Hoffman Plastic Compounds v. NLRB
535 U.S. 137 (U.S. 2002)
United States Supreme Court
CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.
The National Labor Relations Board (Board) awarded backpay to an undocumented alien who
has never been legally authorized to work in the United States. We hold that such relief is
foreclosed by federal immigration policy, as expressed by Congress in the Immigration Reform
and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA).
Petitioner Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. (petitioner or Hoffman), custom-formulates
chemical compounds for businesses that manufacture pharmaceutical, construction, and
household products. In May 1988, petitioner hired Jose Castro to operate various blending
machines that "mix and cook" the particular formulas per customer order. Before being hired for
this position, Castro presented documents that appeared to verify his authorization to work in the
United States. In December 1988, the United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum, and Plastic Workers of
America, AFL-CIO, began a union-organizing campaign at petitioner's production plant. Castro
and several other employees supported the organizing campaign and distributed authorization
cards to co-workers. In January 1989, Hoffman laid off Castro and other employees engaged in
these organizing activities.
Three years later, in January 1992, respondent Board found that Hoffman unlawfully selected
four employees, including Castro, for layoff "in order to rid itself of known union supporters" in
violation of § 8(a)(3) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
306 N.L.R.B. 100.
To remedy this violation, the Board ordered that Hoffman (1) cease and desist from further
violations of the NLRA, (2) post a detailed notice to its employees regarding the remedial order,
and (3) offer reinstatement and backpay to the
four affected employees. Id. at 107-108. Hoffman
entered into a stipulation with the Board's General Counsel and agreed to abide by the Board's
In June 1993, the parties proceeded to a compliance hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ) to determine the amount of backpay owed to each discriminatee. On the final day of the
hearing, Castro testified that he was born in Mexico and that he had never been legally admitted
to, or authorized to work in, the United States. 314 N.L.R.B. 683, 685 (1994). He admitted
gaining employment with Hoffman only after tendering a birth certificate belonging to a friend
who was born in Texas. Ibid. He also admitted that he used this birth certificate to fraudulently
obtain a California driver's license and a Social Security card, and to fraudulently obtain
employment following his layoff by Hoffman. Ibid. Neither Castro nor the Board's General
Counsel offered any evidence that Castro had applied or intended to apply for legal authorization
to work in the United States. Ibid. Based on this testimony, the ALJ found the Board precluded
from awarding Castro backpay or reinstatement as such relief would be contrary to Sure-Tan, Inc.