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National Postal Professional Nurses v. United States Postal Service

November 8, 2006

NATIONAL POSTAL PROFESSIONAL NURSES, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Friedman United States District Judge

OPINION

This matter is before the Court on defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or, in the alternative, for summary judgment under Rule 56. Upon consideration of the motion, opposition, and reply, the Court will grant defendant's motion to dismiss.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs are the National Postal Professional Nurses ("NPPN"), a union which represents nurses employed by the United States Postal Service ("USPS") as career postal employees, and six individual career postal nurses. Postal nurses are employed at 51 postal facilities throughout the United States. Complaint ¶ 12. Their duties include pre-employment health assessments for applicants to employment, treatment of USPS employees in need of medical care, reviewing medical reports for workers' compensation claims, administering drug tests, and health education. Id. ¶ 11. They are supervised by Occupational Health Nurse Administrators ("OHNA") and/or physicians. Id. ¶ 13. Some of the OHNAs and postal physicians are contract employees, and not career postal employees. Id. ¶ 16. Career postal nurses at various facilities around the country, including ones in Maryland, Massachusetts, Texas, Ohio, and Florida, have been or are currently being supervised by contract OHNAs and physicians. Id. ¶¶ 19-23.

According to plaintiffs, defendant's employment of non-career service supervisors has made NPPN's handling of claims, grievances, and disciplinary action "more difficult" because "the supervisory and management officials who take the actions and who hear the claims and grievances" are "not familiar" or are "less familiar" than career service supervisors with the "USPS-NPPN collective bargaining agreement, the USPS Employee Labor Relations Manual, and Postal medical and health manuals." Complaint ¶ 40. Plaintiffs therefore have brought suit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief in this Court, asserting that the Court has jurisdiction over its claim pursuant to 39 U.S.C. §§ 409 and 1208. Id. ¶ 9. They ask the Court to declare that that the employment of contract OHNAs and contract physicians violates Section 1001 of the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 ("PRA"), 39 U.S.C. § 101 et seq., and enjoin the USPS from employing OHNAs and physicians without appointing them to career service under the PRA. Complaint at 8-9.

II. DISCUSSION

Defendant moves to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment arguing that (1) plaintiffs do not have standing to bring suit; (2) plaintiffs have failed to exhaust their contractual remedies under the collective bargaining agreement with the USPS prior to filing suit; and (3) plaintiffs incorrectly rely on provisions of the PRA that do not provide an independent cause of action.

A. Applicable Legal Standards

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure may not be granted unless it appears beyond doubt that plaintiff can prove no set of facts that supports its claim entitling it to relief. See Summit Health, Ltd. v. Pinhas, 500 U.S. 322, 325 (1991); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002); Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1117 (D.C. Cir. 2000). In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept the factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of plaintiff. See Razzoli v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 230 F.3d 371, 374 (D.C. Cir. 2000); Taylor v. FDIC, 132 F.3d 753, 761 (D.C. Cir. 1997); Harris v. Ladner, 127 F.3d 1121, 1123 (D.C. Cir. 1997). While the complaint is to be construed liberally in considering a motion to dismiss, the Court need not accept inferences drawn by plaintiff if those inferences are unsupported by facts alleged in the complaint, nor must the Court accept plaintiff's legal conclusions. See National Treasury Employees Union v. United States, 101 F.3d 1423, 1430 (D.C. Cir. 1996); Kowal v. MCI Communication Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994).

When addressing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court generally may not look outside the facts contained within the four corners of the complaint, see Gordon v. National Youth Work Alliance, 675 F.2d 356, 361 (D.C. Cir. 1982), unless it treats the motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment. See FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b); Currier v. Postmaster Gen., 304 F.3d 87, 88 (D.C. Cir. 2002); 2 JAMES WM. MOORE ET AL., MOORE'S FEDERAL PRACTICE ¶ 12.34(2) (2002 ed.).

Summary judgment may be granted if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits or declarations, if any, demonstrate that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). Material facts are those that "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When considering a motion for summary judgment, "the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [its] favor." Id. at 255; see also Washington Post Co. v. United States Dep't of Health and Human Servs., 865 F.2d 320, 325 (D.C. Cir. 1989).

In opposing a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party's opposition must consist of more than mere unsupported allegations or denials and must be supported by affidavits or other competent evidence setting forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). The non-moving party is "required to provide evidence that would permit a reasonable jury to find" in its favor. Laningham v. United States Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1242 (D.C. Cir. 1987). If the non-movant's evidence is "merely colorable" or "not significantly probative," summary judgment may be granted. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 249-50. To defeat a motion for summary judgment, a plaintiff must have more than "a scintilla of evidence to support [its] claims." Freedman v. MCI Telecomm. Corp., 255 F.3d 840, 845 (D.C. Cir. 2001). The Court cannot "weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter," but must "determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 249.

B. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Defendant's first argument, that plaintiffs do not have standing, is not properly the subject of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) or a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Because defendant's challenge to plaintiffs' standing is a challenge to the Court's subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiffs' claim, the argument should have been made pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See, e.g., Worth v. Jackson, 451 F.3d 854, 855 (D.C. Cir. 2006) ("Three inter-related judicial doctrines -- standing, mootness, and ripeness -- ensure that federal courts assert jurisdiction only over 'Cases' and 'Controversies.'") (citing U.S. Const. art. III, § 2.). Standing is an Article III requirement under which the plaintiffs must show: (1) that they have suffered an injury in fact, the invasion of a legally protected interest; (2) that the injury is fairly traceable to the defendant's conduct (a causal connection); and (3) that a favorable decision on the merits likely will redress the injury. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992); Gettman v. DEA, 290 F.3d 430, 433 (D.C. Cir. 2002). The alleged injury in fact must be concrete and particularized and actual or imminent, not ...


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