Johnson v. Teamsters Local Union # 570
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge James K. Bredar on 9/21/2017. (c/m 9/22/17 bmhs, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
MAURICE ANTHONY JOHNSON,
TEAMSTERS LOCAL UNION #570,
CIVIL NO. JKB-17-1731
Plaintiff Maurice Anthony Johnson filed this action against Defendant Teamsters Local
Union #570 on June 23, 2017 in this Court, alleging a violation of a Collective Bargaining
Agreement by his former employer MTC Logistics, and a claim for breach of the duty of fair
representation by Defendant. (Compl. III, ECF No. 1). Defendant brings this Motion to Dismiss
(ECF No. 6), asking the Court to dismiss Plaintiff‟s complaint on the ground that it is barred by
the applicable statute of limitations. Plaintiff has replied (ECF No. 9), the issue is fully briefed,
and there is no need for a hearing in this matter.
See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016).
Defendant‟s motion will be granted by accompanying order.
Standard of Review
A complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to „state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.‟” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Facial plausibility exists “when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. An inference of a mere
possibility of misconduct is not sufficient to support a plausible claim. Id. at 679. Although
when considering a motion to dismiss a court must accept as true all factual allegations in the
complaint, this principle does not apply to legal conclusions couched as factual allegations.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
As this is a motion to dismiss, the Court must look to the facts as alleged in Plaintiff‟s
Complaint. Plaintiff‟s Complaint is, however, rather threadbare, and does not contain any
information with regard to the dates on which the alleged actions occurred. This alone may be
enough to dismiss the Plaintiff‟s Complaint. See Bassoff v. Treanor, Pope, & Hughes P.A., Civ.
No. RDB-14-3753, 2015 WL 8757651 at *4, *6 (D. Md. Dec. 15, 2015) (“A plaintiff fails to
state a claim where the allegations on the face of the complaint show that an affirmative defense
would bar recovery,” (citing Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 214-215 (2007) and by failing to
allege any dates in connection to the allegations against the Defendant, Plaintiff‟s Complaint
“clearly establishes the merit of Defendant‟s limitations defense”).
Based on Plaintiff‟s Reply to Defendant‟s Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 9), however, it
appears that both parties generally agree on the relevant timeline. Therefore, the Court here will
look beyond the Plaintiff‟s failure to state a necessary component of his claim (i.e. the time when
the actions occurred) and will consider the dates provided by the Plaintiff in his Reply, as well as
the uncontested dates set forth in the Affidavit of Defendant‟s Secretary-Treasurer (attached as
Exhibit 1 to Defendant‟s Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 6-2), for the purpose of determining
whether Plaintiff‟s claim violates the statute of limitations.
Plaintiff was discharged by his employer MTC Logistics in March of 2014. (Mot.
Dismiss Mem. Supp. 2, ECF No. 6-1; Pl.‟s Reply Mot. Dismiss 1, ECF No. 9) (referring to
termination letter “dated Wednesday March 12, 2014.”).) Plaintiff‟s termination was in violation
of a Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”).
Plaintiff sought help from
Defendant Local Union #570, but Defendant failed to provide the representation that Plaintiff
needed. (Id.) Specifically, the Defendant “allowed” MTC Logistics to terminate Plaintiff in
violation of the CBA, engaged in “bias[ed] representation” during the grievance process, and
“did not follow the guidelines of the [CBA].” (Id.) Plaintiff became aware that Defendant was
engaged in this behavior and unfairly representing him sometime in 2014, and knew that
Defendant had stopped representing him at all by the end of 2014 at the latest. (See Pl.‟s Reply
Mot. Dismiss 1 (discussing a letter to the president of Local Union #570 dated June 10, 2014
“adamantly pleading with the President . . . to personally investigate the unjust wrongful
discharge of [Plaintiff]” and noting that the Plaintiff “repeatedly asked for non-bias[ed]
representation [throughout] the investigation.”); Mot. Dismiss Ex. 1, Cedenio Aff. ¶ 7, ECF No.
6-2 (affidavit of Local Union #570 Secretary-Treasurer and member of Executive Board stating
that Defendant notified Plaintiff by letter dated May 23, 2014 that Defendant “would not further
process the discharge grievance.”).) Plaintiff brought this action against the Defendant nearly
three years later, on June 23, 2017.
First, the Court must determine the nature of Plaintiff‟s claim. Plaintiff does not cite to a
specific statute, but does state that the basis for federal court jurisdiction is federal question
jurisdiction, and explains that the substance of his federal statutory grievance is “not honoring [a]
collective bargaining agreement [and] bias[ed] representation at grievance [and] . . . .
Termination of employment.” (Compl. II.A.) This characterization of the action, in addition to
the facts alleged elsewhere in Plaintiff‟s Complaint, strongly suggests that the Plaintiff is
bringing a claim under the National Labor Relations Act, specifically a “„hybrid‟ § 301/fair
representation claim.” DelCostello v. Int’l Broth. of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 165 (1983)
(referring to Section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. §185(a)). In
such an action, the employee has a claim against his employer for breach of a CBA, and a claim
against his union for not fairly representing him in regard to his claim against his employer. Id.
at 164-65. The employee may choose to sue only the union. Id. at 165. The Court construes
Plaintiff‟s claim as a hybrid Section 301/fair representation claim.
The statute of limitations with regard to a hybrid claim has been well described in
Bruce v. Int’l Longshoremen’s Ass’n, 7 F. Supp. 2d 609, 614 (D. Md. 1998), aff’d sub
nom. Bruce v. Int’l Longshoremen’s Ass’n, AFL-CIO, 182 F.3d 907 (4th Cir. 1999):
A six-month statute of limitations applies to “hybrid” claims under Section 301 . .
. . For limitations purposes, a Section 301 claim accrues when the claimant
discovers, or through the exercise of reasonable diligence should have discovered,
the acts constituting the alleged violation. In the context of a grievance
procedure, a union member‟s cause of action against the union may arise when
the member‟s grievance is denied and the union takes an unequivocal position that
it will not seek arbitration.
7 F. Supp. 2d at 614 (quotations and citations omitted).
Plaintiff does not dispute Defendant‟s characterization of the claim as a “hybrid” arising
under Section 301. Neither does Plaintiff deny that in 2014 he knew of Defendant‟s actions that
would give rise to a hybrid Section 301 claim. The only argument Plaintiff raises in opposition
to the Defendant‟s contention that this action is barred by the statute of limitations is that he was
unware of the statute of limitations. Unfortunately for the Plaintiff, that is not a valid reason for
tolling the statute of limitations. See Dement v. Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R. Co.,
845 F.2d 451, 460 (4th Cir. 1988) (“The standard [for determining when an action accrued in a
hybrid Section 301 case] is an objective one; namely, when the plaintiff knew, or should have
known through the exercise of due diligence, that his claim had accrued.”); Miller v. Pac. Shore
Funding, 224 F. Supp. 2d 977, 987 (D. Md. 2002), aff’d, 92 F. App‟x 933 (4th Cir. 2004)
(quoting Capital Dist. Physician’s Health Plan v. O’Higgins, 939 F. Supp. 992, 1000 (N.D.N.Y.
remain unaware of their
the statute of limitations sets an absolute deadline for gaining awareness.
A plaintiff must
exercise reasonable diligence—defined by the limitations period—„in determining whether . . .
particular acts or omissions causing injury are actionable in court.‟”); Fawley v. Warden, Civ.
No. AW-12-529, 2012 WL 1963348 *2 (D. Md. May 30, 2012) (discussing statute of limitations
in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)) (“Petitioner‟s selfrepresented [sic] status and any attendant lack of
knowledge of the law is not the type of extraordinary circumstance which would justify equitable
Construing the facts as generously as possible in Plaintiff‟s favor, Plaintiff was aware of
Defendant‟s intention to not continue its representation of Plaintiff by the end of 2014 at the
latest. Plaintiff has brought this action two-and-a-half years later, well beyond the six month
statute of limitations for this claim.
Therefore, Defendant‟s motion will be granted by
DATED this 21st day of September, 2017
BY THE COURT:
James K. Bredar
United States District Judge
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