United Government Security Officers of America, International Union Local 22 et al v. Tennessee Valley Authority et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION - For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART the motion to dismiss. The Court dismisses both claims against Mr. Johnson and dismisses the promissory fraud claim against the TVA. Plaintiffs breach of contract claim against the TVA shall proceed. Signed by Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala on 3/31/2017. (KEK)
2017 Mar-31 PM 01:48
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
SECURITY OFFICERS OF
UNION LOCAL 22, et al.,
AUTHORITY and WILLIAM D.
Case No. 5:16-CV-00271-MHH
This case comes before the Court on the motion to dismiss of defendants
William D. Johnson and the Tennessee Valley Authority. (Doc. 8). The TVA
operates nuclear power facilities in Alabama and Tennessee. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 4, 9). Mr.
Johnson is the TVA’s President and CEO. (Doc. 1 ¶5). The plaintiffs are two nonprofit labor organizations, United Government Security Officers of America,
International Union and United Government Security Officers of America,
International Union Local 22. (Doc. 1, ¶¶1-2). For clarity, the Court adopts the
parties’ practice of referring to the labor organizations collectively as “Plaintiffs.”
In their complaint, Plaintiffs assert claims against the TVA and Mr. Johnson
for breach of contract and promissory fraud. (Doc. 1). In their motion to dismiss,
the TVA and Mr. Johnson argue that both claims are time-barred, that federal law
preempts the promissory fraud claim, and that the claims against Mr. Johnson in
his official capacity are duplicative of the claims against TVA. For the reasons
stated below, the Court grants in part and denies in part the motion to dismiss.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule 12(b)(6) enables a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint for
“failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
FED. R. CIV. P.
12(b)(6). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a complaint
against the “liberal pleading standards set forth by Rule 8(a)(2).” Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). A court may grant a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss when the allegations in a complaint “on their face . . . show that an
affirmative defense bars recovery on the claim.” Marsh v. Butler County, Ala., 268
F.3d 1014, 1022 (11th Cir. 2001) (en banc). When evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss, a district court accepts as true the allegations in the complaint
and construes the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Brophy v. Jiangbo Pharms. Inc., 781 F.3d 1296, 1301 (11th Cir. 2015).
FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiffs are the exclusive bargaining unit representatives for the security
officers who work at the TVA’s nuclear power facilities. (Doc. 1, ¶ 9). Plaintiffs
and the TVA are parties to a collective bargaining agreement. (Doc. 1, ¶ 10; Doc.
In February 2012, Plaintiffs and the TVA entered into a memorandum of
understanding in which the parties “agree[d] to discontinue the current pay
structure and progression plan (within-grade rates)” in the collective bargaining
agreement “and establish a new, four-classification pay structure.” (Doc. 1, ¶ 10;
Doc. 1-1, p. 1). Plaintiffs allege that the MOU provided that “wages for fiscal
years 2014 through 2016 would be renegotiated in 2013, and based off of the
‘salary and wage data from utilities with comparable nuclear security work in the
nuclear regulatory commission's region 2 geographic area.’” (Doc. 1, ¶11). The
parties agreed that the collected data would “be used as the basis for negotiations
of the basic salary rate for the Senior [Nuclear Security Officer] position.” (Doc.
1-1, p. 2). The parties also agreed that the “new overtime rule and the new
classification structure” would be “considered to be modifications to the collective
bargaining agreement.” (Doc. 1-1, p. 3).
Plaintiffs allege that in 2013 the TVA violated the MOU when the TVA
“failed and/or refused to renegotiate wages to apply the salary and wage data for
NRC Region 2, as previously agreed, and forced the Plaintiffs to accept wages for
security officer employees that were substantially less [than] the wages for
comparable work in NRC Region 2.” (Doc. 1 ¶ 13). Plaintiffs state that “TVA
breached [the MOU] by failing to renegotiate wages for years 2014 through 2016
based on wage data for NRC Region 2.” (Doc. 1 ¶ 16).
Plaintiffs’ Official Capacity Claims Against Mr. Johnson
Mr. Johnson argues that the Court should dismiss the claims against him in
his official capacity because those claims are duplicative of Plaintiffs’ claims
against the TVA. (Doc. 9, p. 9). Plaintiffs have agreed to the dismissal of the
claims against Mr. Johnson. (Doc. 17, pp. 7-8). Therefore, the Court will dismiss
Promissory Fraud Claim
Plaintiffs have agreed to the dismissal of their promissory fraud claim
against the TVA.
(Doc. 17 at 18).
Therefore, the Court will dismiss the
promissory fraud claim.
Breach of Contract Claim
The TVA argues that Plaintiffs’ claim concerning renegotiation of wages for
security officers is a claim for failure to bargain in good faith rather than a claim
for breach of contract.
The former is governed by a six-month statute of
limitations. 29 U.S.C. § 160(b); Ry. Labor Executives’ Ass’n v. S. Ry. Co., 860
F.2d 1038, 1042 (11th Cir. 1988) (“a refusal to bargain is a classic unfair labor
practice” that would generally fall under the 6-month limitations period).
Alabama’s six-year statute of limitations governs the latter. See Int’l Union v.
Hoosier Cardinal Corp., 383 U.S. 696, 704-05 (1966) (“the timeliness of a § 301
suit [for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization
representing employees in an industry affecting commerce] . . . is to be determined,
as a matter of federal law, by reference to the appropriate state statute of
limitations.”); ALA. CODE § 6-2-34 (1975) (establishing six-year statute of
limitations for breach of contract actions).
Viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, the allegations in the
complaint concern a complete refusal to bargain as required by the MOU rather
than a refusal to bargain in good faith. Plaintiffs state that “TVA breached [the
MOU] by failing to renegotiate wages for years 2014 through 2016 based on wage
data for NRC Region 2.” (Doc. 1 ¶ 16). Thus, “on their face,” the allegations in
the complaint do not “show that an affirmative defense bars recovery on the claim”
because the breach of the MOU occurred in 2013, and Plaintiffs filed their
complaint in 2016, well within Alabama’s six-year statute of limitations for
For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN
PART the motion to dismiss.
The Court dismisses both claims against Mr.
Johnson and dismisses the promissory fraud claim against the TVA. Plaintiffs’
breach of contract claim against the TVA shall proceed.
DONE and ORDERED this March 31, 2017.
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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