New Orleans Cold Storage and Warehouse Company Ltd v. Teamsters Local 270, et al
ORDER AND REASONS: IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff's 17 motion is DENIED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendants' 16 motion is GRANTED. Signed by Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle on 8/15/2017. (mmv)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
NEW ORLEANS COLD STORAGE
AND WAREHOUSE COMPANY LTD.
TEAMSTERS LOCAL 270, ET AL.
ORDER AND REASONS
Before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment filed
by Plaintiff New Orleans Cold Storage and Warehouse Company, Ltd.
and Defendants Teamsters Local 270 and Esau Taylor. Rec. Docs. 1617. The parties timely filed opposition memoranda. Rec. Docs. 1920. For the reasons discussed below,
IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff’s motion (Rec. Doc. 17) is
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendants’ motion (Rec. Doc. 16)
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
This case arises out of the October 13, 2015 termination of
Defendant Esau Taylor (“Taylor”) by his former employer, Plaintiff
New Orleans Cold Storage and Warehouse Company, Ltd. (“NOCS”).
Rec. Doc. 1-1 at ¶ 5. Taylor was employed under a Collective
Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) between NOCS and Defendant Teamsters
Local 270 (“the Union”). Id. at ¶ 4; see also Rec. Doc. 16-4.
Article VII of the CBA, titled “DISCHARGE,” provided that
“[t]he Employer shall at all times possess and retain the right to
hire and discharge, provided the discharge shall be for just
cause.” Rec. Doc. 16-4 at 3 (emphasis added).
arbitration under the CBA. Rec. Doc. 1-1 at ¶ 6. Article X of the
CBA, titled “GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE,” provides:
The jurisdiction of the arbitrator is limited to:
(a) Interpretation, application of the specific terms
of this Agreement, and adjudication of issues
arising out of the application of those specific
(b) A decision or award which is not contrary to, and
in no way adds to, subtracts from or alters, the
plain words of this Agreement as used in their most
commonly understood meaning, and
(c) Reversing the decision of the Company in matters
involving the fairness of discipline, discharge or
change of status of an employee, only if it is found
that the Company has acted arbitrarily and in
violation of this Agreement.
Rec. Doc. 16-4 at 4 (emphasis added).
The issue presented to the arbitrator, John Barnard, was
stated as follows:
“Was the termination of grievant Esau Taylor
for just cause? If not, what is the proper remedy?” Rec. Doc. 165 at 2. After reviewing Article VII, the positions of both NOCS
and the Union, and various documents (including the notice of
termination, an email, and an unsigned handwritten note), the
arbitrator determined that Taylor was allegedly terminated for
employee’s failure to follow a reasonable order after being warned
that failure to obey the order could subject the employee to
discipline. Id. at 7-8. The arbitrator found that Taylor was never
given a direct order. Id. at 8. He then noted that
The primary reason arbitrators have included certain
basic due process rights within the concept of just cause
is to help the parties prevent the imposition of
discipline where there is a little or no evidence on
consideration of industrial due process as a component
of just cause is an integral part of the just cause
analysis for many arbitrators.
Id. at 9 (quoting Elkouri & Elkouri, How Arbitration Works, p. 967
(6th ed.)) (emphasis added). In this case, the arbitrator found
that “due process prior to the decision . . . to verbally terminate
Taylor was very much lacking. The emotions of the moment cancelled
any chance for due process.” Id. He concluded that
the charge of insubordination was not present and cannot
be sustained, and further, the fact that Taylor was not
afforded his due process rights, such must lead to [the]
decision that just cause was not present in the Company’s
decision to terminate Taylor . . . the entire episode
was blown out of proportion . . . and needless emotions
took over a situation that could have been handled in a
more rational and calm manner. As such, the decision by
the company to terminate Taylor on the spot was
inappropriate, and not justified.
Id. at 9-10.
Accordingly, on October 18, 2016, the arbitrator determined
that Taylor was not terminated for just cause, that Taylor should
be reinstated, subject to a two-week suspension, that his seniority
and contractual rights be restored, and that he be awarded backpay
after deducting “any and all interim earnings, including any
unemployment compensation having been received.” Id. at 11.
On December 19, 2016, NOCS filed a petition to vacate the
arbitration award in the Civil District Court for the Parish of
Orleans. Rec. Doc. 1 at ¶ 1. It specifically requested that the
arbitration award be vacated or otherwise modified to reflect a
decision in its favor, pursuant to Louisiana Revised Statute
9:4210(D), and that it be awarded costs. Rec. Doc. 1-1 at 4, ¶ 11.
On January 4, 2017, Defendants removed the action to this
Court, alleging original and supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to
28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367 because Plaintiff’s claims arose out of
§ 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185. Rec.
Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 3-5.1 On January 9, 2017, Defendants filed an answer
and counterclaim against NOCS, seeking to enforce the arbitration
award. Rec. Doc. 5. They specifically alleged that NOCS had “not
taken any steps to implement the arbitrator’s decision,” and
consequently asked that the Court dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint,
enforce the arbitration award, and award the Union the reasonable
costs and attorneys’ fees incurred in enforcing the award. Id. at
This statute provides that “[s]uits for violation of contracts between an
employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry
affecting commerce . . . may be brought in any district court of the United
States having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to the amount in
controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the parties.” 29 U.S.C. §
185(a). For discussions regarding the jurisdictional aspects of § 301, see,
e.g. Houston Ref., L.P. v. United Steel, Paper & Forestry, Rubber, Mfg., 765
F.3d 396, 403 (5th Cir. 2014); Arceneaux v. Amstar Corp., No. 03-3588, 2004 WL
574718, at *2 (E.D. La. Mar. 22, 2004).
THE PARTIES’ CONTENTIONS
In both the original petition and in the instant motion for
summary judgment, NOCS argued that the arbitrator exceeded his
authority under the CBA by (1) reinstating Taylor without finding
that NOCS “acted arbitrarily and in violation of the CBA” and (2)
“imposing his own discipline upon Mr. Taylor and substituting his
judgment for that of the employer.” Rec. Docs. 1-1 at 4, ¶¶ 9-10;
17-3 at 3, 7-8. As to the latter, NOCS argued that the arbitrator
inappropriately added to the CBA by requiring “industrial due
reinstating Taylor, despite finding that Taylor should have been
suspended; and that the “CBA does not allow modification of
discipline in cases where the contract does not grant him the
authority to do so.” Rec. Doc. 17-3 at 9-11.
Defendants respond that the arbitrator’s decision took note
of the relevant CBA article and made a decision that “was entirely
grounded in the provisions of the Agreement,” as evidenced by his
repeated references to the absence of “just cause.” Rec. Doc. 162 at 8, 10-11 (citing Rec. Doc. 16-4 at 2, 10-11).2
Defendants also argue that Taylor is not a proper party to this action. Rec.
Doc. 16-2 at 4. The Labor Management Relations Act provides that a “labor
organization may sue or be sued as an entity and in behalf of the employees
whom it represents in the courts of the United States. Any money judgment
against a labor organization in a district court of the United States shall be
enforceable only against the organization as an entity and against its assets,
and shall not be enforceable against any individual member or his assets.” 29
U.S.C. § 185(b). See also Smith v. Am. Postal Workers Union, 306 F. App’x 178,
180 n.2 (5th Cir. 2009) (citing Atkinson v. Sinclair Ref. Co., 370 U.S. 238,
247-48 (1962)); Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Reis, 451 U.S. 401, 416-17
III. LAW AND ANALYSIS
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment is
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
(1986) (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)); see also TIG Ins. Co. v.
Sedgwick James of Wash., 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002). A
genuine issue exists if the evidence would allow a reasonable jury
to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions
on file, together with the affidavits, if any,’ which it believes
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.”
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. If and when the movant carries this
burden, the non-movant must then go beyond the pleadings and
present other evidence to establish a genuine issue. Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586
(1986). Though, “where the non-movant bears the burden of proof at
trial, the movant may merely point to an absence of evidence, thus
(1981). NOCS does not address this argument. Defendants’ motion for summary
judgment on this issue is therefore deemed unopposed.
shifting to the non-movant the burden of demonstrating by competent
summary judgment proof that there is an issue of material fact
warranting trial.” Lindsey v. Sears Roebuck & Co., 16 F.3d 616,
618 (5th Cir. 1994). Conclusory rebuttals of the pleadings are
insufficient to avoid summary judgment. Travelers Ins. Co. v.
Liljeberg Enter., Inc., 7 F.3d 1203, 1207 (5th Cir. 1993).
The Supreme Court has explained that where a CBA contains an
arbitration clause, “the courts play only a limited role when asked
to review the decision of an arbitrator.” United Paperworkers Int’l
Union, AFL-CIO v. Misco, Inc., 484 U.S. 29, 36 (1987). “The reasons
relations. These statutes reflect a decided preference for private
“[f]inal adjustment by a method agreed upon by the parties is
declared to be the desirable method for settlement of grievance
disputes arising over the application or interpretation of an
existing [CBA]”); AT&T Techs., Inc. v. Commc’ns Workers of Am.,
475 U.S. 643, 647 (1986)). To that end, “[t]he courts are not
authorized to reconsider the merits of an award even though the
parties may allege that the award rests on errors of fact or on
arbitrator’s award ‘draws its essence from the [CBA],’ and is not
legitimate.” United Paperworkers, 484 U.S. at 36 (quoting United
Steelworkers of Am. v. Enter. Wheel & Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593, 595
(1960)) (emphasis added); see also Houston Lighting & Power Co. v.
Int’l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, Local Union No. 66, 71 F.3d 179, 182
(5th Cir. 1995) (quoting Delta Queen Steamboat Co. v. Dist. 2
Marine Eng’rs Beneficial Ass’n, AFL-CIO, 889 F.2d 599, 602 (5th
Cir. 1989)). “In applying the ‘essence’ test, [the Fifth Circuit
has] stated that an arbitration award ‘must have a basis that is
at least rationally inferable, if not obviously drawn, from the
letter or purpose of the [CBA] . . . [T]he award must, in some
contract.’” Bruce Hardwood Floors, Div. of Triangle Pac. Corp. v.
UBC, S. Council of Indus. Workers, Local Union No. 2713, 103 F.3d
449, 451 (5th Cir. 1997) (quoting Executone Info. Sys., Inc. v.
Davis, 26 F.3d 1314, 1325 (5th Cir. 1994)) (emphasis added).
“Because the parties have contracted to have disputes settled
by an arbitrator chosen by them rather than by a judge, it is the
arbitrator’s view of the facts and of the meaning of the contract
that they have agreed to accept.” United Paperworkers, 484 U.S. at
37-38. As to the interpretation of the contract, “[t]he arbitrator
may not ignore the plain language . . . but the parties having
authorized the arbitrator to give meaning to the language of the
agreement, a court should not reject an award on the ground that
the arbitrator misread the contract.” Id. at 38 (citing Enter.
Wheel, 363 U.S. at 599); see also E. Associated Coal Corp. v.
United Mine Workers of Am., Dist. 17, 531 U.S. 57, 61-62 (2000)
(“That is because both employer and union have granted to the
contract’s language, including such words as ‘just cause.’ They
have ‘bargained for’ the ‘arbitrator’s construction’ of their
instances.”) (internal citations omitted) (emphasis added).
“So, too, where it is contemplated that the arbitrator will
determine remedies for contract violations that he finds, courts
have no authority to disagree with his honest judgment in that
respect.” United Paperworkers, 484 U.S. at 38. “[A]s long as the
arbitrator is even arguably construing or applying the contract
and acting within the scope of his authority, that a court is
convinced he committed serious error does not suffice to overturn
his decision.” Id. (emphasis added).
When an arbitrator is commissioned to interpret and
apply the [CBA], he is to bring his informed judgment to
bear in order to reach a fair solution of a problem.
This is especially true when it comes to formulating
remedies. There the need is for flexibility in meeting
a wide variety of situations. The draftsmen may never
have thought of what specific remedy should be awarded
to meet a particular contingency. Nevertheless, an
arbitrator is confined to interpretation and application
of the [CBA]; he does not sit to dispense his own brand
of industrial justice. He may of course look for guidance
from many sources, yet his award is legitimate only so
long as it draws its essence from the [CBA]. When the
arbitrator’s words manifest an infidelity to this
obligation, courts have no choice but to refuse
enforcement of the award.
Enter. Wheel, 363 U.S. at 597.
Further, “[t]he arbitrator’s authority is circumscribed by
the arbitration agreement, and he can bind the parties only on
arbitrator has exceeded these bounds is an issue for judicial
resolution.” Piggly Wiggly Operators’ Warehouse, Inc. v. Piggly
Wiggly Operators’ Warehouse Indep. Truck Drivers Union, Local No.
1, 611 F.2d 580, 583 (5th Cir. 1980) (citation omitted); see also
scrutinize the award to ensure that the arbitrator acted in
conformity with the jurisdictional prerequisites of the [CBA].
Where an arbitrator exceeds his contractual authority, vacation or
modification of the award is an appropriate remedy”) (citations
omitted). “The scope of the arbitrator’s authority, however, is
constitutes merely a promise to arbitrate. Before arbitration can
actually proceed, it is necessary for the parties to supplement
the agreement to arbitrate by defining the issue to be submitted
to the arbitrator and by explicitly giving him authority to act.”
Piggly Wiggly, 611 F.2d at 583 (citations omitted). “[O]nce the
parties have gone beyond their promise to arbitrate and have
actually submitted an issue to an arbiter, we must look both to
their contract and to the submission of the issue to the arbitrator
to determine his authority.” Id. (citations omitted); see also
Holmes v. Orleans Par. Sch. Bd., 95-2451, p. 10 (La. App. 4 Cir.
7/9/97); 698 So. 2d 429, 435, writ denied, 97-2102 (La. 11/14/97);
703 So. 2d 630 (noting that the court should ask whether the CBA
gave the arbitrator the power to impose the remedy chosen and, if
not, whether the submission agreement or the grievance itself gave
the arbitrator that power) (citing Piggly Wiggly, 611 F.2d at 58384; Mobil Oil Corp. v. Oil, Chem. & Atomic Workers Int’l Union &
Local Union No. 4-522 O.C.A.W.I.U., 777 F. Supp. 1342, 1349 (E.D.
La. 1991) (holding that “[w]hen there is no formal submission
agreement, the arbitrator is empowered to decide the issue under
interpretation of the [CBA],” and looking to the opening statements
and testimony to determine the issue submitted to the arbitrator)).
The Court is not persuaded by NOCS’s first argument that the
arbitrator exceeded his authority by failing to find that the
company acted arbitrarily and in violation of the CBA, as required
by Article X. While the arbitrator may not have explicitly stated
that NOCS acted arbitrarily and in violation of the CBA, that
conclusion is “rationally inferable” from his decision. The CBA
requires any discharge to be for “just cause” (Rec. Doc. 16-4 at
3) and the arbitrator specifically concluded that “the decision to
terminate . . . Taylor was not for just cause,” (Rec. Doc. 16-5 at
violation of the CBA. Plus, this Court can rationally infer from
termination decision to be arbitrary. For example, the arbitrator
found that “[t]he emotions of the moment cancelled any chance for
due process,” “the charge of insubordination was not present,”
emotions took over a situation that could have been handled in a
more rational and calm manner,” and “the decision by the Company
justified.” Rec. Doc. 16-5 at 9-10. These statements clearly
indicate to the Court that the arbitrator considered the decision
to terminate Taylor arbitrary.
Furthermore, the Court is not persuaded by NOCS’s second
substituting his own judgment for that of the company’s. It appears
to the Court that this argument is twofold:
NOCS is concerned by
the arbitrator’s (1) references to “industrial due process” and
(2) decision to reinstate Taylor subject to a two-week suspension.
First, even though the CBA does not refer to industrial due
process, the arbitrator explained in his decision that the concept
informs one’s understanding of “just cause,” which was required by
the CBA. Rec. Docs. 16-4 at 3; 16-5 at 9. These parties agreed to
arbitrate this dispute, so “it is the arbitrator’s view . . . of
the meaning of the contract that they have agreed to accept.”
United Paperworkers, 585 U.S. at 37-38. Accordingly, it is not
this Court’s role to review the arbitrator’s interpretation of
“just cause.” E. Associated Coal Corp., 531 U.S. at 61-62.
Second, the parties specifically asked the arbitrator to
decide if the termination was for just cause and, “[i]f not, what
is the proper remedy?” Rec. Doc. 16-5 at 2. NOCS asked the
arbitrator to fashion an appropriate remedy and now complains
because he required a suspension, rather than termination. By
defining the issues before the arbitrator, the parties gave the
arbitrator the authority to act on those issues. Piggly Wiggly,
611 F.2d at 583; see also Mobil Oil Corp., 777 F. Supp. at 1349.
Even if the parties had not explicitly given the arbitrator the
authority to fashion his own remedy, arbitrators must be given the
“flexibility” to meet a wide variety of situations and, as long as
the chosen remedy “draws its essence from the [CBA],” it will be
upheld. Enter. Wheel, 363 U.S. at 597. Here, Article IX of the CBA
provides, in pertinent part, that “[t]he Employer also retains the
right to discipline employees for just cause including suspension
and/or discharge.” Rec. Doc. 16-4 at 3. Therefore, the arbitrator’s
award drew its essence from the CBA and this Court will not vacate
or modify it.
aspects of the arbitration decision, we “must affirm the award .
. . if we determine that the arbitrator has acted within the ambit
of his authority as set by an arguable construction and application
of the CBA . . . .” Weber Aircraft Inc. v. Gen. Warehousemen &
(citations omitted); see also Beaird Indus., Inc. v. Local 2997,
Int’l Union, 404 F.3d 942, 944 (5th Cir. 2005). The arbitrator’s
decision in this case was based on an arguable construction and
application of the CBA and must therefore be affirmed.
IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff’s motion (Rec. Doc. 17) is
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendants’ motion (Rec. Doc. 16)
New Orleans, Louisiana, this 15th day of August, 2017.
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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