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Pennsylvania Federation of Broth. of Maintenance of Way Employees by Dodd v. National R.R. Passenger Corp. (Amtrak)

argued: March 18, 1993.


On Appeal From the United States District Court For the District of New Jersey. (D.C. Civil Action No. 92-00904).

Before: Stapleton, Roth, and Lewis, Circuit Judges.

Author: Stapleton


STAPLETON, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiff Charles Capraro appeals a grant of summary judgment for defendant United Parcel Service (UPS) in a suit stemming from UPS's termination of Capraro's employment. The district court granted summary judgment to UPS, holding that the state law claims set forth in Capraro's nine count complaint were preempted by the Railway Labor Act (RLA). On appeal, Capraro argues that preemption was inappropriate for three reasons: (a) Capraro's state law claims relied on sources other than the collective bargaining agreement and could be adjudicated without reference to that agreement; (b) as a probationary employee, Capraro had no grievance or arbitration rights under the collective bargaining agreement, and thus, recourse to the RLA-mandated procedure would have been meaningless and futile; and (c) Capraro made out a prima-facie case of anti-union motivation. Because we conclude that the proper forum for Capraro's claims is the statutorily mandated grievance and arbitration procedure and that neither prejudice nor inappropriate preDisposition preclude Capraro from effectively availing himself of that procedure (with or without judicial help), we will affirm.


Capraro was hired as an airplane pilot by UPS on February 5, 1990, and was terminated on January 31, 1991--five days before his status as a "probationary employee," as defined under the collective bargaining agreement,*fn1 would have ended. During his time at UPS, Capraro received satisfactory performance reviews and was never disciplined. However, on January 31, 1991, Capraro allegedly was called into his supervisor's office, told he had a "bad attitude," and was given the opportunity to resign or be terminated immediately. He was given a one-way ticket back to his home in New Jersey on a flight leaving within the hour.

Capraro was told by both his supervisor and his union representative that he had no arbitration or grievance rights under the collective bargaining agreement. He therefore filed a nine count complaint against UPS.*fn2 The first three counts--wrongful discharge, breach of contract, and promissory estoppel-- rely on statements in UPS's policy books and personnel guides and on oral representations Capraro allegedly received when he was hired that he could be fired only for "just cause." Capraro contends that no "just cause" exists here. Count IV of the complaint alleges that UPS's management tortiously interfered with Capraro's contract of employment with UPS. In Count V, Capraro charges that UPS employees defamed him through their statements concerning the reasons for which he was supposedly discharged (i.e., "poor technical skills," a "bad attitude," and "unsatisfactory performance"). Count VI alleges a fraudulent scheme on the part of UPS to fire probationary employees on fabricated charges. In support of this theory, Capraro claims to know of between three and six other probationary employees terminated as he was, and also points to some evidence that the one negative document in his file might have been "fabricated."*fn3 Counts VII, VIII, and IX allege "outrageous conduct," intentional and/or negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligence on the part of UPS, arising from the manner in which it

terminated Capraro.

The collective bargaining agreement provides in part:

Period of Probation

Crewmembers shall be on probation for the first (1st) twelve (12) months of accumulated service as a crewmember with the Company. Termination of a crewmember's employment during his probationary period for any reason shall result in the removal of such crewmember from the crewmember's seniority list, and such termination or any disciplinary action shall not be subject to the grievance and arbitration provisions of this Agreement.

Discipline and Discharge

1. (a) If an incident occurs which results in the suspension or discharge of a crewmember, he shall be notified and entitled to a prompt and complete hearing. . . .

(c) Within ten (10) calendar days after receipt of such notice, such crewmember may file a written grievance with the Manager of Flight, or his designee, challenging the propriety of the action taken.

2. If the grievant is not satisfied with the decision of the Manager of Flight, or his designee, he may appeal such decision to the "United Parcel Service System Board of Adjustment." Such appeal shall be made in writing within fifteen (15) calendar days from the date of receipt by the grievant of the decision of the Manager of Flight, or his designee.

3. Nothing in this Article shall be construed as extending the rights of this Article to a crewmember ...

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