“A Forced, Public Confession of Sins … Is a Humiliation … Incompatible with the … Democratic Principles of the Dignity of Man”
U.S. labor law provides that, if the National Labor Relations Board finds that an employer has violated labor law rules, the employer can be required to announce that finding to employees. And in some situations (apparently quite rarely), the NLRB has the power to order that the employer’s president “personally read the NLRB’s remedial notice to an assemblage of the company’s employees.”
In 1983, then-Judge Ginsburg dissented, in a passage that (to my surprise) I hadn’t seen until a few days ago; I thought it would pass it along:
The Board’s order specifies that the Company’s “owner and president, Rizzuto, … shall … read the [NLRB’s notice ordering the employer to cease and desist from unfair labor practices] to current employees assembled for that purpose….” …. Here, the president’s personal involvement was … conspicuous. His voice behind the Board’s order might most authoritatively indicate to employees that Conair will comply with the directive.
Nonetheless, a reading order “directed at a specified individual” is a “startling innovation.” Such an order would occasion no surprise in a system in which those who offend against state regulation must confess and repent as a means of self-correction, or to educate others. But it is foreign to our system to force named individuals to speak prescribed words to attain rehabilitation or to enlighten an assembled audience. The Board, I believe, has not thoughtfully considered this point.
A forced, public “confession of sins,” even by an owner-president who has acted outrageously, is a humiliation this court once termed “incompatible with the democratic principles of the dignity of man.” It has a punitive, vindictive quality, and is the kind of personal performance command equity decrees have avoided. See Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 367 (1979); Lumley v.
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