Strikebreakers' rights bolstered

The Supreme Court bolstered the legal rights of strikebreakers with a 6-to-3 ruling that permits them to sue for damages in state court if they are promised full-time jobs but fired after the strike.

The ruling upheld a Kentucky appeals court decision that gave 12 strikebreakers a chance to sue their employer for $500,000 each for wrongly promising they would be hired as permanent replacements, then deciding their jobs were temporary. The ruling was a defeat for the federal government, which had argued that federal, not state, law should govern the rights of striker replacements.

The government suffered two additional defeats at the hands of the court when the justices curbed the power of the Internal Revenue Service and other government officials to obtain access to secret information gathered by grand juries.

The court ruled 8 to 1 that the IRS may not obtain access to the documents to help in a tax audit. In a separate case, the justices ruled 5 to 4 that government attorneys in noncriminal cases have only limited rights to examine materials.

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