On December 8, 2009, the Supreme Court decided Union Pacific R. Co. v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainman General Comm'ee of Adjustment, Central Region, No. 08-604.
The National Railroad Adjustment Board (hereinafter Board) holds jurisdiction to adjudicate grievances of railroad employees that remain unsettled after pursuit of internal procedures. 45 U. S. C. §153 First (h), (i). In a series of rulings, however, the Board dismissed appeals to it for lack of jurisdiction on the basis that the appealing employees had failed to submit written documentation of the required settlement conference with the railroad after the initial grievance procedure, and that the failure violated one of the procedural rules promulgated by the Board itself.
The Court held that the Board had erred in holding that it lacked jurisdiction. The duty to confer was placed on both parties, the Court agreed, but its satisfaction does not condition the adjudicatory authority of the Board. The duty to confer is independent of the grievance procedures that are a prerequisite to Board review. And the Board cannot affect its own jurisdiction by promulgating a claims processing rule.
Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.