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Robbins v. United Parcel Service

March 24, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Vanaskie


Plaintiff, Craig Robbins, was discharged from his position as a package car driver for United Parcel Service ("UPS") after he struck and injured a woman with his UPS truck. Plaintiff, a member of Teamsters Local Union 229, Affiliation of International Brotherhood of Teamsters ("Local 229"), grieved his termination under the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement. The discharge, however, was ultimately upheld. Plaintiff now avers that Local 229 breached its duty of fair representation and that UPS breached the collective bargaining agreement. (Dkt. 1.)*fn1 Because the record clearly shows that Local 229 did not breach its duty of fair representation, summary judgment will be entered in its favor and this action will be dismissed.

I. Background

Plaintiff was employed as a package car driver by UPS out of its Pocono Center Facility between June 8, 1989, and July 30, 2007. (Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ("DSUMF"), Dkt. 20, at ¶ 1.) On July 27, 2007, while Plaintiff was delivering packages for UPS in the Thompson area, he was involved in an accident with a pedestrian, Robyn Leonard. (Id. at ¶ 2.) During a delivery, Plaintiff realized that he had missed a prior stop and decided to go back and make the delivery, rather than running a stop behind. "After beeping his horn and checking his mirrors and monitor," Plaintiff backed his vehicle up to make the delivery he had inadvertently missed. (PSUMF, Dkt. 27, at ¶ 3.) While backing up Plaintiff felt a sudden bump and immediately stopped the vehicle, discovering that he had hit Ms. Leonard, who was walking behind his truck. (DSUMF, Dkt. 20, at ¶ 4.) Plaintiff called 911 and remained with Ms. Leonard until the ambulance arrived.

Ms. Leonard sustained non-life-threatening injuries as a result of the accident and was taken to the Susquehanna Hospital Emergency Room. (Accident Report, Dkt. 29-4, at 112.)*fn2 The Pennsylvania State Police ("PSP") interviewed Plaintiff regarding the accident, but did not issue a citation as a result of the accident. (Complaint, Dkt. 1, at ¶¶ 21-22.) A UPS supervisor also interviewed Plaintiff and instructed him to report to UPS's Scranton facility on Monday, July 30, 2007, for a meeting. (Id. at ¶¶ 23-24.)

Local 229 and UPS were parties to the National Master United Parcel Service Agreement ("National Agreement") and the Central Pennsylvania Supplemental Agreement ("Supplemental Agreement") between August 1, 2002, and July 31, 2008. (DSUMF, Dkt. 20, at ¶ 8.) As a member of Local 229, Plaintiff was "a party to the collective bargaining agreement between inter alia, UPS and Local 229, effective for the period in question." (Complaint, Dkt. 1, at ¶ 50.)

On July 30, 2007, Plaintiff met with UPS's Supervisor of Labor Relations, Mark Johnson. (Id. at ¶ 25.) At the meeting, Local 229's Business Agent, Robert Oakes, represented Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶ 29.) Plaintiff did not request representation by Mr. Oakes. (Id. at ¶ 30.) Instead, Plaintiff had requested that Union Steward Charles Miller serve as his representative. Although Miller was readily available and on the premises at the time of the meeting, Plaintiff's request was denied. (Id. at ¶¶ 26-28.) At the end of the meeting Plaintiff received a letter of discharge, terminating his employment. (PSUMF, Dkt. 27, at ¶ 6.)

Article 52 of the Supplemental Agreement, which provides for discharge and suspension, states:

The Employer shall not discharge or suspend any employee without just cause, but in respect to discharge or suspension shall give at least one (1) warning notice of a complaint against such employee to the employee, in writing, and a copy of the same to the Union, except that no warning notice need be given to an employee before he/she is discharged if the cause of such discharge is dishonesty, drinking alcoholic beverages or being under the influence of drugs or in illegal possession of drugs during the workday (including meal period) or drunkenness, recklessness resulting in serious accident while on duty, or the carrying of unauthorized passengers while on the job or offenses of equal seriousness. . . . . Before disciplinary action is taken, a meeting shall be held with the employee and the employee shall have the right to choose a Steward who is readily available and on the premises. In the case of discharge for any offense other than the above mentioned, including suspension, the disciplinary action will be held in abeyance for two (2) weeks to give the Local Union the opportunity to intervene prior to the action being taken. The warning notice, suspension or discharge as herein provided shall not remain in effect for a period of more than nine (9) months from the date of said warning notice, suspension or discharge. . . . . Any employee may request an investigation as to his/her discharge or suspension. Should such investigation prove that an injustice has been done an employee, he/she shall be reinstated. The CPAPGC or the impartial arbitrator shall have the authority to order full, partial or no compensation for time lost. . . . .

The Company will not use absenteeism or accidents in conjunction with any other disciplinary action. (Supplemental Agreement, Dkt. 13-2, at 39) (emphasis added).

The discharge letter accused Plaintiff of being "grossly negligent in the operation of the package car" and discharged him "immediately for just cause." (Discharge Letter, Dkt. 1, at 19.) Plaintiff grieved his termination under the terms of the Supplemental Agreement. (DSUMF, Dkt. 20, at ¶ 7.)

Plaintiff's grievance was heard by the Central Pennsylvania Area Parcel Grievance Committee ("CPAPGC") in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on August 2, 2007 (the "hearing").*fn3

(PSUMF, Dkt. 27, at ¶ 10.) At the hearing, Oakes presented Plaintiff's grievance. (Id. at ¶ 14.) Plaintiff, however, had again sought and requested the representation of Union Steward Miller. (Id.) Plaintiff's request was denied, even though Miller was ready, willing, and able to represent Plaintiff. (Id.)

Plaintiff was present at the hearing and testified regarding his grievance. (DSUMF, Dkt. 20, at ¶ 15.) "The Union submitted both written and oral arguments in support of the Grievance of Plaintiff Robbins and in support of its assertion that Robbins was discharged without just cause." (Id. at ¶ 32.) Local 229's argument focused on the fact that the "just cause" language of Article 52 of the Supplemental Agreement had not been followed and reiterated that "[t]o take a man's job of 18 plus years away for a momentary lapse in judgment" was not "just punishment." (Dkt. 11-11, at 2.) Plaintiff avers that at the hearing a distorted driving record ("doctored driving record") was presented. (Dkt. 1, at ¶ 41.)

Oakes and Plaintiff objected to the introduction of the doctored driving record and informed the CPAPGC that the exhibit contained statements and accidents that were not listed on the document when Plaintiff signed it.*fn4 (PSUMF, Dkt. 27, at ¶ 19.) The CPAPGC, after executive session to discuss the document, determined that it could be presented but Plaintiff and Local 229 would be given the opportunity to rebut the document. (DSUMF, Dkt. 20, at ¶ 18.)

The material facts relating to the accident giving rise to Plaintiff's discharge were not in dispute.*fn5 At the hearing, Plaintiff testified that the accident occurred because he had missed a stop and decided to back up because of the time constraints imposed upon him by UPS. (PSUMF, Dkt. 27, at ¶¶ 20, 23.) Plaintiff knew that backing up violated UPS policy, but felt that UPS valued production over safety.*fn6 (Id.) Additionally he admitted that although he tried to back up only when necessary, sometimes he backed up more often, explaining: "I understand there's safety issues here and there is also . . . production issues also and pretty much when you have both and you preach safety and production they go hand in hand and unfortunately when some of these trips do leave the building they do leave well overloaded." (Hearing Transcript, Dkt. 29-3, at 15.) Plaintiff also averred that his past accidents had occurred because he had taken on an unfamiliar delivery route to help other employees, had been confronted with difficult road conditions, or had been faced with time constraints; but admitted that he could not recall the details of his past accidents. (Id. at 7, 12, 15, 17.)

Plaintiff was aware of the danger of backing up a UPS delivery truck, and when asked if he knew of the safe procedures for backing up stated, "[w]ell I believe there is no safe way of backing because every time obviously it's a crap shoot." (Id. at 22-23.) At the end of the hearing, Plaintiff answered in the affirmative when asked if he felt he had been given an ample opportunity to present any and all facts as he saw fit in his case and whether he felt as though he had been properly represented by his Business Agent and Local 229. (Id. at 23.) ...

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