NLRA Preemption of State Law Actions for Wrongful Discharge in Violation of Public Policy

This Note considers the circumstances under which the NLRA should preempt state law tort suits for discharge in contravention of public policy by employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement, and by at-will employees. Part I discusses the rationale behind the preemption doctrine and outlines the tests the Supreme Court has adopted for determining when the NLRA preempts state laws. Part II argues that the specific rationale behind the Court’s preemption tests are inapplicable to the typical public policy wrongful discharge action. Part III identifies the ways in which public policy wrongful discharge actions might infringe on the NLRA. It proposes a preemption test that courts should use to determine when the NLRA preempts these actions. Finally, Part IV applies this test to various types of wrongful discharge actions by at-will and union employees. It concludes that the NLRA does not preempt certain types of actions for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy.