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Clowney v. URS/AECOM

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 30, 2019




         Presently before the court is defendant URS/AECOM, URS Federal Services’s (“URS”) motion for summary judgment (Doc. 50), defendant International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers’[1] (“International”) motion for summary judgment (Doc. 52), and defendants District Lodge 1 (“District”) and Local 1717’s (“Local”) joint motion for summary judgment, (Doc. 51)-(collectively, “defendants”). For the reasons set forth below, defendants’ motions for summary judgment (Doc. 50; Doc. 52; Doc. 51) will be GRANTED.


         On February 6, 2017, the plaintiff Sandra Clowney (“Clowney”) filed her original complaint against her employer, URS, and her labor union, International, alleging discriminatory treatment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§2000e–2000e-17. (Doc. 1). On April 7, 2017, URS filed a motion to dismiss Clowney’s complaint for failure to state a claim. International failed to file any responsive pleading or motion. (Doc. 4).

         In light of URS’s motion to dismiss, Clowney filed an amended complaint on April 28, 2017. (Doc. 8).[2] URS again filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint on May 12, 2017, and International again did not file any responsive pleading or motion to the amended complaint. (Doc. 10). Clowney thereafter filed a second amended complaint on June 1, 2017, [3]which reasserted her Title VII claims against URS and International, but additionally alleged a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. §§621–634. (Doc. 12). Yet again, URS filed a motion to dismiss on June 7, 2017, while International tendered no responsive filing. (Doc. 15).

         On September 5, 2017, the Clerk of Court entered default judgment against International under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a). (Doc. 24; Doc. 25). On September 21, 2017, International filed a motion to vacate the entry of default and a motion to dismiss counts III, IV, and V of Clowney’s second amended complaint. (Doc. 28).

         On September 28, 2017, Clowney initiated a separate action, asserting a “hybrid” claim under §301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 (“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. §185, stemming from the terms of a written collective bargaining agreement.[4] (No. 3:17-cv-1761, Doc. 1). This time, Clowney named as defendants URS, International, and two regional offices of International: District and Local. (Id.). On November 16, 2017, URS moved to dismiss the complaint. (No. 3:17-cv-1761, Doc. 11). On January 3, 2018, the two cases described above were consolidated for all purposes. (Doc. 35).

         After consolidating Clowney’s cases, this court denied URS’s two motions to dismiss (Doc. 15; No. 3:17-cv-1761, Doc. 11), as well as International’s motion to dismiss (Doc. 28) as to count V of the second amended complaint, the ADEA claim, but granted International’s motion as to counts III and IV of the second amended complaint (Doc. 12), the Title VII claims.[5] (Doc. 37).

         International filed its answer to the second amended complaint for the discrimination claims and its answer to the §301 complaint on February 1 and 12, 2018, respectively. (Doc. 38; Doc. 40).[6] On February 26, 2018, URS filed its answer to Clowney’s second amended complaint, as well as Clowney’s §301 complaint. (Doc. 42; Doc. 43).

         On August 13, 2018, URS, District and Local, jointly, and International filed three motions for summary judgment (Doc. 50; Doc. 51; Doc. 52) and statements of material facts (Doc. 50-1; Doc. 51-1; Doc. 52-1).[7] On August 23, 2018, URS filed a brief in support of its motion (Doc. 53), as did District and Local, jointly, (Doc. 54) and International (Doc. 55). Clowney filed briefs in opposition and responsive statements of material fact to URS (Doc. 56; Doc. 57), District and Local (Doc. 60; Doc. 61), and International (Doc. 62; Doc. 63). In her briefs in opposition, Clowney indicated that she was withdrawing all of her Title VII and ADEA claims, and she did not oppose the entry of summary judgment on those claims. Accordingly, the court will enter summary judgment in favor of URS and International on the three remaining counts, count I, II, and V, of the second amended complaint. (Doc. 12). Defendants’ motions for summary judgment on the hybrid §301 claims in the remaining complaint (No. 3:17-cv-1761, Doc. 1) are now ripe for disposition.


         “Summary judgment is appropriate when, drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and thus the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Minarsky v. Susquehanna Cty., 895 F.3d 303, 309 (3d Cir. 2018) (internal quotation marks omitted). “A dispute is genuine if a reasonable trier-of-fact could find in favor of the non-movant, and material if it could affect the outcome of the case.” Bradley v. West Chester Univ. of Pa. State Sys. of Higher Educ., 880 F.3d 643, 650 (3d Cir.) (internal quotation marks omitted), cert. denied, 139 S.Ct. 167 (2018). In considering a motion for summary judgment, “the court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).

         To succeed on a hybrid §301 claim under the LMRA against either the company or the union, a plaintiff must demonstrate both (1) that the union violated its duty of fair representation, and (2) the employer breached the collective bargaining agreement. Felice, 985 F.2d at 1226 (emphasis added); see also DelCostello v. International Broth. of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 165 (1983). The two claims are “inextricably interdependent.” United States Parcel Service v. Mitchell, 451 U.S. 56, 66-67 (1981) (Stewart, J. concurring). Thus, in a hybrid §301 claim, “the plaintiff will have to prove that the employer breached the collective bargaining agreement in order to prevail on the breach of duty of fair representation claim against the union, and vice versa.” Felice, 985 F.2d at 1226. (emphasis added).

         The union has a statutory duty to serve as the employees’ exclusive bargaining representative and, therefore, must fairly represent all employees covered by the collective bargaining agreement. Vaca v. Sipes, 386 U.S. 171, 177 (1967). A union breaches its duty of fair representation if its actions are either arbitrary, discriminatory, or in bad faith, and this rule applies to all union activity. Air Line Pilots v. O’Neill, 499 U.S. 65, 67 (1991). A union’s actions are arbitrary only if, in light of the factual and legal landscape at the time of its actions, the union’s behavior is so far outside a wide range of reasonableness as to be irrational. Id. In evaluating a union’s actions, courts “must be highly deferential, recognizing the wide latitude that negotiators need for the effective performance of their bargaining responsibilities.” Id. at 78. The duty of fair representation is thus akin to the duty owed by other fiduciaries to their beneficiaries.” Id. at 74 (giving examples of trustee-to-trust beneficiaries, attorney-to-client, and corporate officers-to-shareholders relationships). “Just as these fiduciaries owe their beneficiaries a duty of care as well as a duty of loyalty, a union owes employees a duty to represent them adequately as well as honestly and in good faith.” Id. at 75.

         The Third Circuit has set forth the analysis for §301 claims relating to grievances:

With respect to an alleged grievance against an employer, a union may not arbitrarily ignore a meritorious grievance or process it in perfunctory fashion. A union’s conduct can be classified as arbitrary only when it is irrational, when it is without a rational basis or explanation. The plaintiff must demonstrate more than mere ineptitude or negligence on the part of the union, and the fact that trained counsel would have avoided the error or pursued a different strategy is not enough. And it bears noting that a union’s foremost duty to advocate on behalf of its members is tempered by an obligation . . . to act fairly under the collective bargaining agreement and not to assert or press grievances which it believes in good faith do not warrant such action.

Gehringer v. Atlantic Detroit Diesel Allison LLC, 595 Fed.App’x 157, 161 (3d Cir. 2014) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

         III. MATERIAL FACTS [8]

         a. Clowney’s Grievance

         The United States Army contracts with companies to provide services at the Tobyhanna Army Depot (“Tobyhanna”). The contractors during the relevant time period were Lockheed Martin, followed by Defense Support Services (“DS2”), followed by URS.

         Clowney began employment as an equipment cleaner for Lockheed Martin on June 21, 2004, and was promoted to Electronic Tech II (ET II) by DS2 in September of 2004. In January of 2007, Clowney was promoted to Electronic Tech III (ET III) by DS2 and continued in that position when she was hired by URS on July 1, 2011. During her employment at Tobyhanna, Clowney was a member of International, District, and Local.

         Local is a labor organization that is affiliated with, and falls under the jurisdiction of, District. District is a labor organization responsible for providing services needed to bargain and enforce the collective bargaining agreements (CBA) of bargaining unit employees who fall within the jurisdiction of District, including those working at Tobyhanna. District lodges, including District, are comprised of several local lodges. District lodges employ business representatives who are assigned to handle the negotiating, administering, and handling of grievances or complaints arising from the CBAs for each of the local lodges. District lodges are primarily responsible for providing the services needed to bargain and enforce the members’ CBAs and they do so by employing business representatives.

         International, as the governing body for all district and local lodges, assigns the various district lodges into territories. District was assigned to the eastern territory. International, District, and Local have separate headquarters and governing documents, and each has its own separate elected representatives. Each entity files an annual financial report with the Department of Labor, maintains a distinct employer tax number, and makes the necessary employee payroll deductions and remittances to the Internal Revenue Service.

         Although International does not employ the district lodges’ business representatives, it does contribute a portion of its revenue to district lodges to help support the business representatives. Employees represented by International hold a membership with, and pay dues to, a local lodge, which then remits a portion of the dues to its district lodge and to International.

         District and URS are parties to a CBA, [9] which governs the terms and conditions of employment for those URS employees represented by Local, including Clowney. The CBA defines seniority as “including the whole span of continuous service with the present contractor, or successor, and with predecessor contractors, in the performance of similar work at the same Federal facility.” (Doc. 52-11, at 15). In the event Tobyhanna instructs URS to effect a reduction in force (RIF), the CBA indicates that URS will determine the final number of employees to be laid off but states that it is necessary for URS and District to work together on a layoff plan. Once voluntary layoffs are verified, those employees designated for layoff are identified by URS and confirmed by District.

         All employees affected by a layoff are given the opportunity, by seniority, to take a voluntary layoff. (Doc. 52-11, at 16). An employee who had been laid off may have rights to bump an individual in a lower classification, provided the employee has previously held the job classification at Tobyhanna and has successfully completed the predetermined certification testing required by Tobyhanna. (Doc. 52-11, at 16).

         The CBA also affords employees recall rights, by which a laid off ...

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