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EEOC v. HALLS MOTOR TRANSIT CO.

May 29, 1985

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
v.
HALLS MOTOR TRANSIT COMPANY and GENERAL TEAMSTERS CHAUFFEURS, WAREHOUSEMEN AND HELPERS LOCAL UNION 261, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: COHILL

 This matter is presently before us on Defendant's motion for summary judgment. The Plaintiff, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") brought this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (1976), alleging discriminatory treatment on account of race by Defendant Hall's Motor Transit Co. ("Hall's") against its former employee, Burke O. Smith. The EEOC joined Local Union No. 261 of the General Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen, and Helpers as an interested party pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(a)(2). The parties have entered into a stipulation of certain facts for purposes of this motion. Because we find that there are no genuine issues of material fact, and because we believe Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, we will grant Defendant Hall's motion for summary judgment.

 Facts

 Defendant Hall's is a common carrier of freight by truck and provides pick-up and delivery services of general and special commodities in the eastern portion of the United States. (Stip. at 1). Hall's operates a number of trucking terminals within its system, including one in West Middlesex, Pennsylvania. Id. Burke Smith, the individual on whose behalf the EEOC has brought this action, was a road driver operating out of the West Middlesex terminal, and was terminated on January 27, 1982 for failure to report an accident. Id. at 2.

 Hall's and Teamsters Local Union No. 261 (the "Union"), Smith's collective bargaining representative, were parties to the National Master Freight Agreement and Teamsters Joint Council No. 40 Supplemental Agreement ("NMFA") from the period of April, 1979 through March 31, 1982. Id. Article 16, section 3 of the NMFA provides, in part, that "Any employee involved in any accident shall immediately report said accident." Id. at 3. Article 47 of the NMFA provides that failure to report an accident is grounds for discharge. Id.

 Hall's distributed to all drivers a manual stating, under the heading "Instructions to Drivers in the Event of an Accident," that drivers, after obtaining certain necessary information after an accident, must immediately call Hall's Central Dispatch, located at the Mechanicsburg, Pa. office. Id. Smith was aware of the requirement that he was to report any accident "as soon as it happened" and had followed the procedures described in the drivers' manual after other accidents in which he had been involved. Id.

 The parties have stipulated that Smith had an accident on November 24, 1981, but failed to report the accident to the company on that date, although he spoke on the telephone with both Central Dispatch and the West Middlesex Terminal. Id. Smith did not file an accident report when he stopped at Hall's Wheeling West Virginia terminal on November 24, 1981, nor did he file a report on November 25, 1981 when he stopped at the West Middlesex terminal. Id. November 25 and 26 were holidays under Article 52 of the NMFA. Id. at 3-4. Burke Smith was off the seniority board from 11:00 November 27, 1981 through January 27, 1982. Id. at 4.

 Smith entered the hospital on November 27, 1981 and remained in the hospital for approximately ten days. Smith Dep. at 70-71.

 Hall's first learned of the accident when a customer in West Virginia telephoned the Company in January, 1982, to report that one of Hall's drivers had damaged a car of one of its employees in November, 1981. Stip. at 2. The customer advised Hall's that, at the time of the accident, Hall's employee had stated that he would report the accident; the customer informed Hall's that no payment for damages had yet been received. Id.

 When Hall's Terminal Manager, Leslie Lenhart, received the unit number of the truck involved in the accident, he checked with Hall's Safety Department to check if an accident involving that unit had been reported. (Lenhart Dep. at 61). After being told that the Safety Department had no such report, and after checking Smith's files to see if they contained a report of the accident, Lenhart sent Smith a mailgram on January 27, 1982, informing him of his termination for failure to report an accident. Id. A letter sent by Lenhart to Smith on February 1, 1982 confirmed the termination. The letter also stated, "Subsequent to that mailgram you called me and did confirm verbally that you, in fact, did have an accident in Terra Alta, West Virginia on November 24, 1981, at the Clem Teets Oil Company." Defendants' Memorandum in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment, Ex. B.

 Pursuant to the NMFA Agreement, Article 46, § 1, employees who are disciplined or discharged are entitled to grieve their discipline to a grievance committee. Stip. at 4. Under the Agreement, the employee reports the grievance to the shop steward or Committeeman in writing. These officials attempt to adjust the grievance within 48 hours. If the matter is not resolved, the Union then files the grievance with the Western Pennsylvania Teamsters and Employers Joint Area Committee ("JAC"). See NMFA, Art. 46, § 1(a)-(c). The JAC is composed of an impartial panel of six persons, consisting of equal numbers of "employer" and "union" representatives. No representative of the employer or the union involved in the grievance is permitted to be a member of the JAC panel hearing the grievance of one of its employees or members. "Employer" representatives, for example, are terminal managers or labor relations representatives from employers other than the employer involved in the grievance.

 Section 1(c) of Article 46 provides, in part, that "Where the Joint Area Committee, by a majority vote, settles a dispute, no appeal may be taken. Such a decision will be final and binding on both parties with no further appeal. Id., Art. 46, § 1(c) (emphasis added). Further appeal is only permitted in cases where the Western Pennsylvania JAC is deadlocked. Id. § 1(d).

 When the grievance was not resolved informally, the Union filed a complaint with the JAC, on Mr. Smith's behalf, alleging that Mr. Smith's discharge was unfair and too severe a penalty. Stip. at 5. Mr. Smith was represented at the hearing by James Lundy, Business Agent for the Union, and Lewis Caccia, the union steward. Mr. Smith was given the opportunity to present testimony and to make additional arguments himself. Id. Mr. Smith did not allege, and no argument was made before the JAC that Hall's had discriminated against him on the basis of race. Smith Dep., at 99.

 The decision of the JAC, issued on February 10, 1982, states that "Based on the facts presented, the Company had just cause for discharge. The claim of the Union is denied." Defendant's Memorandum in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment, Ex. E.

 After the JAC decision, Smith filed separate charges with the EEOC charging both the Union and Hall's with racial discrimination. While the EEOC complaint joined the Union as an interested party pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(a)(2), the EEOC pretrial statement states, "The EEOC made a determination that the union did not discriminate against Smith because of his race/black with regards (sic) to his termination." Plaintiff's Pretrial Statement, at 6.

 The Present Action

 The Complaint in this case alleges that

 
The effect of the practices, policies, and systems complained of in Paragraph 7 have been to deprive Burke O. Smith herein involved of equal employment opportunities and to otherwise adversely affect his status as employee because of his race in violation of Title VII.

 Complaint, paras. 8, 9.

 Positions of the Parties

 The EEOC, in issuing a determination of reasonable cause to believe racial discrimination had occurred, states, in part,

 
The Charging Party alleged that Respondent discriminated against him because of his race, black by discharging him and subsequently denying him reinstatement. Examination of the evidence shows the following facts which indicate that there is reasonable cause to believe that the allegation as stated by the Charging Party is true:
 
the evidence presented clearly shows that whites guilty of the same work rule violation as the Charging Party, were reinstated to employment while the Charging Party was not. Even though a grievance committee made the decision not to reinstate the Charging Party, when one examines the make up of that committee and its purposes, then the company is considered a liable party to decisions rendered by that committee. The company should not blindly follow the recommendation of the company, (sic) especially since the disparity was brought to its attention.

 EEOC Determination, Defendants' Memorandum, Ex. F-1.

 The EEOC, in its "Determination on Reconsideration," ...


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