Boston University School of Law

Alumnus Paul Rosen Successfully Argues Milestone Privacy Case Impacting Labor Union Organizing

Paul R. Rosen (‘65), a partner in the Philadelphia law firm of Spector Gadon & Rosen, successfully represented employees of uniform company Cintas Corp. in a potentially landmark case challenging the methods used by a union to organize the company’s workers.

The national labor union, UNITE HERE, used car license plate numbers to obtain personal information from state motor vehicle records and trace workers to their homes. When union organizers knocked on the doors of employees to solicit them to join the union, some employees objected to the invasion of their privacy, and retained Rosen’s firm on the recommendation of a former adversary in another employment case.

Rosen filed suit against the union, as a class-action, in federal court in Philadelphia, under the little-known Drivers Privacy Protection Act, which restricts the circumstances under which such motor vehicle information can be accessed and used, and provides for minimum statutory damages. Fellow BU alumnus David B. Picker (‘80), a senior attorney in Rosen’s firm, also assisted in the lawsuit.

The union objected to the lawsuit and to class certification, arguing that tracing workers was a decades-old organizing practice, that the statute was pre-empted by the National Labor Relations Act, and the claim was otherwise barred by the Norris-LaGuardia Act. In reported decisions in 2004 and 2005, U.S. District Judge Stewart Dalzell rejected these arguments, holding that unions were not free to violate the statute just because they are unions, and certified the nationwide class.

In rulings on August 30, and October 17, 2006, Judge Dalzell agreed with Rosen and Picker that the union had violated the statute, and granted summary judgment to the named plaintiffs, but did not assess punitive damages. Total statutory damages could total as much as $5 million for as many as 2,000 Cintas workers and their relatives in the class.

Rosen and Picker then moved to unseal documents filed under seal in the case, and the union objected, arguing that unsealing the documents would reveal the union's strategic plans and the implications of such action would reach beyond the immediate case. However, Judge Dalzell agreed with Rosen and Picker and, in a December 4 ruling, ordered most of the documents unsealed. At least one commentator believes that the case represents another obstacle to union organizing, likely to change the way union organizers conduct business in the future.

Rosen, who earned a J.D. from BU Law and a B.S. in economics from Villanova University, draws on more than 40 years of experience in a range of legal issues. With an emphasis on commercial litigation, he focuses his practice in the areas of litigation involving lender liability, civil rights, business disparagement, defamation, antitrust, RICO, securities fraud, real estate, special counsel in bankruptcy, partnership disputes and class action matters. He has been admitted to the bars of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and has been admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals, Third, Fifth, Ninth, District of Columbia and Federal Circuits. He is a member of the Philadelphia, Camden County (NJ), New Jersey state and American Bar Associations, the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association, the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association and The Association of Trial Lawyers of America.

Among his other high profile cases, in Barnes Foundation v. Commissioners of Lower Merion Township, Rosen successfully defended township commissioners against false claims of racial discrimination brought by an art museum foundation, resulting in a successful counterclaim for defamation and removal of the foundation's president; and in Marks v. Stinson, Rosen successfully challenged and overturned the result of an election for the state legislature on the ground of racially-motivated voter fraud, resulting in the first ever seating of the apparent loser over the apparent winner without a new election. Rosen was recently selected by Philadelphia Magazine as being one of the best in commercial litigation.

Reported by Caitlin McCartan