United States District Court, D. Columbia.
For Derrick Carrington, Plaintiff: Donna M. B. King, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICES OF DONNA M B KING, Towson, MD SA.
For United States of America, Defendant: Courtney Sheehan McNamara, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, DC USA; Mitchell P. Zeff, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC USA.
For National Association of Letter Carriers, Afl-Cio, Capitol Branch #142, Defendant: Victoria Louise Bor, SHERMAN, DUNN, COHEN, LEIFER & YELLIG P.C., Washington, DCUSA.
ELLEN SEGAL HUVELLE, United States District Judge.
Plaintiff Derrick Carrington brings this hybrid breach of contract and duty of fair representation action against his former employer, the United States Postal Service (" USPS" ), and his former union, the National Association of Letter Carriers, AFL-CIO (" Union" ), pursuant to section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (" LMRA" ). Plaintiff was employed by the USPS from February 4, 2006, until his termination on January 2, 2010. Plaintiff alleges that the USPS breached the Collective Bargaining Agreement and that the Union failed to fairly represent him in two grievance proceedings related to his termination. Before the Court are defendants' motions for summary judgment. (Def. Nat'l Ass'n of Letter Carriers Mot. for Summ. J. (" Union Mot." ), March 3, 2014 [Dkt. No. 29-2]; Def. United States of America's Mot. for Summ. J. (" USPS Mot." ), March 5, 2014 [Dkt. No. 30].) For the following reasons, the Court will grant both motions.
Plaintiff began his employment with the USPS on February 4, 2006. (USPS Statement of Facts (" USPS SOF" ) [Dkt. No. 30] ¶ 1.) In September 2008, the USPS suspended plaintiff from work for fourteen days for irregular attendance. ( Id. ¶ 2.) Between August 20 and November 6, 2009, plaintiff had fourteen unscheduled absences, thirteen of which were without leave. (Notice of Removal, Dec. 2, 2009 [Dkt. No. 30-1 Ex. 2] at 1; see also Dep. of Derrick Carrington, Dec. 23, 2013 [Dkt. No. 30-1 Ex. 17] at 31.) During a November 16, 2009 pre-disciplinary interview, a manager questioned plaintiff about his unscheduled absences. Plaintiff responded that " [d]uring that time, [he] was relieving stress from this station, so [he] did not report to work." (Notice of Removal at 2; see USPS SOF ¶ ¶ 5-6.) The USPS considered plaintiff's stated reason for his poor attendance " unacceptable," and on December 2, 2009, it issued a Notice of
Removal. (USPS SOF ¶ 9; see Notice of Removal at 1.)
Because plaintiff was not at work the day the USPS issued his Notice of Removal, the USPS mailed the Notice to the two addresses it had on file for plaintiff. (USPS SOF ¶ ¶ 10, 13-16.) On December 3, 2009, the Notice was successfully delivered via certified and delivery confirmation mail to an out-of-date address in Northwest Washington, D.C. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 17-19; Pl.'s Statement of Facts (" Pl.'s SOF" ) [Dkt. No. 32-1] ¶ 17.) The next day, the Notice was successfully delivered via delivery confirmation mail to plaintiff's address of record in Northeast Washington, D.C. Although that address was up-to-date, the attempted delivery via certified mail -- requiring a signature -- was unsuccessful. (USPS SOF ¶ 20; Pl.'s SOF ¶ 1.) According to Kachisa McCall, plaintiff's live-in fiancé at the time, a copy of the Notice was not received at their address. ( See Decl. of Kachisa McCall, April 2, 2014 [Dkt. No. 32-4] ¶ 5.)
On December 1, 2009 -- a day before the USPS issued the Notice of Removal -- plaintiff went missing. Plaintiff cannot recall where he was from that time until December 17, 2009, when he voluntarily checked into a psychiatric hospital to seek treatment for depression. (Pl.'s SOF ¶ ¶ 23-24.) Ms. McCall was also unaware of plaintiff's whereabouts during that time period. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 3-4.) On the same day plaintiff checked into the hospital, Ms. McCall received at their address a letter from the USPS notifying plaintiff of a pre-disciplinary interview scheduled for December 24, 2009. ( Id. ¶ 5.) At some point in the next two days, Ms. McCall contacted plaintiff's supervisor about the letter, at which point she learned that the USPS planned to terminate plaintiff's employment. (McCall Decl. ¶ 7.) Ms. McCall told plaintiff's supervisor that plaintiff was submitting a grievance and then contacted a Union representative. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 7-8.) On December 18, 2009, Ms. McCall forwarded medical documentation regarding plaintiff's psychiatric treatment to the USPS and the Union. ( Id. ¶ 10.)
Plaintiff was discharged from psychiatric care on December 22, 2009, at which point he took over communications with the USPS and the Union regarding his removal. (Pl.'s SOF ¶ 11; see USPS SOF ¶ 23.) The Union initiated an Informal Step A grievance (the " removal grievance" ) with the USPS on December 29, 2009. (USPS SOF ¶ 26.)
Article 15.2 Informal Step A(a) of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (" CBA" ) between the USPS and the Union provides that:
Any employee who feels aggrieved must discuss the grievance with the employee's immediate supervisor within fourteen (14) days of the date on which the employee or the Union first learned or may reasonably have been expected to have learned of its cause. This constitutes the Informal Step A filing date. . . . The Union also may initiate a grievance at Informal Step A within 14 days of the date the Union first became aware of (or reasonably should have become aware of) the facts giving rise to the grievance.
CBA [Dkt. No. 29-4 Ex. A] Art. 15.2 Informal Step A(a).) The USPS denied the Informal Step A grievance as untimely under Article 15.2 because the grievance was not initiated within fourteen days of the delivery of the Notice of ...