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Johnson v. Local Lodge 1759

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 12, 2019

EDWARD JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
LOCAL LODGE 1759, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MACHINISTS AND AEROSPACE WORKERS, AFL-CIO, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          TREVOR N. MCFADDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This suit arises from Allied Aviation Services' (“Allied”) termination and reinstatement of Plaintiff Edward Johnson. Mr. Johnson alleges that his union, Defendant Local Lodge 1759 (“Local Lodge”), breached its duty of fair representation. Local Lodge moved for summary judgment. The Court twice advised Mr. Johnson to respond to Local Lodge's motion or the Court would proceed without his opposition. Mr. Johnson never responded. The Court now considers Local Lodge's motion without opposition from Mr. Johnson. For the reasons below, the Court will grant summary judgment to Local Lodge.

         I.

         Mr. Johnson worked for Allied as a Tank Farm Operator at Reagan National Airport. Statement of Undisputed Material Fact (“SUMF”) ¶¶ 1-3, ECF No. 48-6.[1] He was responsible for monitoring fuel levels and fueling aircraft. Id. ¶ 3.

         Local Lodge represents the fueling operations employees at Allied for collective-bargaining purposes. Id. ¶ 4.[2] The collective bargaining agreement between Allied and the union covered the terms of Mr. Johnson's employment. Id. ¶ 6. Allied also maintained an “Hourly Employee Handbook” that governed bargaining-unit employees, which included a “Code of Conduct” for Allied employees. Id. ¶¶ 9-11. Mr. Johnson received and acknowledged the handbook. Id. ¶¶ 9, 12.

         Even so, Mr. Johnson had several conduct violations, including fueling delays, misconduct, insubordination, and violations of safety or operating rules. Id. ¶ 13. Then in March 2016, Mr. Johnson fell asleep on the job. Id. ¶¶ 14-16. While he was sleeping, the fuel tank he was responsible for monitoring depleted, triggering an alarm. Id. ¶ 15. But Mr. Johnson slept through the alarm, causing a temporary shutdown of Reagan National's fueling system. See id.; McCulloch Decl. Ex. E, ECF No. 48-5 at 5. Allied's Operations Manager, Michael Baylor, found Mr. Johnson asleep in his chair and immediately suspended him. SUMF ¶¶ 14, 16-17. Allied then set an investigation hearing for the next week. Id. ¶ 17.

         Mr. Johnson attended the hearing and presented a letter from his doctor. Id. ¶¶ 18-19. The letter acknowledged that Mr. Johnson had fallen asleep at work. Id. ¶ 19; Grunert Decl. Ex. H, ECF No. 48-3 at 30. The hearing officers found Mr. Johnson guilty of “Sleeping on the Job/Failure to respond to Alarm.” SUMF ¶ 20. “Sleeping on the job” is a terminable offense under Allied's employee Code of Conduct, see Id. ¶ 10, and Allied thus terminated Mr. Johnson, id. ¶ 20.

         Under the collective bargaining agreement, any aggrieved employee must present a grievance in writing within ten business days of knowledge of the grievance or complaint. Id. ¶ 8. Mr. Johnson did not do so. Id. ¶ 21. Tim McCulloch, the union's General Chairperson, was responsible for representation at Allied, including representing employees in the contractual grievance process. Id. ¶ 5. Mr. McCulloch learned about Mr. Johnson's termination after the ten-day timeframe. Id. ¶¶ 21, 23. Even so, Mr. McCulloch began working to have Mr. Johnson reinstated. See Id. ¶¶ 21-29.

         Mr. McCulloch obtained and reviewed a copy of Mr. Johnson's personnel and discipline files. Id. ¶ 24. Based on that review, he determined that a negotiated solution with Allied was the best option since Mr. Johnson had not filed a grievance. McCulloch Decl. ¶ 11, ECF No. 48-4. So from April to June 2016, he negotiated with Allied to have Mr. Johnson reinstated. SUMF ¶¶ 25-29. Mr. McCulloch explained that Mr. Johnson was having personal difficulties and requested that Allied give him a second chance. Id. ¶ 26.

         Allied, however, upheld Mr. Johnson's termination. See Id. ¶ 27. Yet Mr. McCulloch persisted. In June 2016, he urged Allied that “[e]veryone in life deserves a second chance, ” and even offered to meet with Allied's General Manager to discuss Mr. Johnson's situation. Id. ¶ 29.

         Allied eventually relented, agreeing to reinstate Mr. Johnson. See Id. ¶¶ 30-31. But Allied maintained that the termination was justified and offered to reinstate Mr. Johnson only under certain conditions. Id. For example, Mr. Johnson agreed that Allied would reduce his termination to a “Commitment Letter and upon [Mr. Johnson's] return, a hearing, pursuant to the CBA, w[ould] be held to formalize the action.” Id. Mr. Johnson also agreed to have his time off considered “a disciplinary suspension without backpay.” Id. Finally, the agreement established that Mr. Johnson's reinstatement was “conditional and predicated on his good faith efforts to establish himself as a productive and accountable employee.” See Grunert Decl. Ex. I, ECF No. 48-3 at 31.

         Mr. Johnson returned to work in July 2016. SUMF ¶ 36. As required by the reinstatement agreement, Mr. Johnson signed a “Letter of Commitment” when he returned. Id. ¶ 37. The Letter of Commitment stated in part, “I understand that if I do not correct my performance problem, I will be discharged without further warning.” Id. ¶ 38.

         Mr. Johnson claims that Local Lodge breached its duty of fair representation for his termination and reinstatement.[3] He complains that he “had no representation in [his] initial hearing, ” “correct papers were not filed for an appeal hearing, ” and he did ...


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