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Frederick B. Hollie v. Anthony Smith

September 28, 2011

FREDERICK B. HOLLIE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ANTHONY SMITH, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ellen Segal Huvelle United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Frederick Hollie, proceeding pro se, has sued his former union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local Union 639 ("Union"), as well as his union representative, Anthony Smith, seeking damages resulting from gross negligence, breach of contract, and breach of the duty of fair representation. The Union has moved to dismiss Hollie's claims, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the Union's motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND*fn1

Hollie was employed by the United Parcel Service ("UPS") and was a member of the Union. (Am. Compl. at 1.) On December 12, 2008, Hollie was discharged by UPS. (Id.) The Union successfully reversed the discharge, and Hollie was allowed to return to work on January 12, 2009. (Id.) On January 15, Hollie's manager told him that he needed to take a physical in order to continue working because his most recent physical was insufficient. (Id. at 1-2.) On February 19, Hollie was fired for taking an unauthorized leave of absence. (Id. at 2; see also Compl. Ex. C, at 2.) On March 19, Hollie filed a grievance with the Union. (Compl., Chronology of Events ("Chronology"), at 3.) Hollie alleges that the Union never responded to the grievance he filed. (Am. Compl. at 2.)

Hollie also alleges that on October 20, 2010, he attended a panel hearing of the Atlantic Area Parcel Grievance Committee, after which he was discharged for "not filing a timely grievance in response to the February 19" discharge. (Id.) Moreover, he alleges that the Union "reversed" his reinstatement from his December 12, 2008, discharge on December 22, 2010. (Id.)

Hollie filed suit against Smith and the Union in Superior Court on February 22, 2011. (Notice of Removal, Ex. A, at 1.) He alleged that defendants failed to "investigate grievances in January and February" 2009, that he had not received "back pay for wrongful terminations," that he received "unfair representation" when he was not allowed to present his case "verbally" at the 2010 "hearing panel," that they failed to "return calls or contact" him about his grievances, and that they had failed to contact him. (Id. at 5.) The Union removed the case on March 16, 2011, on the grounds that Hollie claimed a breach of the federal "duty of fair representation." (Notice of Removal at 2-3.) The Union moved to dismiss HollieDefs."s claims on March 24, 2011. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss ("Defs.' Mot.") at 11.) Hollie filed an amended complaint on May 5, 2011.*fn2

ANALYSIS

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint "must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face,'" such that a court may "draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). In ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion, a court may consider facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached to or incorporated in the complaint, matters of which courts may take judicial notice, and documents appended to a motion to dismiss whose authenticity is not disputed, if they are referred to in the complaint and integral to a claim. U.S. ex rel. Folliard v. CDW Tech. Servs., Inc., 722 F. Supp. 2d 20, 24-25 (D.D.C. 2010).

II. HOLLIE'S COMPLAINT ONLY ALLEGES BREACH OF THE DUTY OF FAIR REPRESENTATION Although Hollie has "attempt[ed] to bring a state law action," the Union argues that his state law claims are pre-empted because his complaint also alleges a breach of the Union's duty of fair representation. (Defs.' Mot. at 5.) Hollie's original complaint did not cite any statutory basis for his action. Rather, it alleged that the Union and Smith failed to investigate Hollie's grievances and failed to successfully win him his back pay, that he was unfairly represented at a recent hearing, and that the Union and Smith failed to return his calls and to contact him. (Compl. at 1.) Hollie's amended complaint alleges that the "Union never responded to grievances as agreed by Union Representative Anthony Smith," and that "a breach of an explicit or implied contract of employment or an employer-union collective bargaining agreement" led to his constructive discharge. (Am. Compl. at 2.) Moreover, Hollie alleges that damages were "increased by the Union's gross negligence, breach of contract and its statutory duty of fair representation." (Id.) Thus, Hollie now explicitly alleges that the Union and Smith breached their duty of fair representation.

Even if Hollie had not specifically raised this claim, the Court would read his complaint to allege a breach of the duty of fair representation because he alleges that the Union and Smith failed to follow the grievance procedure detailed in the collective bargaining agreement with UPS. See Price v. Union Local 25, No. 10-1865, 2011 WL 2144564, at *2-*3 (D.D.C. June 1, 2011) (where plaintiff made no "specific legal claim," the court construed his complaint as asserting a duty of fair representation claim because it alleged that his union "arbitrarily ignore[d] a meritorious grievance or process[ed] it in perfunctory fashion") (quoting Vaca v. Sipes, 386 U.S. 171, 191 (1967)).Moreover, "[t]o the extent that the Union had a duty to [Hollie], that duty is defined . . . by a collective bargaining agreement . . . as well as applicable federal statutes," and is, therefore, governed by § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185. Ramey v. Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, 580 F. Supp. 2d 44, 47-48 (D.D.C. 2008) (construing claim of conspiracy against union as one for breach of the duty of fair representation). Thus, no matter how Hollie has labeled his claims, the Court would construe them as claims brought pursuant to § 301 of the LMRA. Id. at 48 (quoting Taylor v. Giant Food, Inc., 438 F. Supp. 2d 576, 581 (D. Md. 2006)).

To the extent Hollie alleges that the same conduct also gives rise to claims under state law, these claims are preempted because they do not "arise wholly outside the ambit of those obligations circumscribed by a union's duty of fair representation under the collective bargaining agreement." Condon v. Local 2944, United Steelworkers of Am., AFL-CIO, 683 F.2d 590, 595 (1st Cir. 1982); see also May v. Shuttle, Inc., 129 F.3d 165, 179 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (agreeing that "the federal duty of fair representation preempts identical state law claims"); Price, 2011 WL 2144564, at *4 n.3 ("identical state law claims based on the same conduct" are "preempted by the federal" duty of fair representation claim"). To the extent Hollie states claims other than a breach of the duty of fair representation, these claims will be dismissed.

III. HOLLIE'S CLAIM AGAINST THE UNION

A. Failure to Exhaust Internal ...


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