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Clark-Williams v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 25, 2017

ISHMAEL CLARK-WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY and AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION LOCAL 689, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RANDOLPH D. MOSS United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Ishmael Clark-Williams lost his job as a bus driver for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“WMATA”). He filed a grievance with his union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 (“Local 689”), which negotiated a Settlement Agreement with WMATA on his behalf. The Settlement Agreement provided that Clark-Williams would be reinstated-but only if he passed a background check under WMATA's new Background Screening Policy. Clark-Williams informed Local 689 that he had an existing criminal record (which he had previously disclosed), but a union official allegedly assured him that it would not pose a problem. It did pose a problem. WMATA determined that Clark-Williams's criminal history rendered him ineligible, and, on that basis, it declined to reinstate him. Local 689 then challenged that finding in arbitration. The Board of Arbitration, however, sided with WMATA, concluding that it had properly applied the Background Screening Policy and had not breached the Settlement Agreement. Clark-Williams was not reinstated.

         Clark-Williams then brought this lawsuit against both WMATA and Local 689 (collectively, “Defendants”). He alleges that WMATA breached the terms of its collective bargaining agreement with Local 689 and that Local 689 breached its duty to provide Clark-Williams with fair representation. All three parties have now moved for summary judgment. Because Clark-Williams has failed to identify any factual basis to suggest that WMATA breached the collective bargaining agreement, and because such a breach is an essential element of his claims against both WMATA and Local 689, the Court will grant Defendants' motions, deny Clark-Williams's motion, and enter judgment for Defendants.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) Between Local 689 and WMATA

         Local 689 is a labor union “organized for the purpose of collective bargaining with WMATA.” Dkt. 30 at 3. Its relationship with WMATA is governed by a “collective bargaining agreement, ” or “CBA.” The CBA appears to set forth procedures by which WMATA employees can file grievances with Local 689, and through which Local 689 can pursue those grievances on those employees' behalf. See Dkt. 30-4 at 3 (CBA table of contents). The full text of the CBA, however, is not before the Court. The parties have provided only the table of contents and the first two pages, [1] see Dkt. 30-4 at 3-12; Dkt. 31-1 at 79-81, and those pages contain only a single relevant provision. That provision is CBA section 102(b), and it states in relevant part:

[Local 689] acknowledges that all matters pertaining to the management of operations, including . . . the hiring and establishment of standards for selection and qualification of employees, . . . and the development and enforcement of reasonable rules and regulations regarding employment are the prerogatives of [WMATA] and are reserved by [WMMATA] unless expressly waived by specific provisions of this agreement, or by the past practices of the parties.

Dkt. 30-4 at 11-12; accord Dkt. 31-1 at 81.

         B. The Settlement Agreement and the Background Screening Policy

         Clark-Williams worked as a bus driver for WMATA starting in September 2007. Dkt. 30 at 3. At the time he was hired, he disclosed that he was on probation, having pleaded guilty to criminal conduct in New Jersey. Id. Clark-Williams allegedly served the next three and a half years without incident, “other than minor customer complaints” and “one violation of the anti-violence workplace policy.” Dkt. 1-3 at 2 (Compl. ¶ 6). On February 4, 2011, however, WMATA terminated Clark-Williams for “violations of . . . the WMATA Employee Handbook, ” Dkt. 30 at 4, apparently on the ground that he had allegedly accepted workers' compensation payments to which he was not entitled, see Dkt. 34-3 at 4.

         Local 689 protested Clark-Williams's discharge on his behalf, and, in May 2012, reached a Settlement Agreement with WMATA. Id.; see Dkt. 34-4 at 2-4. That Agreement provided that WMATA would reinstate Clark-Williams, subject to certain conditions. Dkt. 30 at 4. One of those conditions was Clark-Williams's successful completion of background screening pursuant to WMATA's Background Screen Policy/Instruction 7.40/0 (“the Background Screening Policy”). Id. Specifically, the Settlement Agreement provided that:

The Grievant [Clark-Williams] will undergo background screening pursuant to P/I 7.40/0, and his/her reinstatement will be contingent upon his/her meeting the standards set forth in this policy and appendices.

Dkt. 34-4 at 2. The Settlement Agreement was signed by a representative from WMATA and by Anthony Garland, the shop steward for Local 689 at the time. Id. at 4.

         The Background Screening Policy (to which the Settlement Agreement referred) had become effective five months earlier on December 22, 2011. Dkt. 34-2 at 2. It provided in relevant part:

3.00 DEFINITIONS . . .
3.02 Background Screening is defined as the process for authenticating and verifying the information supplied to [WMATA] and is used to determine eligibility for employment or transfer to another position based on the duties of the position. The components of a screening include: . . .
(c) Criminal Convictions. A national search of criminal history. . . .
3.03 Candidate is defined as either external or internal as follows:
(a) External Candidate is an external applicant who is under consideration for employment and who has authorized [WMATA] to perform the required screenings. For the purposes of this policy, returning employees who are under consideration for reinstatement are considered external candidates. . . .
3.05 Criminal Conviction is defined as a criminal prosecution which concludes in a judgment of guilty, including a plea of guilty, no contest, or probation before judgment . . . .
5.00 PROCEDURES
5.01 External Candidates
(a) External candidates will undergo a screening to determine eligibility for employment based on the requirements of the position in accordance with Section 3.02 of this policy.
(b) External candidates, who are returning employees, are required to complete and submit an application for employment and authorize [WMATA] to conduct the required screenings. . . .
(c) Any criminal convictions and other relevant negative information will be evaluated to determine eligibility in accordance with App ...

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