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MATOS v. KURZ-HASTINGS

December 14, 1988

CARLOS MATOS
v.
KURZ-HASTINGS, INC., et al



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRODERICK

 RAYMOND J. BRODERICK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 Plaintiff Carlos Matos was employed by defendant Kurz-Hastings, Inc. ("Kurz-Hastings") as a special coating machine operator from June, 1983 to June, 1987. Plaintiff was also a member of defendant Teamsters Local 115 ("Union") which was the collective bargaining representative of the production and maintenance workers at Kurz-Hastings' Philadelphia plant. On September 4, 1987, plaintiff Matos instituted an action against defendants Kurz-Hastings and Union pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). Plaintiff alleged that defendant Kurz-Hastings denied him employment opportunities to which he was entitled under a collective bargaining agreement and discharged him without just cause and that the defendant Union failed to process two labor grievances on his behalf. Plaintiff contended that in failing to process these grievances, defendant Union breached its duty of fair representation owed to the plaintiff and had intentionally caused plaintiff severe emotional distress.

 By Order dated June 16, 1988, plaintiff was granted leave to amend his Complaint. Inasmuch as the defendant Union had submitted plaintiff's grievances to arbitration after the filing of the original Complaint, plaintiff amended to allege that defendant Union had conducted the arbitration of plaintiff's grievances in an arbitrary, capricious, and bad faith manner. In addition, plaintiff alleged that the Union steward resolved grievances of Kurz-Hastings' employees from whom he received bribes through informal negotiations with Kurz-Hastings. Defendant Union has filed a motion for summary judgment as to both the § 301 cause of action and the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. For the reasons stated below, this Court will enter summary judgment in favor of both defendants as to the § 301 cause of action.

 I.

 Summary judgment is appropriately entered when the moving party demonstrates to the Court that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In determining whether the movant has met his burden, the Court is required to inquire "whether the evidence presents a significant disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2512, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986). Disposition by summary judgment, however, is inappropriate where the evidence in the record reveals a genuine issue as to a material fact. As stated by the Third Circuit in Ness v. Marshall :

 
Even if the preponderance of the evidence should appear to lie on the moving party's side, the court's function is not to decide issues of fact, but only to determine whether any issue of fact exists to be tried.

 660 F.2d 517, 519 (3d Cir. 1981).

 In moving for summary judgment, the moving party must identify for the trial court those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 2553 (1986). If the moving party meets this burden, the opposing party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to material facts" but, rather, must come forward with "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial". Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 106 S. Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538 (1986). In reaching its ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, Lang v. New York Life Ins. Co., 721 F.2d 118, 119 (3d Cir. 1983), and accept the non-movant's allegations as true and resolve any conflicts in his favor. White v. Westinghouse Elec. Co., 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988); Gans v. Mundy, 762 F.2d 338, 340 (3d Cir.) cert. denied, 474 U.S. 1010, 106 S. Ct. 537, 88 L. Ed. 2d 467 (1986).

 II.

 The material facts concerning which there is no genuine issue are as follows: Plaintiff was hired by Kurz-Hastings as a special coating operator in June, 1983. The special coating operator position is a highly skilled position involving the operation of two multi-head presses which apply specially formulated coatings to polyester film. Plaintiff worked a three-shift rotating schedule, alternating at two-week intervals between the three different shifts. Kurz-Hastings requires this rotation to insure that every operator be familiar with the research and development work of the company which is primarily performed during the first shift.

 In early April, 1987, plaintiff was granted a medical leave of absence for drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Following successive stays at a detoxification center and psychiatric hospital, plaintiff was discharged from care on May 15, 1987. Plaintiff's physician, by letter dated May 8, 1987, informed Kurz-Hastings that Mr. Matos feared that if he returned to work on rotating shifts, "his psychological health will be impaired and his recovery from substance abuse will be impinged upon" because he previously used amphetamines for a period of time "in order to stay awake because of inability to cope with or adapt to shift changes." The doctor recommended that plaintiff be "placed on one consistent shift over the next year until his circumstances can be re-evaluated."

 Subsequent to his release from the hospital, plaintiff telephoned Kurz-Hastings plant manager, Victor Frantz, and asked that he be permitted, upon his return, to work a steady shift job rather than a rotating shift job. Mr. Frantz informed plaintiff that he could not grant the request and advised him to speak to the Union. A Union official advised plaintiff that because no other jobs were available, he should return to his rotating shift job. Plaintiff took no other action with respect to returning to work for several weeks.

 On June 16, 1987, Kurz-Hastings sent a letter to plaintiff advising him: (1) that his request to work a straight shift job was denied; (2) that he should report back to work on June 22, 1987 on the third shift; and (3) that if he did not return to work, he would be terminated "for failure to return to work at the expiration date of your authorized leave of absence." Plaintiff did not return to work but, rather, on June 17, 1987, filed a grievance directly with Kurz-Hastings alleging that the company had violated Sections 6 and 12 of Article XVIII of the collective bargaining agreement. A copy of the grievance was submitted to the Union. Kurz-Hastings replied by letter dated June 25, 1987, stating that the grievance had to be submitted through the Union pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement. Kurz-Hastings further advised plaintiff that, consistent with its letter of June 16, the company considered that plaintiff had abandoned his position by failing to report to work on June 22, 1987. Despite the fact that Article XV, Section 1 of the collective bargaining agreement required the Union to make its demand for arbitration within eighteen days of the action complained of, the Union did not file a demand for arbitration for almost six months.

 Both before and after plaintiff was deemed to have abandoned his position, Kurz-Hastings accommodated the needs of other employees by either allowing them to remain on medical leave until they were medically able to return to their previous duties or by granting their request for changes in shift or job classification. Many of these accommodations by Kurz-Hastings for its employees resulted from the Union's active, informal negotiations with. The company, outside the parameters of the collective bargaining agreement. As plaintiff stated, "The Teamsters manifested an ability to extract, for certain employees, concessions from Kurz-Hastings which were not mandated by or even consistent with the contract." Plaintiff's Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, at 28. The employees who were accommodated by Kurz-Hastings as a result of the Union's intervention, had not opposed past Union practices or Union representatives. Plaintiff, for whom no accommodation was made by Kurz-Hastings and for whom the Union did not actively intervene, had, for a number of years, actively opposed Union personnel and proceedings.

 As previously stated, plaintiff filed the instant action on September 4, 1987. Three months later, the Union processed plaintiff's grievance and filed a demand for arbitration. Despite the fact that the grievance was untimely, Kurz-Hastings agreed to proceed to arbitration. A hearing was held before an arbitrator on February 3, 1988, at which plaintiff was represented by the Union. The Union introduced evidence of Kurz-Hastings' past practice concerning the accommodations of employees in situations roughly comparable to that of plaintiff. The arbtirator's decision, which followed a careful and accurate description of ...


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