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Carpenter v. Wawa

December 3, 2009

RICHARD CARPENTER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WAWA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gene E.K. Pratter, District Judge

MEMORANDUM

Mr. Richard Carpenter has brought suit against Wawa, his former employer, for violations of the Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") entered into between Wawa and his union, Teamsters Local Union 463 (the "Union"). Mr. Carpenter asserts claims against Wawa for wrongful termination (Count I) and breach of contract (Count II).*fn1 Presently before the Court is Wawa's Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss both of these claims. For the reasons stated below, Wawa's Motion to Dismiss is granted.

I. STATEMENT OF ALLEGED FACTS

Mr. Carpenter was employed as a delivery person for Wawa and subject to the Collective Bargaining Agreement with Teamsters Local Union 463. (Compl. ¶ 3.) In this position, Mr. Carpenter apparently delivered goods to the Millcroft Center on a regular basis.*fn2 (Compl. ¶ 4.) On or around April 13, 2007, Mr. Carpenter was terminated as a Wawa employee because of "alleged and misperceived racial jokes at the Millcroft Center." (Compl. ¶ 5.)

The Complaint alleges that Mr. Carpenter was not permitted to confront his accusers and that Wawa violated the CBA by terminating Mr. Carpenter "without investigative basis or reasonable cause" and by failing "to handle the matter with a written discipline." (Compl. ¶¶ 6,7,8.) The Complaint alleges that Mr. Carpenter was forced to seek employment with Dean Foods at a lower hourly wage after being terminated by Wawa. (Compl. ¶ 7.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Although Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), in order to "give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests," Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley, 355 U.S. at 47), a plaintiff must provide "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. (citations omitted). Specifically, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . ." Id. To survive a motion to dismiss, a civil complaint must allege "factual content [that] allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

The Court "must only consider those facts alleged in the complaint and accept all of those allegations as true." ALA, Inc. v. CCAIR, Inc., 29 F.3d 855, 859 (3d Cir. 1994) (citing Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)); see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (stating that courts must assume that "all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)"). The Court must also accept as true all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the allegations, and view those facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Rocks v. Philadelphia, 868 F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir. 1989). The Court, however, need not accept as true "unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences," Doug Grant, Inc. v. Greate Bay Casino Corp., 232 F.3d 173, 183-84 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing City of Pittsburgh v. West Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 n.13 (3d Cir. 1998)), or the plaintiff's "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions," Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d. 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).

III. DISCUSSION

As an initial matter, Wawa argues that Mr. Carpenter's claims are preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185. Section 301(a) provides, in relevant part, that "[s]uits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization . . . may be brought in any district court of the United States . . . ." As the Supreme Court has made clear, "the preemptive force of § 301 is so powerful as to displace entirely any state cause of action for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization." Franchise Tax Bd. of Cal. v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust for Southern Cal., 463 U.S. 1, 23 (1983) (internal citation omitted) ; see also Angst v. Mack Trucks, Inc., 969 F.2d 1530, 1536 (3d Cir. 1992) ("Supreme Court precedent unequivocally instructs us to resolve disputes concerning collectively bargained labor agreements pursuant to federal labor law rather than state law."). The purpose of federal preemption in this area is to "ensure uniform interpretation of collective-bargaining agreements, and thus to promote the peaceable, consistent resolution of labor-management disputes." Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 404 (1988).

It is clear from the Complaint and Mr. Carpenter's opposition brief that Section 301 of the LMRA governs the wrongful termination and breach of contract claims.*fn3 In support of his breach of contract claim, Mr. Carpenter alleges that "[t]he failure of Defendant, Wawa to adhere to the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement is in direct breech [sic] of said agreement." (Compl. ¶ 12.) In support of his wrongful termination claim, Mr. Carpenter alleges that he "was wrongfully terminated from his position without investigation or proper adherence to the Collective Bargaining Agreement." (Compl. ¶ 9.) The only contract the Complaint cites is the Collective Bargaining Agreement between Wawa and the Union. Thus, in order to evaluate Mr. Carpenter's claims, the Court must necessarily interpret provisions of the CBA.

In his far-reaching and sometimes unclear response to the preemption argument, Mr. Carpenter alleges, for the first time, that "there was no full hearing on the issue" of his termination and that "[t]here were no opportunities to confront his alleged accusers nor address a sufficient 'grievance.'" (Opp'n at 3.)*fn4 As a result, Mr. Carpenter alleges that his "claims were abandoned by the Union leaving him no alternative but to seek common law redress." (Opp'n at 4.) Because these allegations were not contained in the Complaint, they cannot be considered by the Court in ruling on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. See Hammond v. City of Philadelphia, No. 00-5082, 2001 WL 823637, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Jun. 29, 2001) ("A party may not rely on new facts in submissions in response to a motion to dismiss to defeat the motion.").*fn5

Therefore, the Court will analyze Mr. Carpenter's claims under Section 301 of the LMRA. Under this framework, Wawa argues that, before reaching the substance of the claims, the Complaint should be dismissed for two reasons: (1) Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, and ...


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