central RR Co. to section 301 suits, we do not mean to overrule it within the field of the Railway Labor Act…” Aggrieved, Maddox appealed to the Supreme Court.
Decisions of Lower Courts The District Court concluded that Roy Walker was not required to exhaust his administrative remedies or file a Petition with the National Railroad Adjustment Board before bringing suit because his rights in this regard were governed by the law of North Carolina Law and that law did not require exhaustion of administrative remedies or petition to the National Railroad Adjustment Board before bringing suit when the claim is solely for money damages. The District Court held further that Roy Walker had protected his seniority by reporting within the thirty day period and as such he was fired illegally.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Court upon hearing the case on appeal rendered a decision reversing the District Court, vacating the Judgment, and ordering the case remanded to the District Court for dismissal. The Court of Appeals was of the opinion that the decision in Republic Steel Corporation v. Maddox required them to hold that a railroad employee must exhaust his administrative remedies both under the Collective Bargaining Agreement and before The National Railroad Adjustment Board prior to bringing suit for wrongful discharge or damages.
The effect of this decision was to completely preclude suits for wrongful discharge because, according to them, decisions of The National Railroad Adjustment Board were final and can only be appealed to Court for a new trial when The Board renders a Money Judgment against a carrier. Issues The main issue facing the United States Supreme Court was whether or not Roy Walker had a right to sue Southern Railway for his wrongful discharge, when he asked for money damages only and when he had not first pursued any administrative action. Decision of the Supreme Court
The United States Supreme Court ruled that the opinion in Maddox expressly stated that “(c)onsideration of such action should properly await a case presented” under the Railway Labor Act, the judgment of the Court of Appeals dismissing the case was reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with that opinion. Reasoning A provision for arbitration of a discharge grievance is not a matter of voluntary agreement under the Railway Labor Act. The Act compels the parties to arbitrate minor disputes before the National Railroad Adjustment Board established under the Act (Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v.
Chicago River & Indiana R. Co. , 1957). At the time of Walker was fired and at the time he brought his lawsuit, there was widespread dissatisfaction with the procedure under the Railway Labor Act because of the way it favored the railway companies. Congress enacted Public Law 89-456 to remedy the situation, but it only became effective on June 20, 1966, making the new procedure unavailable to Walker. The contrast between the administrative remedy that was readily available in earlier cases such as Maddox (1965) and that was available to Walker led the Supreme Court to return to the rule in Moore (1951).
Teaching Where a dismissed employee has no other effective recourse at law, a discharged railroad employee aggrieved by the discharge may either (1) pursue his remedy under the administrative procedures established by an applicable collective bargaining agreement subject to the Railway Labor Act, and his right of review before the National Railroad Adjustment Board, or (2) if he accepts his discharge as final, bring an action at law in an appropriate state court for money damages if the state courts recognize such a claim (Moore v. Illinois Central Railroad Co. , 1941).
Walker v. Southern Railway Company, 385 U. S. 196, 87 S. Ct. 365 (1965) Moore v. Illinois Central Railroad Co. , 312 U. S. 630, 61 S. Ct. 754, 85 L. Ed. 1089, (1941) Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. Chicago River & Indiana R. Co. , 353 U. S. 30, 77 S. Ct. 635, 1 L. Ed. 2d 622. (1957)