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Goodman v. Potter

January 29, 2003

JANICE O. GOODMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN E. POTTER, POSTMASTER GENERAL, UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, DEFENDANT.



MEMORANDUM OPINION

Janice O. Goodman worked as a mail carrier for the United States Postal Service until November 20, 1999, when she was given a Notice of Removal for "unacceptable conduct." She grieved her removal and her union, the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), represented her through the grievance process and before an arbitrator. After a full hearing, the arbitrator denied the grievance and sustained the discharge. Ms. Goodman filed suit to reverse the arbitral award.

The United States Postal Service (the"Postal Service") has filed a motion to dismiss or in the alternative for summary judgment. In deciding this motion, the Court considers matters outside the pleadings and therefore will treat the motion as one for summary judgment. See FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b). Based on the pleadings, motions, and the statements of material facts, there is no genuine issue of material fact regarding Ms. Goodman's lack of standing to bring this suit. Therefore the Court will grant the Postal Service's motion for summary judgment.

FACTS *fn1

The Postal Service and NALC were parties to a 1998-2001 collective bargaining agreement at the time of Ms. Goodman's discharge. Under the terms of that document, employees could be discharged for just cause. Any grievance over a discharge was subject to final and binding arbitration by an impartial arbitrator.

Ms. Goodman was issued a Notice of Removal on November 20, 1999, by which the Postal Service informed her that she would be discharged within thirty days for unacceptable conduct, i.e., accepting payment of workers' compensation benefits after her return to work from a work-related injury. The amount in question was over $10,000 and represented benefit checks for the months of April through September 1999; Ms. Goodman had returned to work in March 1999. Ms. Goodman was accused of violating Section 666.2 of the Employee and Labor Relations Manual of the Postal Service which provides in relevant part:

Employees are expected to conduct themselves during and outside of working hours in a manner which reflects favorably upon the Postal Service. Although it is not the policy of the Postal Service to interfere with the private lives of its employees, it does require that postal personnel be honest, reliable, trustworthy, courteous, and of good character and reputation.

Defendant's Stmt. of Material Facts Not in Dispute ¶ 5. Ms. Goodman grieved her discharge and NALC represented her through the steps of the grievance process and before Arbitrator Mark A. Rosen. On July 21, 2002, the Arbitrator decided as follows:

The grievance is denied. The removal was for just cause. The Grievant improperly accepted and cashed OWCP [Office of Workers Compensation Program] checks with the knowledge that she had no reasonable right to do so, for the reasons discussed herein.

Defendant's Stmt. of Material Facts Not in Dispute ¶ 11. The Arbitrator fully explicated his reasoning. In essence, although he found that the Postal Service was responsible for notifying OWCP of a claimant's return to work and shared fault for the fact that checks continued to issue, he faulted Ms. Goodman alone for cashing and spending checks for workers' compensation benefits when she knew or should have known that she had no continuing entitlement to benefits upon her return to work.*fn2

Ms. Goodman instituted this suit in August 2001, predicating jurisdiction on the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq. She argues that the Arbitrator prejudiced her rights by failing to allow the introduction of pertinent evidence, failing to provide appropriate notice as to materials that would be admitted into evidence, unduly relying upon hearsay evidence, failing to establish a factual predicate to find employee misconduct, failing to consider evidence bearing on alternate remedies rather than discharge, and failing to establish any nexus between the alleged misconduct and the efficiency of the Postal Service. In addition, Ms. Goodman argues that the provision at Section 666.2 of the Employee and Labor Relations Manual, cited above, is unconstitutionally broad and denies due process in affording notice as to which activities are proscribed.

LEGAL STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

As the party moving for summary judgment, the Postal Service must demonstrate that the facts revealed in affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories or admissions, and the pleadings, when viewed in a light most favorable to Ms. Goodman, show that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that the Postal Service is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED R. CIV. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v Catrett, 477 US 317, 322 (1986). In addition, the court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of Ms. Goodman. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A party opposing summary judgment "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but... must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 248.

ANALYSIS

The first question in any suit is whether the court has jurisdiction to consider it. Ms. Goodman predicated her complaint on the FAA. The Postal Service properly notes that the FAA does not apply to labor arbitration cases. United Paperworkers Int'l v. Misco, 484 U.S. 29, 40 n.9 (1987). In her opposition to the motion to dismiss, Ms. Goodman concedes that the FAA does not apply but she suggests that the ...


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