Hunt v. Army Fleet Support, LLC et al
OPINION. Signed by Honorable Judge Myron H. Thompson on 3/18/14. (scn, )
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA, SOUTHERN DIVISION
RITA MICHELLE HUNT
ARMY FLEET SUPPORT, LLC;
PENNY WESTRICK; and
OF MACHINISTS AND AEROSPACE )
WORKERS, AFL-CIO., LOCAL
LODGE NO. 2003,
CIVIL ACTION NO.
In this lawsuit challenging the termination of her
bargaining agreement under § 301 of the Labor-Management
Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185; and a claim of breach of
duty of fair representation as derived from § 9(a) of the
National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 159(a).
constructive discharge, wrongful termination, and civil
She names as defendants her former employer
(Army Fleet Support, LLC), the company of which Army Fleet
employees (Don Donley and Penny Westrick), and her union
(International Association of Machinists and Aerospace
Workers Local Lodge 2003).
For her federal claims she
Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a), as well as
§ 1331 (federal question).
Although she does
§ 1367, it would be appropriate for her state-law claims.1
The case is now before the court on the defendants’
motions to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for
1. Although Hunt’s complaint does not invoke
supplemental jurisdiction or otherwise indicate that her
civil-conspiracy claims are based on state law, her
briefing reveals that she is invoking Alabama law.
failure to state a claim.
For the reasons discussed
below, the motions will be granted.
I. LEGAL STANDARD
In considering a defendant’s motion to dismiss, the
court accepts the plaintiff’s allegations as true, Hishon
v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984), and construes
the complaint in the plaintiff’s favor, Duke v. Cleland,
5 F.3d 1399, 1402 (11th Cir. 1993).
“The issue is not
whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether
the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the
Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974).
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint need not contain
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007), “only enough facts to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Id. at 574.
Hunt worked for contractors at Fort Rucker, Alabama,
for eleven years, supporting the United States Army’s
She was a member of a union, which had
a collective-bargaining agreement with her employer.
In May 2010, Hunt took a government-owned vehicle offbase in order to use a tanning bed during her lunch break.
Someone made an ethics complaint to her employer.
days later, Hunt met with company representatives Donley
and Westrick and union representatives Mike Cooke and Josh
Allgood to discuss her potential termination.
Hunt’s presence, Allgood argued that she should keep her
job, but then he went into a separate room to speak to
When Allgood returned from the meeting, he
instructed Hunt to sign termination paperwork.
After the meeting, Cooke told Hunt that he would not
“push to save her job” due to pressure from other union
members, but after “some time ... he would try to get her
job back later.”
Compl. (Doc. No. 1) ¶ 19.
In August 2012, Hunt learned that Allgood had been
having an affair with Westrick.
Hunt filed a grievance
with the union soon after, alleging several ways in which
her ethics investigation and termination had not complied
with the terms of the collective-bargaining agreement and
claiming that she had not been fairly represented because
of Allgood’s affair with Westrick.
The union did not
pursue her grievance, and Hunt filed this lawsuit on
February 14, 2013.
(breach of the collective-bargaining agreement by her
employer and breach of the duty of fair representation by
IAM) and three state-law claims (constructive discharge,
wrongful termination, and civil conspiracy). As described
below, the federal claims are barred by the statute of
A. Federal Claims
With the National Labor Relations Act and related
legislation, Congress established a “comprehensive federal
law of labor relations” in the private sector. Lodge 76 v.
Wisconsin Employment Relations Comm’n, 427 U.S. 132, 155
(1976). Under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act,
29 U.S.C. § 185, federal law governs the interpretation of
collective-bargaining agreements. Textile Workers Union of
America v. Lincoln Mills of Alabama, 353 U.S. 448, 457
Furthermore, courts have found that the federal
scheme establishes duties of a union toward the employees
that it represents, including a duty to “represent fairly
the interests of all [represented employees] during the
negotiation, administration, and enforcement of collectivebargaining
Workers v. Foust, 442 U.S. 42, 47 (1979).
“[T]he duty of
discrimination toward any.’” Marquez v. Screen Actors
Guild, Inc., 525 U.S. 33, 44 (1998) (quoting Vaca v. Sipes,
386 U.S. 171, 177 (1967)). While an employee does not have
fashion.” Vaca, 386 U.S. at 191.
Hunt claims that her employer, Army Fleet Support,
breached the collective-bargaining agreement by terminating
her without a full investigation. She also claims that the
union should have demanded that the company abide by the
failing to do so, breached its duty of fair representation.
“Ordinarily ... an employee is required to attempt to
exhaust any grievance or arbitration remedies provided in
the collective-bargaining agreement.... [But] when the
grievance/arbitration procedure ... breach[es] its duty of
fair representation ... an employee may bring suit against
proceeding.” Lobo v. Celebrity Cruises, Inc., 704 F.3d 882,
886 n.4 (11th Cir. 2013) (quoting DelCostello v. Int'l
Brotherhood of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 163–65 (1983)
(alterations in original)).
When a plaintiff brings the
breach-of-contract claim together with a claim against the
union, as Hunt did, such a lawsuit is called a ‘hybrid
§ 301/duty-of-fair-representation’ lawsuit.
The statute of limitations for hybrid § 301/duty-offair-representation’ lawsuits, as Hunt admits, is six
months under § 10(b of the National Labor Relations Act,
29 U.S.C. § 160(b).
Proudfoot v. Seafarer’s Int’l Union,
779 F.2d 1558, 1559 (11th Cir. 1986).
“For the purpose of
determining when the § 10(b) period begins to run, [a trial
court] look[s] to when plaintiffs either were or should
manifestations.” Benson v. General Motors Corp., 716 F.2d
862, 864 (11th Cir.1983).
“Applying this principle to
hybrid § 301 suits, the timeliness of the suit must be
measured from the date on which the employee[s] knew or
should have known of the union's final action or the date
on which the employee[s] knew or should have known of the
Proudfoot, 779 F.2d at 1559.
Here, the employer’s final action clearly occurred
during the meeting at which Hunt was terminated. However,
it is less clear when she should have known that the union
was taking no further action. Cooke allegedly said that she
should “allow some time to go by” and that he “would try
to get her job back later.” Compl. (Doc. No. 1) at ¶ 19.
That statement would extend the time before Hunt should
have known that the union would take no further action on
But the court does not need to address this
difficult question of precisely how long Hunt could have
reasonably waited before she should have known the union
would not act, for, regardless, it would not have been
reasonable for her to wait two-and-a-half years (until
August 2012, six months before the commencement of this
action) for the union to try to get her job back.
time, she should have known that the union would take no
Hunt argues that the statute of limitations did not
begin accruing until she learned of the affair between
Allgood and Westrick.2
She argues that this was the first
time that she was aware that she had been wronged and that
she could not have previously brought a cause of action to
challenge her termination and the union’s allegedly faulty
established law: the statute of limitations runs from the
becomes aware of the exact reasons that the union breached
2. Hunt also discusses alleged workplace infractions
on the part of Allgood which went unpunished. It is not
clear how these facts are relevant. Perhaps Hunt is
implying a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964, as amended (42 U.S.C. §§ 1981a & 2000e through
discrimination on the basis of sex.
If Hunt believes
that sex discrimination played a role in her termination,
that claim would also be time-barred since she did not
file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission within 180 days of her termination. 42 U.S.C.
its duty of fair representation. Proudfoot, 779 F.2d at
Even if the court did apply Hunt’s proposed rule, her
own pleadings show that she would still be time-barred.
Cooke’s alleged statement that he would not fight for
Hunt’s job because of political pressure from other union
members amounts to an admission of arbitrary, bad-faith
decisionmaking, breaching the duty of fair representation.
See Vaca, 386 U.S. at 191.
Therefore, according to Hunt’s
own pleadings, she learned that the union was breaching its
duty on the same day that she was terminated. She cannot
discovered additional arbitrary or bad-faith reasons that
the union failed to pursue her grievance.
B. State-Law Claims
Hunt’s state law claims are preempted by her hybrid §
301/duty-of-fair-representation claims. Section 301 of the
Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185, grants
jurisdiction to federal district courts over contract
disputes between unions and employers.
The Supreme Court
interpreted § 301 to require the development of a body of
federal law governing collective-bargaining agreements.
Lincoln Mills of Alabama, 353 U.S. at 457 (1957).
body of federal law preempts state law in deciding a
dispute over a collective-bargaining agreement. Teamsters
Local 174 v. Lucas Flour Co., 369 U.S. 95, 102-04.
law which frustrates the effort of Congress to stimulate
the smooth function of [the collective-bargaining] process
thus strikes at the very core of federal labor policy.” Id.
at 104. Therefore, “Congress intended doctrines of federal
labor law uniformly to prevail over inconsistent local
A state-law claim is preempted by § 301 if the claim
“requires the interpretation of a collective-bargaining
agreement.” United Steelworkers v. Wise, 642 F.3d 1344,
1350 (11th Cir. 2011) (finding that a fraud counterclaim
was preempted where the defendant was claiming fraudulent
bargaining agreement) (quoting Lingle v. Norge Div. Of
Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 413 (1988)); see also
(statutory state tort of bad faith in administration of
disability-insurance program relies on interpretation of
constructive discharge, and civil conspiracy.
these claims transparently relies on interpretation of the
What made her termination wrongful?
violated the CBA [collective-bargaining agreement] by not
using the appropriate firing procedures.” Resp. to Army
Fleet Support’s Mot. to Dismiss (doc. no. 32) at 2.
As for the constructive-discharge claim, an employer
who constructively discharges an employee “is as liable for
any illegal conduct involved therein as if it had formally
Merchandise Co., Inc., 611 So. 2d 294, 295 (Ala. 1992)
What is the alleged illegal conduct
involved in Hunt’s constructive discharge?
Breach of the
Finally, “liability for civil conspiracy rests upon
the existence of an underlying wrong and if the underlying
wrong provides no cause of action, then neither does the
conspiracy.” Jones v. BP Oil Co., 632 So. 2d 435, 459 (Ala.
1993) (quoted in Willis v. Parker, 814 So. 2d 857, 867
What is the underlying wrong for the
conspiracy Hunt alleges?
The company’s failure to follow
the terms of the collective-bargaining agreement and the
union’s breach of its duty of fair representation.
Since each of these claims relies on an interpretation
of the collective-bargaining agreement, they are preempted
by § 301.
With all of Hunts claims either preempted or
time-barred, her lawsuit is due to be dismissed.
* * *
Accordingly, all of the defendants’ dismissal motions
will be granted and this case dismissed.
judgment will be entered.
DONE, this the 18th day of March, 2014.
/s/ Myron H. Thompson
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?