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Bullock v. American Security Program, Inc.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

October 31, 2016



          JAMES E. BOASBERG, United States District Judge.

         George Burns once quipped that the secret to a good sermon involves having a good beginning and a good ending, and to have the two as close together as possible. Whether or not this is true of sermons, pro se Plaintiff Michael Bullock admittedly tests the limits of this axiom as applied to pleading a claim here. In his four-sentence Complaint, he asserts that his former employer, Defendant American Security Program, Inc., breached a settlement agreement with him and his union by failing to help him get a new job atone of its worksites. ASP now moves to dismiss his Complaint for failure to state a claim. As the Court concludes that Bullock's Opposition provides sufficient additional facts to state a plausible right to relief under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, it will deny the Motion.

         I. Background

         The Court, as it must at this stage, draws the facts from Plaintiffs one-paragraph Complaint and his Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss. See Brown v. Whole Foods Market Gr., Inc., 789 F.3d 146, 152 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (holding district court must consider all prose litigant's allegations when considering amotion to dismiss, including those found in plaintiff s opposition). Because Plaintiff also incorporates by reference several emails attached to his Opposition, the Court considers him to have pled the facts contained in those communications as well.

         Defendant American Security Programs employed Bullock as a security guard from August 24, 2010, to November 27, 2013. See ECF No. 8 (Opposition) at 1. In May 2013, Bullock worked at a site controlled by the Federal Protective Service. LI This position required a suitability determination, which is similar to a security clearance. Id., Exhs. 7, 9, 12. FPS, not the employer, issues such determinations after an investigation into an applicant's background. See ECF No. 8, Exh. 9 (Response to Level III Grievance) at 1.

         On May 9, 2013, ASP realized that Bullock did not actually possess an active suitability determination and consequently suspended his employment at the FPS site. See Resp. to Grievance at 2. Plaintiff filed a complaint challenging this suspension with his Union - the United Government Security Officers of America International Union - as required under a Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Union and ASP. See Opp. at 1. Pursuant to the CBA, the Union and ASP then negotiated Bullock's grievance through several stages of a mandatory process. See Opp., Exhs. 1-9, 12. At the third step in this process, ASP's Senior Vice President, Jeffrey Roehm, provided the Company's formal "response" to the grievance, explaining that ASP had submitted paperwork to FPS when Bullock came on board in 2011 to request that the agency recognize and apply his suitability determination from his previous employer. See Resp. to Grievance at 1. ASP's response further asserted, however, that on February 27, 2013, an internal audit revealed that FPS had never acted on that 2011 request, thus forcing the Company to renew its request to transfer Bullock's suitability determination. Li at 2. According to the Company, FPS responded three months later to this renewed request by stating that it had already found Bullock unsuitable two years prior, in March 2011, after unsuccessfully attempting to resolve several issues with him. Id. Based on these facts, ASP claimed in its response letter that it had no choice but to suspend Bullock until he could obtain the requisite suitability determination. Id.

         This same letter also contained ASP's proposed resolution to Bullock's grievance, laid out in three commitments. LI at 4. The Company first articulated that it "want[ed] to help him have an opportunity to resolve his 'issues' with FPS, and help to put him back to work as soon as possible." Id. ASP, however, also "reiterate[ed]" that the suitability determination "is between himself and FPS, " and thus the Company could only help him resubmit paperwork for the government's ultimate processing and determination. LI ASP next promised that "[i]f and when Mr. Bullock receives his favorable suitability from FPS, ASP will make every effort to find him suitable employment on an ASP /FPS contract." Id. Finally, the Company asserted that its "offer still stands to work with Mr. Bullock to try to find him work on a non-FPS site during the interim period." Id.

         Neither the Union nor the Company subsequently escalated the grievance to the fourth stage of the CB A process - z'.e., referral for binding arbitration. See Opp, Exh. 12 at 1. Bullock instead proceeded to interview for a non-FPS worksite in Maryland on September 25, 2013. See Opp. at 2. The very same day, the Union emailed Roehm to affirm that Bullock had agreed to pick an available non-FPS location to work at until such time as his "suitability comes back." Opp., Exh. 12 at 1. The Union's email further noted that ASP had agreed to change his "termination status" to "transfer/pending status" until FPS made the new determination. LI Three hours later, Roehm responded to this email and agreed to the Union's terms with "one qualification: Mr. Bullock must choose a site to work, and begin to work, within the next 30- days or we will not carry him any longer as a[n] active employee. If his suitability were to be approved after he is removed from the company roles [sic], and he wishes to again be employed by ASP, he would have to reapply for employment." Id.

         Over the next two weeks, Bullock completed the required training for an available non-FPS post with the Company. See Opp. at 2; LI, Exhs. 11, 13. He could not, however, reach either Roehm or the ASP manager of that worksite, as they were out on vacations, to confirm his assumption of this position. See Opp. at 2. On November 26, 2013, he also learned that ASP had not returned a form to the State of Maryland for his handgun permit, which he also needed to obtain for the new position. See Opp., Exh. 14. Maryland thus denied him the permit. Id. The pleadings do not indicate what happened thereafter, although Bullock says he continued to be unemployed. See Opp. at 4. The Court thus infers that he was terminated and never reinstated to a new worksite by ASP.

         On July 22, 2016, nearly three years later, Bullock filed this pro se action in the District of Columbia Superior Court alleging a breach-of-contract claim. See ECF No. 1-1 (Complaint).

         His Complaint in its entirety reads:

As an employee of ASP working on a FPS government site, I was removed from the worksite because of my clearance. There was an agreement between myself, ASP and my union, UGSOA, to have me transferred to a non-FPS government site. This agreement was agreed upon in November 2013. ASP never held up to their side of agreement.

Id. Having removed the case to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction, ASP now moves to dismiss the Complaint in its entirety. See ECF No. 5 (Motion to Dismiss).

         II. ...

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