Eagles offensive tackle appeals federal ruling on suspension
Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson is appealing a federal court decision to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on the grounds the NFL Players Association failed to provide him with a complete copy of the collective bargaining agreement he was being punished under, among other things.
“This case has ramifications that go well beyond the NFLPA and its members,” said Stephen Zashin, attorney for Johnson.
The case goes back to 2016, when Johnson served a 10-game suspension after losing an appeal for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Johnson challenged the case on many grounds and later sued the NFL and the NFLPA over it.
In October 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Sullivan denied Johnson’s request to vacate an NFL arbitrator’s award upholding the suspension, and also denied three of Johnson’s four claims, including that the NFLPA breached its duty of fair representation to him. But Sullivan did find for Johnson in that he should have been given side letters to the collectively bargained performance enhancing substances policy he requested under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. And the case went forward under that LMRDA claim.
Then, in August of this year, Sullivan granted the NFLPA’s motion for summary judgment to dismiss the case, saying it was “moot” after the NFLPA produced to Johnson what it said was the full policy. Sullivan also denied Johnson’s motions for discovery.
“The LMRDA cannot be used as a license for a fishing expedition when Plaintiff can offer nothing beyond mere conjecture to suggest that there is any part of the policy that has not been produced,” Sullivan wrote in his decision dismissing the case.
Johnson has asserted multiple claims for an appeal, including alleging the NFLPA did not provide him with the collectively bargained agreement at issue in his case until “more than two years after Johnson requested a copy of it and more than a year after Johnson filed his Complaint.”
Zashin said the appeal could have potential impacts for other unions and union members because it is about the right of employees to receive the full collective bargaining agreement — including side letters — at the time they are being disciplined under its rules.
Jeffrey Kessler, a partner at Winston & Strawn, which represented the NFLPA in the case, declined comment.
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