United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
DAVID BROWN, SR. Plaintiff,
COILPLUS-PENNSYLVANIA, INC., UNITED STEEL, PAPER & FORESTRY, RUBBER, MANUFACTURING, ENERGY, ALLIED INDUSTRIAL AND SERVICE WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION, AFL-CIO, CLC, LOCAL UNION #4889-08 Defendant.
action is controlled by the Labor Management Relations Act,
29 U.S.C. §§ 141 - 191. Plaintiff was a union
member protected by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA)
under which he could be discharged only for cause. He claims
he was fired in violation of that agreement, and that his
union denied him reasonable representation on appeal.
employer, Coilplus Pennsylvania, and his former union, the
AFL-CIO, argue that his claims must be dismissed because: (1)
Plaintiff has not adequately asserted a claim against the
union, and (2) Plaintiff's complaint is barred by the
LMRA's statute of limitations. Because I find merit in
the first argument, and because as discussed below this is a
“hybrid” action under the LMRA, Mr. Brown's
claims must be dismissed.
Standard of Review
case is governed by the well-established standards of Rule
12(b)(6), as amplified by Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside,
578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009).
Pennsylvania is a manufacturer of flat-rolled steel coils.
Plaintiff worked at Coilplus's factory between August
2011 and February 2016. From 2013 to 2015, he worked as an
Assistant Operator. In late 2015, though, he was ordered to
fill a temporary Head Setter position. Plaintiff was trained
as a Head Setter, but he disliked the job. Head Setters are
required to “shim” little rings, and Plaintiff
had difficulty with this task. He thus asked several times to
be reassigned, and his supervisors assured him that he would
be back to his old job “in no time.” Nonetheless,
Plaintiff remained a Head Setter for thirty days, and was
then told he would be required to remain in the position for
another six-to-eight weeks.
January 2016, Plaintiff purportedly made multiple errors
while shimming rings. He was given three write-ups for poor
performance, after which he asked to take a medical leave of
absence. Before he could amass the paperwork necessary to
file for leave, he made another error and was placed on
suspension pending termination. Approximately two weeks
later, a union representative contacted Plaintiff and
informed him that he could either collect unemployment or
stay on suspension and petition for his job at a hearing.
Plaintiff opted for a hearing, which was held on February 25,
his plant supervisor Michael Onody, and the union president
Brian Martin attended the hearing. Onody asked whether they
should wait for Plaintiff's union representative before
beginning, but Martin told him that they could proceed. After
a brief exchange between Onody and Martin about Brown's
fitness to serve as a Head Setter, Brown alleges that
“the meeting then became an exchange of inappropriate
language between Onody and Martin.” Am. Compl. ¶
43. Onody first accused Plaintiff of making mistakes on
purpose. Id. ¶ 42. Then, “the two men
were attacking each other on how they both handle their
business. . . . The hearing ended abruptly without Martin
affectively [sic] arguing Plaintiff's matter.”
Id. ¶ 45. On March 4, 2016, Plaintiff was told
he lost the hearing. His termination was made final on that
The Hybrid Nature of Claims Under § 301 of the
his Complaint and his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff raised two
claims: one against Coilplus for violation of the Collective
Bargaining Agreement, and the other against the union for
breach of the duty of fair representation. Plaintiff did not
affirmatively plead these claims under § 301 of the LMRA
- indeed, he mentioned the statute only once, more than four
months after beginning this suit, when facing a motion to
dismiss his Amended Complaint. But Plaintiff belatedly
acknowledges he can only proceed under the LMRA.
ordinarily the plaintiff in a civil action can bring parallel
claims against separate defendants and proceed with them
independently, that is not true in the field of labor
management relations, where Congress has legislatively
defined the scope of permissive claims. Because the CBA
creates remedies for wrongful termination, a worker must
ordinarily exhaust all grievance or arbitration remedies in
the contract before bringing suit. See DelCostello v.
Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 164 (1983).
The LMRA, however, provides an exception to that rule where a
worker claims not only that his employer violated the terms
of the CBA, but also that his union then failed to reasonably
represent him in asserting the contractual violation.
Id. Under § 301, then, a worker can bring a
“hybrid” suit composed of two “inextricably
interdependent” claims. Id. That right comes
with an important limitation: a worker is entitled to relief
if, and only if, he can succeed on both claims. See
id at 165 (1983) (“To prevail against either the
company or the [u]nion, employee-plaintiffs must not only
show that their discharge was contrary to the contract but
must also carry the burden of demonstrating a breach of duty
by the [u]nion.”)
Plaintiff's Claim ...