No Testimony Redo for Laid Off Giant Food Staff

     (CN) – Laid-off D.C.-area grocery store employees who are suing their former employer cannot correct “hurried” statements made during their depositions, a federal judge ruled.
     After they were laid off on June 30, 2012, 19 former employees of Giant Food LLC – including senior staff at its Jessup, MD warehouse – sued their unions and Giant in Federal Court.
     The plaintiffs claimed that several weeks before the layoffs, Giant and the unions announced that warehouse work was slowing and that layoffs were on the horizon.
     In the meantime, a business agent for Teamsters Local 730 allegedly told four nonparties – male members scheduled for layoffs – to not sign any severance agreements, since work at the warehouse had not slowed and there would eventually be a recall of laid-off employees.
     When Giant fired the plaintiffs, it allegedly induced them to sign severance agreements negotiated with the unions – Local 730 and Warehouse Employees Union Local 922 – claiming that it would not recall anyone laid off, regardless of whether they signed the agreement.
     But in reality, Giant and the unions knew there would be a recall and had already begun recruiting new personnel to replace the fired employees, the plaintiffs claim.
     Indeed, work at the warehouse actually picked up after the layoffs, the complaint states.
     Giant later issued a recall for its laid-off workers, including the four Local 730 members who were warned not to sign the severance agreements, but not the plaintiffs, the latter claim.
     The plaintiffs claimed the severance agreements did not waive their recall rights, and that when they appealed to the union, the local allegedly brushed their grievances aside.
     The plaintiffs appealed their case to the National Labor Relations Board, which investigated the situation, but ultimately dismissed their case as meritless.
     The plaintiffs then turned to the Federal Court, alleging the unions breached their duties of fair representation, and that Giant had breached its collective-bargaining agreement, while also violateding state law by committing fraud, retaliation, and other torts.
     U.S. District Judge James Boasberg dismissed the most of the plaintiffs’ claims on Feb. 12, 2014, preserving on those alleging violations of Sec. 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act and the unions’ duty of fair representation, finding that the severance agreements must be considered unenforceable.
     After completing depositions, the plaintiffs’ damages expert, Dr. Jerome Paige; nonparty witness Thomas Jones; and four plaintiffs: Linda Mathis, Ralph Jackson, Donchez Coates, and Donna Ward, each submitted errata sheets containing two to four pages of testimony revisions.
     Those included many changes to the fundamental meaning of answers – for example, from “yes” to “no” – or substantive responses to replace originally hurried answers.
     Boasberg granted the defendants’ motion to strike the errata sheets Tuesday.
     “A deposition is not a take home examination,” the judge wrote, quoting a 1992 Federal Court ruling out of Louisiana.
     The given reasons for each change were single words like “clarification,” or “mistake.”
     “These terse offerings do little but state the obvious; the court presumes that plaintiffs would not submit errata sheets but for some type of mistake or error,” the judge wrote. “But even these meager explanations are not always present for each correction. What is missing is any thoughtful or clear articulation of the basis for what constitute significant alterations in sworn testimony.”
     The court will permit only the typographical or clerical changes, the ruling states.
     “While the revisions provided here may not be 180-degree reversals, they are certainly sufficiently inconsistent so as to call into question their veracity,” Boasberg wrote. “And given that the one-word justifications fail to provide any corroborating evidence that the deponents intended to so testify, the revisions should not be permitted to stand.”
     The parties did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Courthouse News.

%d bloggers like this: