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Williams v. Chrysler Corp.

December 16, 1998

CHARLES E. WILLIAMS, APPELLANT
v.
CHRYSLER CORPORATION; LOCAL 1183, UNITED AUTOMOBILE, AEROSPACE AND AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENT WORKERS OF AMERICA; INTERNATIONAL UNION, UNITED AUTOMOBILE, AEROSPACE AND AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENT WORKERS OF AMERICA, UAW



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Delaware (D.C. Civ. No. 97-00068)

Before: Becker, Chief Judge, Greenberg, Circuit Judge, and Mclaughlin,* District Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Greenberg, Circuit Judge.

Argued November 17, 1998

(Filed: December 16, 1998)

OPINION OF THE COURT

I. INTRODUCTION

This appeal requires us to decide whether an untimely motion for reconsideration addressed to a union's administrative body tolls the six-month statute of limitations for claims brought under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. § 185. After appellee Chrysler Corporation terminated him from his job, and his union refused to contest the termination in arbitration, appellant Charles Williams sought relief from the union's Disposition of his grievance through its internal appeal procedures as established in its constitution. The

union's highest review board rejected his appeal and his untimely motion for reconsideration. Williams then filed suit against the union and Chrysler under section 301, but the district court granted their motions for summary judgment, concluding that Williams should have sued within six months after the review board initially rejected his appeal rather than six months after it denied his reconsideration motion. Because we conclude that the untimely motion for reconsideration did not toll the statute of limitations, we will affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment on Williams' section 301 claims, as well as on his related claims under state law and under section 510 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. § 1140.

II. JURISDICTION

The district court had federal question jurisdiction over Williams' claims under section 510 of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1140, and section 301 of the LMRA, 29 U.S.C. § 185. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331. It had supplemental jurisdiction over the state contract claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367. We have jurisdiction to review the district court's grant of summary judgment because it is a final order under 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

III. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A. Factual History

On June 23, 1987, Chrysler terminated Williams from his job as an assembly worker at its Newark, Delaware, assembly plant because of his excessive absenteeism. Chrysler claimed that the Chronic Absentee Procedure, which was incorporated into its collective bargaining agreement with Williams' union, appellee United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (Union),*fn1 justified the termination. According to the procedure's guidelines, however, absences resulting from certain "excludable" illnesses were not to be counted in determining an employee's absentee rate. Williams contended that because his absenteeism resulted from excludable illnesses, his termination violated the collective bargaining agreement. Thus, he requested the Union to grieve his termination. Although the Union pursued Williams' grievance through several steps of the grievance process, it ultimately concluded that the grievance was not legitimate and withdrew it on June 30, 1988, refusing to bring it to arbitration.

The procedures outlined in Article 33 of the Union's constitution required Williams to appeal the withdrawal of his grievance internally before he could bring suit against the Union in federal court. The Public Review Board (Board), an independent body of experts that is the last recourse in the Union's internal grievance process, ultimately rejected Williams' appeal on January 9, 1996.*fn2 It concluded, after a remand to a lower body to develop the medical evidence, that the illnesses that had caused Williams' absences from ...


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