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COA tosses injunction issued after alleged workplace threat

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An injunction against an employee who allegedly told a company therapist that he was going to blow his supervisor’s head off is void because it arose from a labor dispute, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

The ruling came in a case in which the appeals court agreed to the employee’s request to seal the filings and identify all parties, including the company, by initials. The case is A.H. v. C.E.G., on behalf of G.S., 49A05-1310-PO-525.

A.H. allegedly made the threat after suffering an unspecified workplace injury at C.E.G., and after phone calls in which the supervisor, G.S., told A.H. that he had been disrespectful. After G.S. asked A.H. to get a second opinion on his injury, A.H. called the company therapist, who alerted human resources about the alleged threat.

The employer petitioned the trial court for an injunction against A.H. under the Workforce Violence Restraining Orders Act, I.C. 34-26-6, which was granted. On appeal, A.H. argued the trial court had no jurisdiction since the petition arose from a labor dispute governed by the Anti-Injunction Act.

“We agree,” Judge Terry Crone wrote for the panel that reversed the injunction and remanded with instructions it be dismissed.

“The AIA was intended to minimize judicial control of labor-related disputes,” Crone wrote. The statute is I.C. 22-6-1.

C.E.G. argued that the statute didn’t apply to A.H. because he wasn’t a union member and his actions weren’t related to organized labor, but the court sided with A.H.’s argument that such a position conflicted with the plain language of the Anti-Injunction Act. The court also discounted C.E.G.’s contention that the dispute between A.H. and G.S. was personal rather than an employment dispute.

“To the contrary, the evidence shows that A.H.’s alleged threat was made within a few days after A.H. suffered an injury at work, told G.S. that he disagreed with his work assignment and hours, and complained about preferential treatment for one employee.  ... A.H. knew that G.S. disapproved of the way he had expressed his dissatisfaction and that G.S. was going to document his behavior," the panel found.

“Accordingly, we conclude that this case concerned a controversy over the terms and conditions of employment. In sum, we conclude that this case involves or grows out of a labor dispute and is governed by the AIA."


 

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