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Jeffs v. Amtrak-National Passenger Corp.

August 31, 2010

HOWARD A. JEFFS, JR.
v.
AMTRAK-NATIONAL PASSENGER CORP.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McLaughlin, J.

MEMORANDUM

The pro se plaintiff, Howard A. Jeffs, Jr., brought suit against Amtrak - National Passenger Corp. ("Amtrak"),*fn1 for wrongful termination.*fn2 The defendant moves to dismiss the plaintiff's amended complaint, arguing that the plaintiff fails to state a claim for relief pursuant to the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. §§ 151 et seq. ("RLA"). For the reasons that follow, the Court grants the defendant's motion and dismisses the case without prejudice.

I. Background*fn3

The plaintiff was employed by the defendant as a coach cleaner in Philadelphia, PA. He was a member of the Joint Council of Carmen, Helpers, Coach Cleaners and Apprentices ("JCC"), a division of the Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO. Joint Council of Carmen, Helpers, Coach Cleaners and Apprentices v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. Amtrak, Case No. 22 (PLB No. 6961 Sept. 5, 2008) ("PLB Decision"), Ex. 1 to Def.'s M.

Rule 27(b) of the JCC's collective bargaining agreement provides that an employee who is absent from work for ten days without notification shall be considered to have resigned unless specified exceptions apply:

Employees who absent themselves from work 10 days without notifying the Company shall be considered as having resigned from the service and will be removed from the seniority roster unless they furnish the Company evidence of physical incapacity as demonstrated by a release signed by a medical doctor or that circumstances beyond their control prevented such notification.

Rule 27(b) of Collective Bargaining Agreement (quoted in PLB Decision 2).

On September 6, 2005, the plaintiff signed a waiver agreement admitting to excessive absenteeism and agreeing to serve a fifteen-day suspension. He was scheduled to return to work on September 23, 2005. On September 24, 2005, the plaintiff called Amtrak to inquire about the phone number for its medical services department in order to submit a doctor's note regarding his medical condition. Although the plaintiff called thirty-four times and left messages, Amtrak did not return the plaintiff's calls. PLB Decision 1; Am. Compl. § 3, Ex. 1.

The plaintiff did not return to work within ten days after he completed his suspension. Thereafter, the defendant sent the plaintiff letters instructing him to return to work or to provide proof that he required medical leave. It received no response from the plaintiff. The defendant also sent a letter to the plaintiff's union representative dated October 6, 2005, stating that it intended to invoke Rule 27(b) and to consider the plaintiff to have resigned if the plaintiff failed to return to work or provide notice of his continued absence. PLB Decision 1-2.

On February 28, 2006, approximately five months later, the plaintiff appeared at the defendant's medical services department in an attempt to return to work. By then, however, the plaintiff had been deemed to have resigned under Rule 27(b). Id. at 2.

The plaintiff filed a grievance with the JCC alleging wrongful termination, and the JCC pursued his claim. It faxed a letter to the defendant on November 15, 2006, stating that the plaintiff had been sick since September 2005, and it asked that the resignation be corrected. That same day, the defendant sent a response, indicating that the plaintiff had not provided any medical documentation and that the plaintiff had resigned. The JCC appealed the matter on November 29, 2006, and on April 3, 2007, the defendant reiterated its position regarding the plaintiff's resignation. On April 9, 2007, the matter was appealed to the defendant's Director of Labor Relations, which denied the appeal on July 6, 2007. Id.

The JCC then appealed the defendant's decision to Public Law Board No. 6961 ("PLB"), as contemplated by the RLA. By order dated September 5, 2008, the PLB found that the plaintiff had resigned from his employment pursuant to Rule 27(b), and it denied his claim. Id.

On May 7, 2010, the plaintiff filed his pro se complaint with the Court, alleging that he had been ill and unable to provide the necessary medical documentation to the defendant because the defendant failed to return his calls. He claims a due process violation and requests $4 million for his injuries, including pain and suffering, or, alternatively, reinstatement of his job, $500,000, and five years of ...


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