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| 2 minutes read

What's the Worst that can Happen? Arrest!

"What's the worst that can happen?" is a question employers often ask, and for good reason. You need to fully understand and appreciate the range of possible outcomes when making decisions in order to make the best choice for your company. 

Well, keep this one in mind: YOU CAN BE ARRESTED! (Well, "taken into custody.") That's right, as two salon owners in Wisconsin recently found out, if you repeatedly and willfully violate the National Labor Relations Board (the "Board") (and presumably other government agencies) or court order, you may soon find yourself in custody of the United States Marshals Service.

Two corporate officials of Haven Salon & Spa in Muskego, Wisconsin were taken into custody by the US Marshals Service on a "writ of body attachment" issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. This is an extreme - but evidently very real - measure the Court can take to ensure compliance with a Board order, but also a measure of last resort. Here, the salon owners had many opportunities to comply prior to the US Marshals arriving at their door:

  • In 2021, the Board found that the salon violated the National Labor Relations Act (the "Act") by discharging an employee who raised concerns about the company's COVID-19 safety protocols (or lack thereof) during the pandemic. The Board found that the employee's concerns were "protected concerted activity" within the meaning of the Act. The Board ordered the salon to offer the employee reinstatement, remove any references to the prior discharge from the employee's record, provide wage information to the Board so it could calculate backpay, post a notice of employee rights at its facility, and file a certificate of compliance with the Board's regional office
  • The salon effectively ignored the Board's order.
  • Later in 2021, the Court enforced the Board's order and again the salon ignored the order.
  • Acting on a motion by the Board, the Court held the salon in contempt in February 2023, imposing escalating daily fines that would be forgiven if the salon complied with the Board's order within a week.
  • The salon still ignored the order.
  • In August 2023, the Board filed another motion requesting that the Court liquidate the fines, add the salon owners as additional respondents in contempt, and issue a writ of body attachment, arguing that the salon owners were responsible for the salon's noncompliance and had deliberately evaded service on the Board's orders multiple times.
  • The Court granted the motion, ordering the salon to pay over $30,000 in fines and attorneys' fees and issuing the writ. 
  • The salon owners were taken into custody on September 12, sat before a United States Magistrate Judge that same day, and committed to finally complying with the Court's orders.

The lesson: do not ignore orders from government agencies or courts. Take steps to defend your company when issues first arise, comply with orders or follow the right process to challenge orders when you have the basis to do so, and if you do not know what to do or need help reach out to your legal counsel. 

“Employers should be on notice that they can face steep consequences if they continue to skirt the law, including being taken into custody until they comply. Violators of the Act should promptly comply with Board orders in order to quickly remedy their unlawful activities and dissipate the adverse effects that they had upon workers.” - NLRB General Counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo


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