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DURRETTE v. UGI CORP.

November 5, 1987

James Durrette, Plaintiff
v.
UGI Corporation, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CONABOY

 Richard P. Conaboy, United States District Judge

 Procedural History

 Plaintiff, James Durrette, initiated this action by filing a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, on July 10, 1987. The complaint was served on the Defendant, UGI, on July 17, 1987. On August 14, 1987, the Defendant petitioned to remove this case to federal court on the ground that Plaintiff's claims are governed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Defendant, Plaintiff's former employer, and the Utility Workers of America, Local 262, Plaintiff's union. Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act gives federal court subject matter jurisdiction over claims governed by collective bargaining agreements.

 On August 21, 1987, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the Plaintiff's complaint. Plaintiff filed a brief in opposition to the Defendant's motion, and Defendant filed a reply brief on October 22, 1987. For the reasons that follow, we will grant the Defendant's motion to dismiss this complaint and order that the Clerk of Courts close this case.

 Facts

 Plaintiff was an employee of the Defendant at its Kingston, Pennsylvania facility from approximately 1980 to his termination on August 14, 1986. During that time, the Plaintiff performed various duties as a custodial worker and coal handler, and most recently, as a mechanic. Plaintiff states that on July 31, 1986 he was injured at work when he attempted to lift a trap door from a scale. Plaintiff claims that agents of the Defendant interfered with his attempt to arrange and keep a medical appointment in the days following his injury. Moreover, the Defendant allegedly demanded that Plaintiff sign a document related to previous unexcused absences from employment. Plaintiff argues that these demands were calculated to chill the Plaintiff's attempt to seek medical attention for his injuries as well as convey to the Plaintiff that his job was in jeopardy for any future absences which the company deem meritless. It appears that the Plaintiff refused to sign the company documents. As a result, the Defendant, on August 14, 1986, terminated the Plaintiff's employment on the grounds of insubordination.

 Plaintiff currently avers that the Defendant used this "signing requirement" only to create a false controversy so that Defendant could terminate the Plaintiff's employment.

 Plaintiff maintains that he was wrongfully discharged contrary to the public policy of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; that the Defendant acted with specific intent to harm him; that the Defendant slandered him; and that they inflicted emotional distress upon him.

 Defendant argues in its motion to dismiss that the Plaintiff's claims are governed by the terms of the collective bargaining agreement and are preempted by federal law -- specifically, Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act. The Defendant further indicates that even were we to recharacterize Plaintiff's claims as brought under Section 301 of the Labor Management and Relations Act, we would nevertheless be required to dismiss this case because plaintiff does not aver that the union failed to properly prosecute his grievance.

 This case turns on the question of whether the Plaintiff has raised state law claims sufficiently distinct from the collective bargaining agreement so that those claims would not be preempted by Sections 301 of the Labor Management and Relations Act (codified at 29 U.S.C. ยง 185). The Defendant argues in its motion to dismiss that although the Plaintiff attempts to aver state tort law causes of action for wrongful discharge, slander, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, in reality Plaintiff's claims are governed by the collective bargaining agreement between the Defendant and the Plaintiff's union. Defendant argues that the determination of whether the Plaintiff's termination was wrongful or unjust would necessarily require an interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement. Defendant states:

 
The gist of Plaintiff's complaint is a claim for relief due to UGI allegedly tortious behavior in accusing Plaintiff of too many unexcused absences and in creating "controversy and confrontations with the Plaintiff as a contrived justification to terminate" his employment by requiring him to sign certain documents. Complaint, para. 8. Clearly, the signing requirement, the number of unexcused absences permitted, and the whole question of whether Plaintiff was wrongfully discharged, are all issues that must be examined through an interpretation of the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. Furthermore, and in addition to Plaintiff's "violation of public policy" contentions in Count I, Plaintiff's allegations as to Counts ...

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