Scruggs v. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1700 et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1700's and Bruce Hamilton's Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 27 ] is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff's Complaint [ECF No. 1 ] is DISMISSED with prejudice. Signed by District Judge E. Richard Webber on August 16, 2013. (BRP)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
STEPHANIE B. SCRUGGS,
AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION
LOCAL 1700, and
Case No. 4:12CV01442 ERW
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter comes before the Court on Defendants Amalgamated Transit Union Local
1700's (“Union”) and Bruce Hamilton’s (“Hamilton”) Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 27]. Union
and Hamilton collectively will be referred to as “Defendants.”
I. PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
On August 8, 2012, Plaintiff Stephanie B. Scruggs (“Plaintiff”) filed this employment
discrimination lawsuit against Union, and against Hamilton, Union’s President [ECF No. 1].
Service was effected on Defendants on January 2, 2013 [ECF Nos. 20, 21]. The Court granted
Defendants an extension of time to respond to Plaintiff’s Complaint, directing them to answer or
otherwise respond no later than February 14, 2013 [ECF Nos. 19, 24]. On that date, Defendants
filed this Motion to Dismiss, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), asserting that Plaintiff’s
Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, because, although it purports
to allege a claim for racial discrimination, based on the duty of fair representation, the Complaint
does not identify facts that would allow the Court to draw the reasonable inference that Union or
Hamilton are liable for the alleged misconduct [ECF Nos. 27, 28, 29].
Upon review of the record on March 19, 2013, the Court found that Plaintiff had failed to
file a Response to Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, and ordered Plaintiff to show cause, no later
than March 29, why the Motion should not be granted [ECF No. 30]. On March 26, Plaintiff
filed a Response [ECF No. 31]. Defendants filed their Reply on April 2, 2013 [ECF No. 32].
In her Complaint, Plaintiff, an African American, alleges that her lawsuit is based on Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., for employment
discrimination on the basis of race. Plaintiff further claims Union failed to represent her by not
taking her case to arbitration in spring 2012 [ECF No. 1 at 5]. She states that the Union vicepresident working on her case died, and she “never heard a word since,” although she kept
calling the union representative [ECF No. 1 at 5]. Plaintiff further alleges that when she called
Hamilton directly to find out why her case was not going to be arbitrated, he “did not give a good
reason[.]” [ECF No. 1 at 5]. Plaintiff states, “It[’]s not fair that everybody else goes to arbitration
and mines (sic) does not” [ECF No. 1 at 5].
In the Charge of Discrimination she filed with the Missouri Commission on Human
Rights (the “MCHR Charge”), Plaintiff reported that she filed a grievance against her employer,
Greyhound Lines (“Greyhound”), with Union, due to her termination [ECF No. 1-1 at 2].
Plaintiff further alleged that her union steward represented her during three grievance steps, but
she was unable to get her former job back [ECF No. 1-1 at 2]. Plaintiff claimed that sometime
around November of 2011, she was informed by a union representative that her grievance was
going to be referred to arbitration [ECF No. 1-1 at 2]. Plaintiff asserted that Hamilton informed
her that her grievance would not proceed to arbitration, during a telephone conversation on July
9, 2012, and that he sent her a letter, dated July 11, 2012, to reiterate their telephone discussion
[ECF Nos. 1-1 at 2, 1-2 at 1].
Plaintiff submitted copies of several letters as exhibits to her Complaint, including the
July 11th correspondence she received from Hamilton. Hamilton’s letter indicated that Union’s
executive board voted not to proceed with Plaintiff’s grievance, “after lengthy deliberation and
with advice from the union’s attorney” [ECF No. 1-2 at 1].
Plaintiff’s exhibits include a letter to Union’s vice president, dated April 2, 2011, written
by Greyhound’s St. Louis operations supervisor stating why Plaintiff’s grievance was being
denied [ECF No. 1-2 at 8]. According to this supervisor, Plaintiff was terminated from
Greyhound due to an incident in which Plaintiff, who had been driving a bus full of passengers,
left her bus, upon its arrival in Columbia, Missouri, and entered the agency terminal. The letter
stated that, upon her return to the bus, Plaintiff sat in her driver’s seat ,and noticed it was wet
[ECF No. 1-2 at 8]. The letter further indicated the following facts. Police were called to the
agency. The responding police officer approached the bus Plaintiff had been operating, and
found passengers inside, knocking on the bus’s locked door. During questioning by the police
officer, multiple passengers reported the temperature inside the bus was extremely hot, Plaintiff
would not adjust the temperature, and they had been locked in the hot bus and could not exit.
The letter indicated that when Plaintiff was interviewed following this incident, she told
management personnel that she did not lock the bus, and that the heat on the bus had been mild.
According to this letter, when management personnel thereafter interviewed the
responding officer, the police officer stated the bus door was locked when he arrived, and the
bus was very hot inside when he entered it. The police officer further reported he felt the driver’s
seat to determine if it was wet, but found the seat being only what it would be from the normal
heat of the driver. In this letter, the operations supervisor opined the “manner in which this
incident was handled [by Plaintiff] was unprofessional and the interview conducted of [Plaintiff]
was found to be less than truthful.”
Plaintiff’s submitted exhibits also include a May 20, 2011 letter written by Greyhound’s
city manager to Union’s vice president [ECF No. 1-2 at 6-7]. In this letter, Greyhound’s city
manager discussed a third level grievance hearing on Plaintiff’s termination, during which a
video taken by one of the bus passengers at the time of the Columbia incident was played. The
letter documented that Union’s representative objected to the showing of the video, and the
representative and Plaintiff subsequently refused to continue the grievance proceeding, despite
the readiness of available witnesses to testify. Greyhound’s city manager concluded he
considered the refusal to be improper and unprofessional, and stated the grievance remained
A party may move under Rule 12(b)(6) to dismiss a complaint for “fail[ing] to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The purpose of a motion to
dismiss is to test “the sufficiency of a complaint[.]” M.M. Silta, Inc. v. Cleveland Cliffs, Inc.,
616 F.3d 872, 876 (8th Cir. 2010).
“To survive a motion to dismiss, 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) (internal quotations and citation omitted). “A claim has facial plausibility
when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference
that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.
When ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court “must liberally construe a complaint in favor
of the plaintiff[.]” Huggins v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc., 592 F.3d 853, 862 (8th Cir.
2010). However, if a claim fails to allege one of the elements necessary to recovery on a legal
theory, that claim must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
Young v. City of St. Charles, Mo., 244 F.3d 623, 627 (8th Cir. 2001).
In their “Memorandum in Support of Motion to Dismiss,” Defendants assert that
Plaintiff’s Complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted, and for failure to exhaust administrative remedies [ECF No, 28]. They contend that,
although it purports to allege a claim for racial discrimination, based on the duty of fair
representation, the Complaint does not identify facts that would allow the Court to draw the
reasonable inference that Union or Hamilton are liable for the alleged misconduct. More
specifically, Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s Complaint should be dismissed for five reasons.
First, Defendants contend Plaintiff’s Complaint identifies no basis for her claim, and the
MCHR Charge, submitted as an exhibit to the Complaint, asserts only a claim for breach of the
duty of fair representation. They argue that, by neglecting to assert a Title VII claim in the
administrative charge, Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies. Second,
Defendants assert that the MCHR Charge names only the Union as a respondent, and they
contend that Plaintiff’s failure to name Hamilton in the charge bars her naming him as a
defendant in this action. Third, Defendants contend Plaintiff has alleged no facts that would
allow the Court reasonably to infer Union did not arbitrate her grievance because of her race.
Fourth, Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s Title VII claim against Hamilton must be dismissed
because the statute does not provide for individual liability. Finally, Defendants claim Plaintiff’s
Complaint should be dismissed because Plaintiff previously has sought the same relief against
Defendants for the same alleged incident, and she cannot recover twice for the same alleged
injury. Defendants state that this is one of three lawsuits Plaintiff has filed based on the incident,
reporting that she also has sued Greyhound for wrongful discrimination (Case No. 4:12CV1443);
and Greyhound, Union, and Hamilton for failure of representation (Case No. 4:12CV2080).
Defendants argue alternatively that the Court should require Plaintiff to submit a more
definite statement in accordance with Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e), setting out the legal basis for her
claims and alleging facts in compliance with Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a).
In her Response to Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff claims the passengers on her
bus plotted against her so that they could make a “YouTube” video, and she contends she did not
receive a fair investigation from Union or Greyhound Lines [ECF No. 31]. Plaintiff alleges
fraudulent misrepresentation and failure to investigate, and she contends unfair practices have
been brought against her. She claims, prior to his death, Union’s vice president made a
determination that her case should be set for arbitration, but her case was left unattended after he
died. According to Plaintiff, one year after her termination, another driver, experiencing
problems with her passengers, pulled over in Sikeston, Missouri, and called her husband, who
came and picked her up. Plaintiff reports this driver left the bus and her passengers on the side
of the road. Plaintiff contends Defendants compared her case with the driver who abandoned her
bus, and decided Plaintiff’s case was not worth arbitrating. Plaintiff further claims to be unaware
of any accusations she had locked passengers on the bus, turned up the heat, and left them. She
says that she was told she was being terminated for acting unprofessionally, and she claims that
the “it was all a lie.”
In their Reply, Defendants contend that Plaintiff’s response is “little more than a rehash
of the same unsupported and conclusory allegations stated in her Complaint.” [ECF No. 32 at 3].
They argue her Response differs from her Complaint only in that her Response includes a
“newly-born” and insufficiently pleaded, fraudulent misrepresentation claim, and compares her
incident to an alleged incident involving another driver that occurred one year later. They argue
that Plaintiff’s failure to address their substantive arguments warrants dismissal of her claims
Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s Title VII claim should be dismissed for failure to
exhaust her administrative remedies because she failed to assert a Title VII violation in the
administrative charge. In her MCHR Charge, Plaintiff indicated she was alleging discrimination
based on “other,” and, in describing the particulars of the discrimination, she merely alleged that
she believed Union failed to adequately represent her because, after Union represented her during
three grievance steps and informed her that her grievance was going to be referred to arbitration,
she was told, approximately eighteen months after filing her initial grievance, that her matter
would not proceed to arbitration [ECF No. 1-1 at 2].
Exhaustion of administrative remedies is central to Title VII’s statutory scheme. Shannon
v. Ford Motor Co., 72 F.3d 678, 684 (8th Cir. 1996). Exhaustion requires: 1) timely filing of an
EEOC charge; and 2) receipt of a “right to sue” letter. Id. at 684. “The proper exhaustion of
administrative remedies gives the plaintiff a green light to bring her employment-discrimination
claim, along with allegations that are ‘like or reasonably related’ to that claim, in federal court.”
Id. As noted by Defendants, Plaintiff’s MCHR Charge contained no reference to her race or to
discrimination based on race [ECF No. 1-1 at 2]. Nor did her MCHR Charge name or mention
Hamilton. Thus, Defendants’ argument that Plaintiff’s Title VII claim should be dismissed for
failure to exhaust her administrative remedies, is well-taken. See Wilkie v. Dep’t of Health &
Human Servs., 638 F.3d 944, 949 (8th Cir. 2011). Furthermore, as discussed below, Plaintiff’s
Complaint should be dismissed, in its entirety, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may
relief can be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6)
The Eighth Circuit has recognized Title VII sex and race discrimination claims against a
union based on violation of an alleged duty of fair representation. Thorn v. Amalgamated Transit
Union, 305 F.3d 826, 833 (8th Cir. 2002) (“When the employer investigates a sexual harassment
claim by one union member against another, the union has a statutory duty to fairly represent
both in their disciplinary dealings with the employer.”) “A labor organization is liable for an
employer’s discrimination in the workplace if it causes or attempts to cause the employer to
discriminate; or if the union ‘purposefully acts or refuses to act in a manner which prevents or
obstructs a reasonable accommodation by the employer’; or if the union ‘pursue[s] a policy of
rejecting disparate-treatment grievances’ meant to vindicate employee rights protected by Title
VII.” Id. at 832 (internal citations omitted).
When determining whether a complaint contains sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to state a facially plausible claim to relief, the court’s inquiry begins by identifying
pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of
truth. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79. Legal conclusions may provide the framework of a complaint,
but the conclusions must be supported by well-pleaded factual allegations. Id. After careful
review of Plaintiff’s Complaint and submitted exhibits, and accepting as true all well-pleaded
allegations, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted. See Young, 244 F.3d at 627.
To prevail on her breach-of-duty-fair-representation claim, Plaintiff must establish a
prima facie Title VII case against Union, showing that : 1) Union breached its duty of fair
representation; and 2) its breach was motivated by a discriminatory animus such as race, sex,
color, religion, or national origin. Carter v. United Food & Commercial Workers, Local No.
789, 963 F.2d 1078, 1082 (8th Cir. 1992).
A union breaches its duty of fair representation only when its conduct is arbitrary,
discriminatory, or in bad faith. Vaca v. Sipes, 386 U.S. 171, 190 (1967). Establishing that a
union failed in its duty of fair representation by failing to pursue a matter to arbitration is an
especially difficult task; merely demonstrating that the union erred in its decision, or that its
decision was negligent is not enough. Smith v. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 107 F.3d 605, 607
(8th Cir. 1997). Where the union does not “play favorites among its members” and “exercises its
discretion in good faith and with honesty or purpose, a ‘wide range of reasonableness must be
allowed.’” Id. at 607-08 (internal quotations and citations omitted).
Plaintiff’s pleadings allege that Greyhound terminated Plaintiff, an African American, for
handling the bus incident in an unprofessional manner, and for being less than truthful about the
incident when she later was interviewed about it. The Complaint further alleges that Plaintiff
filed a grievance of Greyhound’s termination decision with Union, and that her union steward
unsuccessfully represented her during three grievance steps, including one in which a video of
the bus incident was played. In her Complaint, Plaintiff further claims that a union representative
told her that her grievance was going to be referred to arbitration, but that, after the union vicepresident, who had been working on her case, died, Plaintiff received no information when she
called her union representative. Plaintiff alleges that when she called Hamilton on July 9, 2012,
to determine why her case was not going to be arbitrated, Hamilton did not provide her with a
good reason. The Complaint additionally claims that Hamilton sent a letter to Plaintiff following
their meeting, stating that Union’s executive board voted not to proceed with her grievance, after
lengthy deliberation, and upon advice from Union’s attorney. The gravamen of Plaintiff’s
Complaint is that Union failed in its duty of fair representation by failing to pursue Plaintiff’s
matter to arbitration.
The Court finds that Plaintiff’s pleadings fail to sufficiently allege facts, taken as true and
liberally construed in her favor, that would establish a prima facie case for a violation of the duty
of fair representation under Title VII. The well-pleaded allegations do not establish that Union’s
conduct was arbitrary, discriminatory, or in bad faith. Rather, the allegations in Plaintiff’s
Complaint and exhibits, accepted as true, show that Union exercised its discretion in good faith
and with honest and purpose, when it determined that Plaintiff’s matter should not be arbitrated.
First, it was entirely reasonable for Union to determine that the arbitrator would not
believe Plaintiff, as the testimony of the responding police officer, other witnesses, and,
evidently, the video, directly contradict her claims. Although Plaintiff, in her Response, claims to
be unaware her passengers accused her of turning up the heat, locking them in the bus, and
leaving them, her Complaint and exhibits reveal that she was informed of these allegations when
she was interviewed following the incident, and that she denied their veracity. Plaintiff’s filings
also show that the police officer, who responded to a call about the incident, reported that
Plaintiff’s passengers were on the bus, the door was locked, and the bus was very hot when he
arrived on the scene. Plaintiff contends that she did not receive a fair investigation from her
employer or Union, and asserts that “it was all a lie.” However, Plaintiff also claims that her
passengers plotted against her so that they could make a “YouTube” video, which leads to the
reasonable inference that the video does not portray her actions in a favorable light, but rather,
supports the passengers’ claims. The allegations in Plaintiff’s Complaint and exhibits do not
indicate how Union’s investigation was unfair, as the pleadings identify no witnesses that would
corroborate Plaintiff’s version of the bus incident, or that would discredit the police officer’s
report. Furthermore, Union represented Plaintiff during three grievance steps, albeit
unsuccessfully, before its Board voted not to arbitrate her matter. Plaintiff asserts that she was
not kept apprised of the status of her case after the death of Union’s vice president, and that
Hamilton failed to give her a good reason for the Unions decision not to refer her grievance to
arbitration. Plaintiff’s contentions of insufficient attentiveness, alone, do not establish a violation
of the duty of fair representation. See Smith, 107 F.3d at 607-09. The Court finds that Plaintiff
has not alleged facts sufficient to establish Union failed in its duty of fair representation by
failing to pursue the matter to arbitration.
Moreover, even if Plaintiff’s Complaint had sufficiently alleged facts, taken as true, that
would state a plausible claim for a violation of the duty of fair representation, the Complaint
alleges no facts that would allow the Court reasonably to infer that Union did not arbitrate her
grievance because of her race, or any other protected basis, or that Union or Hamilton are liable
for any alleged misconduct. In conclusion, Plaintiff has failed to allege any facts establishing
that Union acted with a race-based animus. The Court finds that Plaintiff’s well-pleaded
allegations, taken as true and liberally construed in her favor, fail to establish a prima facie case
for a violation of the duty of fair representation under Title VII. See Carter, 963 F.2d at 1082.
Plaintiff’s Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The Court
will grant Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1700's
and Bruce Hamilton’s Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 27] is GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Complaint [ECF No. 1] is DISMISSED
day of August, 2013.
E. RICHARD WEBBER
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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