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International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers v. Peco Energy Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

August 23, 2019

INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS, LOCAL 614, AFL-CIO, Plaintiff,
v.
PECO ENERGY COMPANY, Defendant.

          OPINION

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 614 brings this action against PECO Energy Company to vacate a labor arbitration award. Plaintiff is a labor union that represents Bruce Champagne (“Champagne”), a PECO employee.

         Champagne and PECO are parties to a Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”). This case stems from a disagreement regarding the proper interpretation of the terms of the CBA. The parties dispute the appropriate payment rate for overtime hours that Champagne worked on April 28, 2016, April 29, 2016 and April 30, 2016.

         The CBA requires that all disputes between PECO and its employees are resolved through a four-part procedure. Steps One, Two, and Three of the procedure involve communication between PECO, the Union, and the employee. In Step Four, parties submit the matter to arbitration, where an arbitrator decides the dispute under the procedures and rules of the American Arbitration Association.

         Plaintiff, on Champagne's behalf, initiated the grievance procedure with PECO, and completed Steps One through Three. The parties were unable to come to an agreement, so they continued to Step Four and submitted the dispute to arbitration. The arbitrator issued a decision in favor of PECO. Plaintiff now seeks to vacate the arbitration award, contending that the arbitrator exceeded her authority under the CBA by considering issues that were not previously raised in the prior steps of the grievance procedure. Defendant asserts to the contrary that the arbitrator's decision was proper and should not be vacated. Before the Court are the parties' Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. This Court has jurisdiction over this case under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”)[1] and Section 10 of the Federal Arbitration Act.[2]

         For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and to Confirm the Arbitration Award and deny Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. General Factual Background

         Plaintiff International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 614 (“Plaintiff” or “Union”) is a national labor union organization. It represents hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania employees. This dispute involves Defendant PECO Energy Company[3] (“Defendant” or “PECO”) and one of its employees, Bruce Champagne (“Champagne” or “Grievant”), who is a member of the Union. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 1; Doc. No. 1-1 at 185.) The Union and PECO are parties to a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) that sets forth the terms and conditions of labor for employees who are members of the bargaining unit. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 5.)

         Champagne is employed as an aerial line mechanic or “troubleman” in PECO's Distribution System Organization (“DSO”). (Doc. No. 1-1 at 185.) He works in Bucks County and Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. (Id.) As a troubleman, his job is to provide emergency response services to PECO customers when there is an incident that causes disruption or loss of service. (Id.) All DSO employees are assigned to one of the following three shifts: (1) a daylight shift from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., (2) a back-shift from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., or (3) a night shift from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. (Id.) Troublemen typically work a five-day week and have two days off. (Id.) The first day off is called the “XA Day” (“XA Day”) and the second day off is known as the “XB Day” (“XB Day”). (Id.)

         In addition to their regular job duties, troublemen sometimes have the option to volunteer for overtime work called “guaranteed switching.” Guaranteed switching involves shutting down or isolating equipment within a PECO facility for construction or maintenance. (Id.) PECO usually schedules guaranteed switching hours in advance and offers it to mechanics on an overtime basis. (Id.)

         The company has a procedure for assigning guaranteed switching work to employees. First, the work is offered to employees in the county where the work is located who are scheduled for an XA Day.[4] (Id.) If there are no volunteers, then the work is offered to employees who are scheduled for an XB Day. (Id.) If there are still no volunteers, the work is offered in the same order to mechanics in a sister county who are scheduled for an XA Day or an XB Day. (Id.) If the work has not been scheduled at that point, it is offered to an employee who is scheduled to work on the same day that work is needed. (Id. at 185-186.)

         PECO offered guaranteed switching work to troublemen in Montgomery County to be performed from April 28, 2016 to April 30, 2016. (Id.) Luis Maldonado (“Maldonado”), Champagne's DSO Supervisor, offered the guaranteed switching work to aerial line mechanics in Montgomery County and Bucks County who were scheduled for XA or XB days during that period, but no one accepted the offer. (Id.) Following procedure, he then offered the work to troublemen in Montgomery County who were already scheduled to work on those days. (Id.) On April 22, 2016, Champagne accepted it. (Id.) He was scheduled to work from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. over the three days. (Id.) Because he accepted the guaranteed switching work, his schedule was amended to the following:

Date

Guaranteed Switching Work

Regularly-Scheduled Shift

April 28, 2016

11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

April 29, 2016

7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

April 30, 2016

7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

         When Champagne filled out his timesheet for this period, he requested premium pay[5] for four hours on April 28, 2016, sixteen hours on April 29, 2016 and sixteen hours on April 30, 2016. Champagne sought overtime pay for the guaranteed switching hours in addition to the eight hours of his regular scheduled shifts on April 29, 2016 and April 30, 2016. (Id.) The parties agree that Champagne should receive premium overtime pay for the guaranteed switching hours, but do not agree that he should receive overtime pay for his regularly scheduled shifts.

         Champagne believed he was entitled to premium pay because he worked within the “work rest period.”[6] Maldonado corrected the timesheet, and changed it so that Champagne would be paid as follows:

• Four hours of premium pay for the guaranteed switching hours before the start of his regularly scheduled shift of April 28, 2016.
• Eight hours of straight pay[7] for his regularly scheduled shift on April 28, 2016.
• Eight hours of premium pay for his guaranteed switching hours before his regularly scheduled shifts on April 29, 2016 and April 30, 2016.
• Eight Hours of straight pay for his regular shift on April 28, 2016 and April 29, 2016.[8]

         B. Grievance Procedure

         Article X of the CBA sets forth the following four steps to address grievances between PECO and its employees (“Grievance Procedure” or “Procedure”):

Step 1 (“Step One”)
Notice to Immediate Supervisor
Within thirty (30) calendar days after the event giving rise to the grievance or after the affected Employee or Union Steward should have known of the event, the affected Employee and/or steward must discuss the grievance with the Employee's immediate supervisor. Additionally the Employee or steward must submit to the supervisor the proper documentation on the approved form stating the issues of the complaint. If after the discussion the affected Employee or Union Steward still believes there has been a violation, the Employee or steward shall fill out and sign the Step 1 grievance form.
The steward will have ten (10) calendar days from the date of the discussion to fill out and sign the Step 1 grievance form, and submit it to the Employee's immediate supervisor with a copy to the local Human Resources Representative.
The supervisor will have ten (10) calendar days from the receipt of the Step 1 grievance form to respond with an answer to the grievance in writing. The response will be forwarded to the steward by the supervisor.

(Doc. No. 1-1 at 84-85.)

Step 2 (“Step Two”)
Grievance to Labor Relations Representative
If the grievance is not settled in the first step, the Employee's steward must fill out and sign the Step 2 grievance form. The steward must present the grievance form to the Company's designated Labor Relations/Human Resources Representative within fifteen (15) calendar days of the steward receiving a denial in Step 1.
A meeting will be held within ten (10) calendar days of receiving written notification of First Step appeal between the Grievance Committee of the Local Union not to exceed three (3) members including the Business Manager or his Designee and the Department Manager and Labor Relations/Human Resources Representative to discuss the grievance. The Labor Relations/Human Resources Representative, will have ten (10) calendar days to respond with an answer in writing. The response will be forwarded to the steward by the Labor Relations/ Human Resources Representative.
If the Union is dissatisfied with that decision, the matter may be referred to the next step within fifteen (15) calendar days following the Company's decision.

(Id. at 85-86.)

         Step 3 (“Step Three”)

         Written Appeal to Department Manager

If the grievance is not settled under Step 2, the grievance must be submitted in writing, within fifteen (15) calendar days of a denial in Step 2, to the respective Vice President. A meeting will be held within thirty-(30) calendar days of receiving written notification of Second Step appeal between the Grievance Committee of the Local Union not to exceed three (3) members including the Business Manager or his Designee, and a Vice President of the Company, or his Designee, and a Labor Relations Representative to discuss the grievance. An International Representative of the I.B.E.W. [International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers] may also be present. The response will be forwarded to the Business Manager, or his designee, by the Labor Relations Representative within ten (10) calendar days.

(Id. at 86-87.)

Step 4 (“Step Four”)
Arbitration
If the grievance is not satisfactorily settled at the 3rd Step, it may be referred at the request of either party to Arbitration within 45 calendar days of the receipt of the third step answer. The appointment shall be made from a list furnished to the parties under the procedure and rules of the American Arbitration Association (AAA).
Except for grievances involving discharge or as otherwise agreed, grievances must be scheduled and heard in arbitration in the order of appeal to arbitration.
The arbitration hearing shall be held as promptly as possible and the arbitration award shall be final and binding upon all parties, provided it does not exceed the authority of the Arbitrator. The Arbitrator's authority shall be limited to the application of this Agreement, and the Arbitrator shall have no authority to render an award that amends, alters, or modifies any provision of this Agreement.
In an arbitration relating to the discharge or suspension of an Employee, should the Arbitrator determine that the discharge or suspension was not for just cause, the Arbitrator may order reinstatement of the Employee with or without back pay for time lost. No. more than one grievance may be submitted to or heard by any one Arbitrator at one time without agreement between the Company and Union.
No new issues may be raised in the arbitration step, which were not previously raised in the first three steps of the procedure, except issues involving timeliness or arbitral jurisdiction.
The written award of the Arbitrator shall be final and binding on the aggrieved employee(s), the Union and the Company.
The costs of the Arbitrator and hearing room shall be shared equally by the parties. All other costs shall be paid by the party who incurs them.
At all steps in the grievance procedure, the grievant and the Union representative should materially expedite the solution to the grievance by disclosing to the Company representatives a full and detailed statement of the facts relied upon. In the same manner, Company representatives should disclose all the pertinent facts relied upon by the Company. The parties may agree to return a grievance to a prior step of the grievance procedure, which shall then to be processed within the time limits as provided in such step.

(Id. at 87-92.)

         On June 14, 2016, through his Union representative, Champagne filed a grievance disputing Maldonado's payment changes to the timesheet. The Union, on Champagne's behalf, claimed that PECO violated Articles 4.13 and 4.12 of the CBA by rejecting Champagne's request to be paid premium pay for working his regular shift after he voluntarily worked scheduled overtime to perform guaranteed switching before the start of those shifts. It alleged a ...


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