Injunctions Are An ‘Extraordinary Remedy’ In Labor Disputes

The Macomb County, Michigan Professional Deputy Sheriffs Association represents corrections officers in the Macomb County Sheriff’s Department in the classification rank of correctional officer. In January 2012, a law became effective requiring Michigan’s public employees to make co-payments on health insurance. While negotiations were ongoing between the Association and the County for a new contract, the County sent an email to the Association announcing its intent to start deducting health care co-payments from employee paychecks. The Association filed an unfair labor practice charge against the County with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC).

The Association also filed a complaint in state court seeking a preliminary injunction until the unfair labor practice charge was resolved and to enjoin the County from deducting health care co-payments.

The Michigan Court of Appeals rejected the Association’s request for an injunction. The Court held that the Association had to prove four things to obtain an injunction: (1) That it would likely win the lawsuit; (2) That it would suffer irreparable harm if the injunction were not issued; (3) That the risk that the Association would be harmed more by the absence of an injunction than the County would be by the injunction; and (4) That there would be harm to the public interest if the injunction were not issued.

The Court found that “it is basically contrary to public policy in this State to issue injunctions in labor disputes absent a showing of violence, irreparable injury, or breach of the peace. Injunctive relief is an extraordinary remedy that issues only when justice requires, there is no adequate remedy at law, and there exists a real and imminent danger of irreparable injury.

“Here, the Association has not shown the existence of potentially irreparable injury. A hearing before MERC was scheduled to occur during the pendency of this appeal. MERC will decide whether the County’s plan to deduct additional money from paychecks was permitted or was impermissible because the parties were engaged in continued negotiations including the subject of health care costs, thus committing an unfair labor practice. If MERC determines that the County committed an unfair labor practice, it can order monetary damages or provide another remedy to make the Association’s members whole.

“The Association’s only damages would be financial. In particular, the money damages would equal the additional amount of payroll deduction that each employee would be charged per month for his or her health care in 2012 as a result of the County’s implementation of the new law during continued negotiations. The County provided the trial court with an affidavit from its human resource director that included the exact amount of additional payroll deduction that each employee would pay per month for health care in 2012. Thus, the Association’s alleged money damages are exactly quantified per employee. Because the Association has failed to establish irreparable harm or an inadequate remedy at law, no injunction should be issued.”

Macomb County Professional Deputy Sheriffs Ass’n v. County of Macomb, 2013 WL 1748575 (Mich. App. 2013).