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Gressens v. Ashland Foundry & Machine Works, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 9, 2017




         Plaintiff Gregory Gressens (hereinafter “plaintiff”) claims Defendant Ashland Foundry & Machine Works, Inc.'s (hereinafter “Ashland Foundry”) improperly terminated his employment under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (hereinafter “LMRA”). Plaintiff further alleges Defendants United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Worker's International Union, AFL-CIO-CLC, and United Steel Workers of America Local Union 14372's (collectively “Union”) decision to abandon plaintiff's grievance breached the Union's duty of fair representation under his Collective Bargaining Agreement (hereinafter “CBA”) and the LMRA. Before the court for disposition are Ashland Foundry and the Union's motions to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint. For the reasons that follow, the court will deny these motions.


         The instant employment action arose from plaintiff's employment with Ashland Foundry. Plaintiff worked full-time at Ashland Foundry, and the Union served as plaintiff's collective bargaining representative.[1] (Doc. 18, Am. Compl. (hereinafter “Am. Compl.”) ¶¶ 1-3, 8-9).

         In early January 2016, plaintiff allegedly tested positive for amphetamines/methamphetamines. (Id. ¶ 11). Plaintiff claims this was his first positive drug test. (Id. ¶ 20). Plaintiff avers his positive result arose from taking a prescription for Adderall. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13). Plaintiff provided Ashland Foundry with proof of his prescription for Adderall. (Id. ¶ 14). Ashland Foundry, however, terminated plaintiff's employment on January 9, 2016. (Id. ¶ 15).

         Plaintiff grieved Ashland Foundry's decision to terminate his employment. (Id. ¶ 22). Plaintiff argued his purported positive test resulted from a valid prescription.[2] (Id. ¶¶ 12-13, 19). Alternatively, plaintiff claimed that even if his positive test did not result from a valid prescription, Ashland Foundry improperly terminated his employment. Specifically, plaintiff argues that the 2003 Drug Policy, which plaintiff asserts covered his positive drug test, prohibited Ashland Foundry from terminating a first time offender's employment. (Id. ¶¶ 16-21).

         On February 1, 2016, the Union and Ashland Foundry denied plaintiff's grievance. (Id. ¶ 23). The Union also informed plaintiff that it would not represent plaintiff any further, and the Union would not arbitrate plaintiff's grievance. (Id.) Plaintiff attempted to arbitrate his grievance without the Union. (Id.) The Union, however, opposed plaintiff's attempt and refused to allow the grievance to proceed to arbitration. (Id.)

         In response to Ashland Foundry terminating his employment and the Union's failure to fully grieve his termination, plaintiff filed a complaint on June 8, 2016, and an amended complaint on September 22, 2016. Plaintiff's two-count amended complaint avers the following claims: Count I, breach of contract claim pertaining to the CBA against Ashland Foundry; and Count II, breach of fair duty of representation claim pursuant to the LMRA against the Union. Ashland Foundry filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative a motion for summary judgment, pertaining to Count I on October 27, 2016. (Doc. 23). The Union filed a motion to dismiss Count II on October 28, 2016. (Doc. 27). The parties have briefed the issues, bringing the case to the present procedural posture.


         As plaintiff brings suit pursuant to Section 301 of the LMRA, we have federal question jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (“The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”).

         Standard of Review

         Ashland Foundry and the Union filed motions to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The court tests the sufficiency of the complaint's allegations when considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. All well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be viewed as true and in the light most favorable to the non-movant to determine whether, “‘under any reasonable reading of the pleadings, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.'” Colburn v. Upper Darby Twp., 838 F.2d 663, 665-66 (3d Cir. 1988) (quoting Estate of Bailey by Oare v. Cty. of York, 768 F.2d 503, 506 (3d Cir. 1985)). The plaintiff must describe “‘enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' [each] necessary element” of the claims alleged in the complaint. Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). Moreover, the plaintiff must allege facts that “justify moving the case beyond the pleadings to the next stage of litigation.” Id. at 234-35. In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint the court may also consider “matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case.” Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). The court does not have to accept legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences. See Curay-Cramer v. Ursuline Acad. of Wilmington, Del., Inc., 450 F.3d 130, 133 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997)).


         Ashland Foundry and the Union move to dismiss plaintiff's LMRA claims, arguing plaintiff's allegations fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff's amended complaint asserts a “hybrid” claim under Section 301 of the LMRA, which authorizes “[s]uits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an ...

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