Solo Cup Operating Corporation v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 528

Filing 33

ORDER granting in part and denying in part 23 Motion for Summary Judgment; denying 24 Motion for Summary Judgment. The matter is hereby Remanded to Arbitrator William A. Dealy Jr. The Clerk shall terminate all motions and deadlines and Close this case. Signed by Judge J. Randal Hall on 1/4/17. (cmr)

Download PDF
IN THE UNITED FOR THE STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA AUGUSTA DIVISION SOLO CUP OPERATING * CORPORATION, * * Plaintiff, * * v. * INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD LOCAL 528, 115-185 * OF TEAMSTERS, CV * Defendant. * ORDER "Everyone arbitration supposedly goes badly." Covad Commc'ns Co., In this case, loves 560 F. Saturn seeks arbitrator's At least Servs., until Inc. v. (S.D. Fla. 2008). the parties arbitrated whether Plaintiff Solo Cup bargaining agreement. now Telecomms. Supp. 2d 1278, 1279 Operating Corporation ("Solo") it arbitration. to collective- The arbitration went badly for Solo, modify decision violated the parties' the arbitrator's represents an award. arguable Because interpretation and the of the parties' collective-bargaining agreement, the Court will not disturb his award. I. This Solo, matter the Factual Background arises termination out of of Tamela her Wells's employment, and employment the with arbitration that ensued following the end of her employment. 1. The Parties' While Collective-Bargaining Agreement employed bargaining unit at Solo, Ms. represented Brotherhood of Teamsters, Wells by Local 528 was a member Defendant of International ("the Union"). Solo and the Union were parties to a collective-bargaining agreement. Article agreement, 5 of that the management of the rights: following methods of the business, operations, 24-3 at 10.) Solo was change equipment or (Id. (Id. at 17.) under the at 18.) existing Article 11 was (Id. final terms" of the And, at 18.) under and Although binding on the subtract from collective-bargaining agreement. Article 27 of the collective-bargaining agreement specifically prohibited "discrimination by either [Solo] Union against any employee because of race, sex, (Doc. unable to resolve the arbitrator had "no power to add to, modify limited to, eliminate grievances that the parties were arbitration or or not Article 10 of the agreement established procedures amicably would proceed to arbitration. parties, but facilities . . . ." for filing and resolving grievances. Article 11, Under "vested exclusively with including, ... to a disability, or national origin, creed, or the color, age, in the administration and application" of the collective-bargaining agreement. at 37.) claims the The for parties disability Americans unlawful agree with to that, discrimination, Disabilities fail with to Act Article ("ADA") . accommodate individual with a disability. respect an (Doc. 24-3 to arbitrating 27 incorporated The ADA makes otherwise See 42 U.S.C. it qualified § 12112. 2 . Ms . Wells's Employment Ms. working Wells worked for Solo from 1982 until 2014. as a forklift operator in position until her employment was overwhelming Wells majority operated a of her sit-down 1990, and she terminated in time as forklift. a in held 2014. forklift But She began that For the driver, Ms. after Dart 2013, Container Corporation acquired Solo, Solo transitioned to using stand-up forklifts. Ms. forklift in March 2014. health issues: Wells began Soon thereafter, operating a stand-up she began experiencing she suffered from swollen ankles, back pain, and tingling and numbing in her feet. Ms. Wells chiropractor condition." sought medical diagnosed (Doc. 24-4 her at treatment for these with a 5.) She issues. "degenerative eventually Her arthritic visited an orthopedist who recommended that she be permitted to return to using a sit-down forklift. Ms. Wells provided Solo with a written statement from this doctor requesting that she either be allowed to use a sit-down forklift or take a fifteen-minute break for every hour she spent on the stand-up forklift. agreed to minutes accommodate performing her other by allowing duties after her spend hour every to she Solo fifteen spent on the stand-up forklift. Subsequently, recommended that forklift. the Wells's take a forklift. Wells to seek Wells reported primary-care physician also she be permitted to return to using a sit-down Alternatively, allowed to on Ms. he recommended thirty-minute break Solo denied both additional that no options other for from Ms. every hour requests her possible Solo terminated her employment. that and Wells she spent instructed Ms. doctor. When accommodations In response, be Ms. existed, the Union filed a formal grievance on Ms. Wells's behalf, which Solo denied. The parties thus proceeded to arbitration. 3. The Arbitration The parties jointly selected preside over the arbitration. aside from the restrictions arbitrator would placed International Dealy Jr. to the on the arbitrator by the "they were not restricting the (Id. at 4.) determine A. The parties also stipulated that, collective-bargaining agreement, Arbitrator in any way." William And they agreed that the issues to be Brotherhood of Electrical Workers LLC, 803 F.3d 1241, 1247 (11th Cir. 2015) decided. v. Verizon See Fl., ("[W]here - as here - the parties refuse to stipulate to the issues at arbitration, the arbitrator is ^empowered' to frame and decide all the issues in the grievance as he sees them."). At the arbitration and in its post-hearing briefs, Solo argued that the decision to implement the stand-up forklifts was within its agreement, a powers that providing Ms. reasonable providing accommodation her accommodation, direct threat things, that forklift was After under Article a it under the reasonable hearing under the to ADA. allowing Ms. a Wells sit-down amounted 5 of Wells the collective-bargaining a sit-down forklift was not the ADA, forklift an undue and that, were a hardship The Union to return if reasonable and argued, to even posed among using a a other sit-down accommodation under the ADA. evidence and reviewing the briefs, the arbitrator determined that he was tasked with deciding: Did the Company violate provisions of the parties' collective bargaining agreement and/or any provisions of Federal law when it separated the Grievant, Ms. Tamela R. Wells, from employment on October 10, 2014. If so, what is the remedy? (Doc. 24-4 at 24.) the The arbitrator determined that Solo violated collective-bargaining agreement (and the ADA) providing Ms. Wells with a reasonable accommodation. by not He awarded Ms. Wells back pay, ordered her reinstated, and ordered Solo to provide her with a sit-down forklift. II. Following action in modify the and the arbitrator's November filed Procedural Background 2015 by arbitrator's a ruling, filing award. counterclaim a to initiated complaint (Doc. seeking Solo 1.) The enforce the to vacate Union or answered award. Both parties now move for summary judgment. 15.) this (Doc. Solo asks the Court to modify the portion of the award ordering it to provide Ms. Wells enforce with the arbitrator a sit-down award to in forklift. its calculate The entirety, back pay, Union to remand and to asks the award the Court case to attorneys' to the fees and costs. Ill. Summary genuine 56(a). the judgment dispute entitled to is to appropriate any as material a matter of only fact if and law." "there the Fed. is no movant is R. Civ. P. Facts are "material" if they could affect the outcome of suit the party, U.S. as judgment under Liberty Lobby, view Summary-Judgment Standard the Inc., facts in governing 477 U.S. the light Matsushita Elec. 574, in [its] 587 (1986), favor." substantive 242, 248 most favorable Indus. Co. v. law. (1986). to Anderson v. The Court must the non-moving Zenith Radio Corp., 475 and must draw "all justifiable inferences United States v. Four Parcels of Real Prop., 941 F.2d 1428, 1437 (11th Cir. 1991) (en banc) (internal punctuation and citations omitted). In this action, the Clerk of the Court gave the parties notice of the motions for summary judgment and informed them of the summary-judgment other materials (Docs. 25, in 26.) v. Wainwright, the opposition, Therefore, right to file affidavits and the consequences of or default. the notice requirements of Griffith 772 F.2d 822, are satisfied. expired, rules, 825 (11th Cir. 1985) The time for filing materials (per curiam), in opposition has and the motions are now ripe for consideration. IV. Solo requests that Discussion the Court modify the portion of the arbitrator's award requiring it to provide Ms. Wells with a sitdown forklift. award as attorneys' matter it The is. fees, to Union The costs, arbitrator jurisdiction over the seeks Union and to to have also asks prejudgment calculate matter for the Court the enforce Court interest, back award remand pay, enforcement to and purposes. the the retain The Court addresses the parties' arguments below. 1. Standard for Modifying an Arbitral Award Litigants wishing to modify an arbitral award face a high hurdle award because is "[a] extremely federal narrow." court's review IMC-Agrico 7 Co. of v. an arbitration International Chemical Workers (internal Council, quotation 171 marks F.3d 1322, omitted). 1325 (11th Cir. Indeed, "as long 1999) as the arbitrator is even arguably construing or applying the contract and acting within the convinced he scope of committed serious overturn his decision." v. Misco, Inc., Steelworkers ("[C]ourts v. [] authority, error that does a not U.S. American no 29, Mfg. 38 Co., business (1987); 363 see U.S. suffice is to weighing also United 568 (1960) 564, the merits grievance, considering whether there is equity claim, determining there is particular or court United Paperworkers International Union 484 have his whether in a of the particular language the written instrument which will support the claim." in (footnote omitted)). A court may vacate an arbitral award only when the award is irrational, "draw its is outside essence" See IMC-Agrico Co., the from arbitrator's the 171 F.3d at 1325 authority, collective bargaining as the arbitrator's to agreement. exceeds the scope of the or fails to draw agreement." fails ("A court may not vacate an its (citation quotation marks omitted)); see also Misco, long or collective-bargaining arbitral award unless it is irrational, arbitrator's authority, award draws essence omitted) from the (internal 484 U.S. at 36 ("As its essence from the collective bargaining agreement, and is not merely his own brand of industrial justice, the award 8 is legitimate." (citation omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted)). 2 . Analysis Solo claims essentially two that the reasons. usurped Solo's power to Solo to provide Solo claims, Ms. First, should it argues be with the arbitrator's a sit-down award was not agreement. Second, modified that implement new equipment Wells collective-bargaining award the for arbitrator when i t ordered forklift. That is, authorized under the Solo maintains that the arbitrator's award was not authorized under the ADA.1 a. Whether the arbitrator's award was authorized under the collective-bargaining agreement Solo argues that the collective-bargaining agreement did not authorize the arbitrator to order Solo to provide Ms. Wells with hand, a maintains sit-down that interpretation forklift. The the arbitrator's of the Union, award on the represents collective-bargaining other a permissible agreement. The Court agrees with the Union. 1 In its response in opposition to the Union's motion for summary judgment and in its reply in support of its motion for summary judgment, Solo also argues that it never consented to the arbitrator determining a specific accommodation. But the parties stipulated that the arbitrator would frame the issues to be decided, and he framed them as: "Did the Company violate provisions of the parties' collective bargaining agreement and/or any provisions of Federal law when it separated the Grievant, Ms. Tamela R. Wells, from employment on October 10, 2014. If so, what is the remedy?" (Doc. 24-4 at 24.) In fact, two issues, one being: "Was in its first post-hearing brief, Solo proposed Grievant discriminated against because of her alleged disability in violation of Article 27 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA"), and, if so, what shall be the remedy?" (Doc. 23-2 at 3.) Solo did not specify that it sought to limit possible remedies, and the arbitrator clearly determined that awarding a specific accommodation was an appropriate remedy. Accordingly, the Court rejects Solo's argument that it did not consent to the arbitrator ordering a specific accommodation. As noted, a as long as an arbitrator is "arguably construing" collective-bargaining disturbed. Misco, 484 entirely to the contract no matter is." "an marks how Id. at a his 38. not 1088 In [they] Trades ignore 1087 the (citation an collective-bargaining See id. think Council should courts interpretation essence, modify the agreement. decision Indeed, 837 F.3d 1083, may omitted) . interpret at wrong Metal Inc., arbitrator contract." U.S. arbitrator's Wiregrass Infrastructure, agreement, of v. omitted) be defer underlying interpretation Shaw (11th Cir. plain "must the that not Envtl. 2016). language (internal arbitrator is agreement, but of & But the quotation permitted he may to not ("The arbitrator acts within her authority when she even arguably interprets a contract, and she exceeds her authority when she modifies the contract's clear and unambiguous terms."). That said, a collective-bargaining agreement need not contain ambiguous terms for it to be open to interpretation. interpretation See when id. it ("A contract may is not facially be susceptible to ambiguous."). In interpreting a collective-bargaining agreement, an arbitrator is permitted agreement. An to "discover" apply implied moreover, is not required at 1091-92. Thus, arbitrator terms in the Id. arbitrator, reasoning. and Id. fails to specifically 10 to explain in some cases, state his reasoning his when an for an award, the or as must award may be a modification. resolve the reasonably viewed as See id. ambiguity In those by finding an instances, that the interpretation of the contract and enforcing it." Here, Solo unequivocally it used in argues vested the that it the with facility. "the court award the right Solo to change claims, modified provide Ms. agreement the equipment therefore, the lengthy background decision, facts of the the case when he an that ordered the Wells with a sit-down forklift. his agreement is Id. at 1092. collective-bargaining arbitrator In the interpretation arbitrator and the Solo recited in parties' to detail positions, summarized the pertinent provisions of the collective-bargaining agreement of the (including Article ADA, explicitly and rely interpretation issued on or 5), articulated his his any award. He particular specifically did interpretation not, however, of contract principle state why the collective- bargaining agreement permitted him to issue the award he chose. Rather, had he acknowledged that Article 5 "provides that management the leased right, for sit-down forklifts," whatever forklifts (doc. reason, to the to move use of from the self-owned use of stand-up 24-4 at 29), but nevertheless ruled that Solo was required to accommodate Ms. Wells with a sit-down forklift. Solo face believes of reason that the because arbitrator's his 11 decision "[r]ecognition flies of in the Solo's incontrovertible altogether that Solo could continue as period (Doc. rights easily of view a 13.) the sit-down and therefore sit-down under Article arbitrator's permissibly stated 5, a style his lack of when it reasoning a (or as While one infringing explanation is thereof) bargaining on just of 837 F.3d at ^not apparent' lack some for Ms. interpretation is collective for forklift award permissible that, interpreted order mandating retain — See Wiregrass Metal Trades Council, ("The rule ... is forklifts But the Court disagrees. arbitrator's as style reconciled with an time — perceived contract. 92 eliminate to provide, 24-1 at arguably Solo's to simply cannot be indefinite Wells." right the 1091- from the whether she agreement or impermissibly modified it, and one can plausibly read the award either way, the court must resolve the ambiguity by finding that the award is an interpretation of the contract . . . ."). First, rights under statement that the he potential fact Article about that 5 Solo's reviewed supports rights Article conflict the 5 between arbitrator the under and Union's Article Article these recognized 27 Solo's position. His arguably shows 5 and provisions. analyzed any Following his analysis, he may have determined that Solo could not shrug off its responsibility to Article 27 (and the ADA) accommodate a disabled by relying on Article 5. worker under Indeed, the ADA specifically provides that a reasonable accommodation may 12 include "acquisition or modification of equipment." § 12111(9) (B). though Solo Thus, had the the arbitrator general may power to have 42 U.S.C. concluded manage its that, equipment, Article 5 did not obviate the possibility that Article 27 could require Solo employee. of the to While introduce Solo may agreement, it is unique disagree not so equipment with such implausible an for a single interpretation that it warrants vacating or modifying the award. Second, Solo's arbitrator's agreement. interpretation during of arbitration the support the collective-bargaining Although Solo argued at arbitration that it had the power under Article that arguments accommodating 5 to Ms. change Wells its with equipment, a sit-down it also forklift argued would amount to an undue hardship and a pose a direct threat under the ADA, see 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111, 12112. In its post-hearing brief, Solo stated that "[t]he ultimate decision on the reasonableness of reintroducing a sit-down lift to the work environment fell to [Solo's] Leave and Disability Management Manager," and it argued that "the risk of reintroducing the sit-down lift to the work environment posed enough risk that doing so would pose an undue hardship." could (Doc. have providing a 23-2 at 24-25.) plausibly sit-down accommodation and, determined forklift therefore, From this, that was a Solo the arbitrator conceded possible that reasonable that Article 5 did not preclude 13 him from ordering Solo to provide Ms. Wells with a sit-down forklift. Third, the arbitrator's interpretation of the collective- bargaining agreement is also supported by the fact that Solo had previously accommodated forklift. According another to the employee with arbitrator's a sit-down decision, another employee suffered ankle and knee problems after Solo began using stand-up forklifts and Solo permitted forklift on a temporary basis. arguments could Solo have made relied acquiesced to the accommodation. 1089 ("[A]n on see also arbitrator's upon Food and brief, information award that reliable to the appears Like the arbitrator infer that Solo a possible 837 contrary evidence of Brotherhood of 738 F.2d 1564, the parties' Electrical 1568 F.3d at to the Workers International (11th Cir. 1988), to support its position. intent."); Workers, (11th Cir. Solo relies heavily on Bruno's, Commercial sit-down agreement may nevertheless be valid if it Co. of Fla., Furthermore, a 24-4 at 32.) post-hearing this use See Wiregrass Metal Trades Council, International United Tel. its (See Doc. to idea that a sit-down forklift was express terms of the is premised in her Union, v. 1984). Inc. v. United 858 F.2d 1529 There, a collective- bargaining agreement vested the employer with "[t]he right to establish and maintain reasonable rules and regulations covering the operation of the stores . . . ." 14 Id. at 1530. Under this authority, the employees employer would receive violations. A challenged their arbitration. been to void, that it The struck Eleventh the than Bruno's, rules of without and he and policy punished the cause that and court existing vacated policy affirmed. including operating omitted). for under this and an arbitrator, to had the procedures." Accordingly, the award employer's the "bar[red] Id. court to held, a new one. found anyone other 1532 the extent court setting at employer the implemented from policy employees the Specifically, rule proceeded that the which certain outlined a new policy for the collective-bargaining agreement and under parties determined just district the a suspensions employees arbitrator Circuit that one-day suspensions The follow. The number disciplined policy was implemented up store (footnote arbitrator's decision to "write and impose[]" a new policy violated the plain terms of the agreement. Id. Bruno's is distinguishable from this case. there struck down an entire policy and to follow one he created. Here, The arbitrator instructed the the arbitrator employer expressly acknowledged Solo's right to implement new equipment. But he determined that it must still provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees, equipment when necessary. including providing individualized He did not invalidate Article 5's grant of power in Solo to change its equipment. 15 He did not overrule Solo's decision to use stand-up forklifts. not replace Solo's decision with his own. that providing Ms. Wells with a Rather, sit-down And he did he determined forklift was a reasonable accommodation for her disability. Because the Court arguably construing agreement, see Misco, is satisfied the 484 that parties' U.S. at the motion for summary 38, judgment was collective-bargaining the Court motion for summary judgment on this issue. Union's arbitrator to DENIES Solo's The Court GRANTS the the extent it requests that the Court enforce the award on these grounds. b. Whether the arbitrator's award was authorized under the ADA Solo argues that the arbitrator's award should be modified because it was not authorized under the ADA. claims that, under the ADA, Specifically, Solo "disabled employees are not entitled to the specific accommodation of their choice." (Doc. 24-1 at 18. ) Solo is correct that a disabled employee is not necessarily entitled Sec'y, to the of her choice. Dep't of Veterans Affairs Agency, (11th Cir. 2012) an accommodation employee (alteration Justice, in in See 489 F. Dickerson v. App'x 358, 360 ("[A]n employer is not required to accommodate any manner original)); No. 7:12-CV-24, in which Copeland that v. 2013 WL 1296778, 16 Ga. employee Dep't at *11 desires." of Juvenile (M.D. Ga. Mar. 27, 2013) ("Plaintiff accommodation, that an not entitled only a reasonable one."). employee accommodation. allowing Ms. is is Here, Wells accommodation. to never the her entitled arbitrator to her clearly sit-down preferred But that does not mean use a the That to forklift accommodation is preferred determined was a the by reasonable one erred that Ms. Wells preferred does not invalidate it. Solo specific that also instructed 29 failed Solo First, the arbitrator Instead, Solo accommodate engage in an § 1630.2 (o) (3), Ms. argues, Wells, interactive to while he the the was arbitrator framed provisions of once he he the a found should process determine the arbitrator parties not the to required issues parties' may have (Doc. been decide on to so. as: do "Did collective an have with Ms. appropriate permitted to accommodation As the noted, Company bargaining and/or any provisions of Federal law . . . ? remedy?" ordering The Court disagrees. instruct themselves, to to C.F.R. accommodation. simply that accommodation. Solo Wells, claims the violate agreement If so, what is the 24-4 at 24 (emphasis added).) And he decided that the appropriate remedy was to order Ms. Wells reinstated and provided with a sit-down forklift. Moreover, to the extent the arbitrator contemplated leaving the determination of the specific accommodation to the parties 17 to decide, his refusal to do so makes sense. numerous other Wells take But to Solo accommodations breaks rejected Accordingly, existed, and moving similar her requests including to a to because may have Ms. Wells. it accommodate different prior broadly instruct resulted That Solo to to in Solo the is, Solo that an abstract instruction comply once was with the ADA prior to the arbitration. think allowing Ms. position. arbitration. it would not have been especially efficient for the arbitrator to Solo argues that again the is the refusing required There from with to ADA to comply little reason arbitrator would have changed what Solo viewed as reasonable accommodations. Because the arbitrator's award was authorized under the ADA, the Court DENIES Solo's motion for summary judgment on this issue. To the extent the Union seeks to enforce the award on these grounds, the Court GRANTS its motion for summary judgment. 3. Retention of Jurisdiction, Remand, and Attorneys' The Unions asks the Court to remand this Fees matter to the arbitrator to calculate back pay, to retain jurisdiction, and to award attorneys' fees, costs, and prejudgment interest. The Court addresses each of these issues below. First, with respect to remanding this matter, Solo consents to this case being remanded to the arbitrator. Court GRANTS this request. Accordingly, the This matter shall be REMANDED to the arbitrator to calculate back pay. 18 Second, Court the retaining Union provides jurisdiction. keep this case pending on no And legal the basis Court its docket. justifying sees no Accordingly, reason the to the Union's request is DENIED. Finally, costs. When award the a Court party attorneys' declines challenges fees when faith, vexatiously, Steel, Paper and Forestry, Industrial LLC, 807 and F.3d the to an award arbitral when 1258, Rubber, Workers 1275 least challenge . . . ." least a award. DENIED. plausible some Id. Manufacturing, Cir. Moreover, on the the the Wise (citation argument Court for is for attorneys' extent to fees, United Allied Alloys, omitted) fees are not supported satisfied Solo bad that challenge the at the therefore, is interest is prejudgment the Union may address that issue with remand. V. For "in Energy, v. or court may acts But attorneys' existed request to 2015) plausible Here, argument The Union's arbitrator party International (11th appropriate in this case, the a fees wantonly or for oppressive reasons." Service "at award, challenging (internal quotation marks omitted). proper attorneys' reasons stated Conclusion above, Solo's motion for summary judgment is DENIED, and the Union's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. 19 This matter is hereby REMANDED TERMINATE to Arbitrator all motions ORDER ENTERED January, William A. and deadlines at Augusta, Dealy Jr. and CLOSE Georgia The this this Clerk shall case. -^\J^ day of 2017. J. STATES RANDAL HALL DISTRICT JUDGE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA 20

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?