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Williams v. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 29, 2017

ROGER WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION LOCAL 689, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          TANYA S. CHUTKAN United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Roger Williams is a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“WMATA”) bus operator and a member of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 (“Union”). WMATA and the Union are parties to a Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”), and Plaintiff alleges that WMATA violated the terms of the CBA when it accused him of violating its periodic drug testing guidelines and subsequently suspended him. He further alleges that the Union breached its duty of fair representation by failing to take the matter to arbitration and instead entering into a settlement agreement without his knowledge and without an investigation. WMATA and the Union have moved for dismissal of Plaintiff's lawsuit. For the reasons set forth below, the court will GRANT both motions.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a WMATA bus driver who, on March 15, 2013, received a letter from WMATA scheduling a Department of Transportation (“DOT”) required medical examination for March 18, 2013. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 17-19). Plaintiff appeared for the examination and, prior to leaving, received WMATA documents indicating that his “evaluation [wa]s complete” and that he was approved for return to duty without restrictions. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 21-23; Pls. Resp. to Union Mot. at Ex. A.). After leaving the medical examination, however, he received a telephone call from one of the staff members at the medical facility informing him he needed to return to finish a urine drug test. (Union Ex. 1). Approximately five minutes later, Plaintiff received another telephone call from the medical facility informing him that everything was fine and there was no need for him return. (Id.)

         The following day, March 19, 2013, WMATA issued a Memorandum to the Plaintiff telling him that he was being suspended without pay for 180 days because he violated “WMATA Policy/Instruction: P/17.21/4.17(B) Refusal to Test, ” by failing to “[r]emain at the testing site until the [drug] testing process [w]as completed.” (Pls. Resp. to Union Mot. at Ex. B). As a result of this alleged failure, Plaintiff was suspended and WMATA required that he enroll in the Employee Assistance Program (“EAP”) or face discharge. (Id.; Am. Compl. ¶¶ 25, 27).

         Plaintiff enrolled in the EAP, which required that he attend substance abuse education twice a week and submit to periodic drug testing. (Id. ¶¶ 30-32). He attended the education programs, passed all of his fourteen drug tests, and returned to work sometime after July 31, 2013. (Id. ¶¶ 33-36).

         Around the time he enrolled in the EAP, Plaintiff filed a grievance over the suspension based on WMATA's finding that he had refused to comply with the drug testing policy. (Union Ex. 1). The Union did not communicate with Plaintiff about the grievance until approximately one year later, on March 13, 2014, when he was notified that the grievance had been settled, but was not told the terms of the settlement. (Pls. Resp. to Union Mot. at Ex. D., Williams Decl.; Am. Compl. ¶ 41). Plaintiff advised the Union that anything less than exoneration was unacceptable. (Pls. Resp. to Union Mot. at Ex. D., Williams Decl.). Nonetheless, WMATA subsequently deposited the settlement proceeds ($8, 434.11) in his bank account. (Id.; Am. Compl. ¶¶ 44-45).

         On July 28, 2014, Plaintiff's attorney sent a letter to WMATA contesting the suspension and rejecting the settlement. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 48-51). Included with the letter was a cashier's check in the amount of the settlement. (Id.) A WMATA representative signed for the letter on July 30, 2014. (Id. ¶ 52). The check was never returned to Plaintiff and the Union failed to respond to his “numerous inquiries” about his rejection of the settlement. (Id. ¶¶ 53-54). The parties do not indicate whether WMATA endorsed the check.

         More than six months later, on March 16, 2015, Plaintiff filed a complaint against WMATA and the Union in District of Columbia Superior Court, asserting claims for negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, conspiracy, and negligent supervision and training. (ECF No. 1at ECF pp. 3-15). The Defendants removed the action to this court and Plaintiff subsequently obtained leave to amend his complaint. In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff raises twelve claims, which he appears to assert pursuant to state law.[1] The Union seeks dismissal of this action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and WMATA seeks dismissal pursuant to both 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(1).[2]

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim “tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint.” Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). In most instances, when deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court may “consider only the facts alleged in the complaint, any documents either attached to or incorporated in the complaint and matters of which [the Court] may take judicial notice.” EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C. Cir. 1997). Additionally, “the Court may consider documents specifically referenced in the complaint where the authenticity of the document is not questioned.” United Mine Workers of Am., Int'l Union v. Dye, No. CIV.A. 06-1053(JDB), 2006 WL 2460717, at *6 (D.D.C. Aug. 23, 2006); see also N.Y. State Bar Ass'n v. FTC, 276 F.Supp.2d 110, 114 n.6 (D.D.C. 2003) (noting that “a document is not ‘outside' the complaint if the complaint specifically refers to the document and if its authenticity is not questioned”) (quoting Cooper v. Pickett, 137 F.3d 616, 622-23 (9th Cir. 1997)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Hybrid Section 301 Claims & Preemption

         Although Plaintiff does not explicitly assert a federal hybrid Section 301/fair representation claim, the court construes his complaint as alleging such because he charges WMATA “with breach of the collective bargaining agreement and charges the union with breaching its statutory duty of fair representation.” See Simmons v. Howard Univ., 157 F.3d 914, 916 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (citing DelCostello v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 165 (1983)). If a plaintiff brings such a claim along with state law claims based on similar conduct, the court must examine whether the state law claims are preempted by the hybrid Section 301 claim. See Brown v. Gino Morena Enters., 44 F.Supp.2d 41, 50 (D.D.C. 1999) (“[T]he Court must first determine whether plaintiffs [state law claims] are indeed pendent claims or whether they are preempted by § 301.”) (citing Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 405-06 (1988)); see May v. Shuttle, Inc., 129 F.3d 165, 179 (D.C. Cir. 1997). As a court in this district has noted:

A plaintiff . . . cannot wiggle out from under the shadow of the [federal labor law statute] through clever pleading-for example, by framing a claim as a breach of contract rather than an unfair labor practice. “Pre-emption is designed to shield the system from conflicting regulation of conduct It is the conduct being regulated, not the formal description of governing legal standards, that is the proper focus.”

Jackson v. Teamsters Local Union 922, 991 F.Supp.2d 71, 78 (D.D.C. 2014) (emphasis in original) (citations and alterations omitted).

         1. Preempted Claims Asserted Against WMATA

         Plaintiffs claims against WMATA include

. breach of contract (e.g., WMATA breached the CBA by lodging unfounded allegations against Plaintiff and disciplining him; WMATA entered into a settlement agreement even though it knew the refusal to test allegation was false) (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 77-78);
. wrongful suspension (e.g., WMATA suspended Plaintiff even though he had fully complied with the WMATA DOT physical examination requirements) (Id. ¶ 88)
. negligence (e.g., WMATA failed to employ necessary and reasonable measures when it made a notation on the EAP form that he had refused to test; WMATA carelessly and recklessly suspended Plaintiff even though he fully complied with the WMATA DOT physical examination requirements) (Id. ¶¶ 108, 110);
. fraudulent concealment (e.g., WMATA and the Union fraudulently concealed non-action on the plaintiffs request to reject the Settlement ...

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