United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Eastern Division
PATRICK P. STAUDNER, Plaintiff,
ROBINSON AVIATION, INC. and PROFESSIONAL AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ORGANIZATION, Defendants.
TERRENCE W. BOYLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on defendant Robinson
Aviation's ("RVA") motion to dismiss [DE 74]
and defendant Professional Air Traffic Controllers
Organization's ("PATCO") motion to dismiss [DE
78]. The matters have been fully briefed and are ripe for
adjudication. A hearing on these motions was held on June 20,
2017, in Raleigh, North Carolina. For the reasons discussed
below, PATCO's motion to dismiss is granted and RVA's
motion to dismiss is denied.
is a former air traffic control specialist at the New Bern,
North Carolina airport who has filed this suit against his
labor union, Professional Air Traffic Controllers
Organization, and former employer, Robinson Aviation, Inc.
Plaintiff was employed by Robinson Aviation from October 20,
2000 to November 20, 2014. Plaintiff alleges that he was
falsely accused of not following policies in order to
terminate his employment. Plaintiff contends that his
employer engaged in multiple breaches of the collective
bargaining agreement, including termination of plaintiffs
employment without just cause, and that PATCO breached its
duty of fair representation when it declined to pursue
plaintiffs grievance to arbitration on plaintiffs behalf.
alleges that defendants' actions or omissions were in
violation of Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations
Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185.
29, 2016, the Court denied the defendants' Rule 56
motions regarding the Section 301 claim after finding a
genuine issue of material fact on whether PATCO's
decision not to pursue plaintiffs grievance to arbitration
was arbitrary or was done in bad faith. [DE 65 at 3-6].
However, the Court granted defendant RVA's Rule 56 motion
as to plaintiffs common law claim against RVA for allegedly
breaching their employment agreement because federal labor
law preempted the cause of action. [DE 65 at 7], On November
18, 2016, defendant RVA filed a motion to dismiss the
remaining claim against it, arguing that it was prepared to
tender a make-whole offer in the amount of $9, 250 to
plaintiff, which it argued was the full amount of damages
that could be assessed against it. [DE 74]. On December 9,
PATCO also filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the
complaint should be dismissed for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction because plaintiff failed as a matter of law to
exhaust the remedies available to him under the collective
bargaining agreement. [DE 78].
Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA") provides
that "suits for violation of contracts between an
employer and a labor organization representing
employees" may be brought in federal district court. 28
U.S.C. § 185(a). Because plaintiff was represented by. a
union pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement ("CB
A") during his employment, plaintiff may not sue his
former employer for violation of the CBA unless he can also
show that his union breached its duty of fair representation;
this is commonly referred to as a hybrid 301 action.
Thompson v. Aluminum Co. of Am., 276 F.3d 651, 656
(4th Cir. 2002) ("in order to prevail on the merits
against either party, an employee must prove both 1) that the
union breached its duty of fair representation and 2) that
his employer violated the collective bargaining
agreement."). Plaintiff must prevail first on his claim
against the union before his claim against his former
employer may be considered. Id. at 657.
a "hybrid" action, "the two claims are
inextricably interdependent." DelCostello v.
Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 164 (1983).
In a "hybrid" action whose underlying claim is
wrongful discharge, "[t]o prevail against either the
company or the Union, .. . [plaintiffs] must not only show
that their discharge was contrary to the contract but must
also carry the burden of demonstrating a breach of duty by
the Union." Id. at 194 (quoting United
Parcel Serv., Inc. v. Mitchell, 451 U.S. 56, 66-67
(1983)). Liability in these types of labor cases is to be
apportioned between the employer and the union according to
the damages caused by their relative fault. Vaca v.
Sipes, 386 U.S. 171, 197 (1966). Damages attributable
solely to the employer's breach of contract should not be
charged to the union, but increases if any in those damages
caused by the union's refusal to process the grievance
should not be charged to the employer. Bowen v. United
States Postal Serv., 459 U.S. 212, 223 (1983).
Supreme Court instructs that, where a collective bargaining
agreement establishes a grievance procedure, "[a]n
employer cannot be held liable for breach of a collective
bargaining agreement unless it can be shown that the employee
unsuccessfully sought relief through the union grievance
procedure." Vaca, 386 U.S. at 185. Under this
principle, if it is undisputed that an employee did not
attempt to first resolve the dispute via the grievance
process, he cannot sue his employer for any alleged breach of
the collective bargaining agreement, and consequently cannot
sue his union for any alleged breach of the duty of fair
representation. See Nat. Post Office Mail Handlers Local
No. 305, LIUNA, AFL-CIO v. U.S. Postal Serv., 594 F.2d
988, 991 (4th Cir. 1979) ("It is a well-established
principle of labor law that a union and its members must
exhaust the remedies provided in their collective bargaining
agreement with the employer before they seek judicial
intervention."); Amburgey v. Consolidation Coal
Co., 923 F.2d 27, 29-30 (4th Cir. 1991); Weitzel v.
Portney, 548 F.2d 489, 493 (4th Cir. 1977); Podobnik
v. U.S. Postal Serv., 409 F.3d 584, 595 (3d Cir. 2005).
have recognized this exhaustion requirement because
"national labor policy ... encourages private rather
than judicial resolution of disputes arising over
collective-bargaining agreements." Clayton v.
Int'l Union, United Auto., Aerospace, & Agr.
Implement Workers of Am., 451 U.S. 679, 689
(1981). "A contrary rule which would permit an
individual employee to completely sidestep available
grievance procedures in favor of a lawsuit has little to
commend it. . . . [I]t would deprive employer and union of
the ability to establish a uniform and exclusive method for
orderly settlement of employee grievances. . . . [a]nd would
inevitably exert a disruptive influence upon both the
negotiation and administration of collective
agreements." Republic Steel Corp. v. Maddox,
379 U.S. 650, 653 (1965) (internal quotations omitted). As
the Supreme Court has further explained in a subsequent case:
Where internal union appeals procedures can result in either
complete relief to an aggrieved employee or reactivation of
his grievance, exhaustion would advance the national labor
policy of encouraging private resolution of contractual labor
disputes. In such cases, the internal union procedures are
capable of fully resolving meritorious claims short of the
judicial forum. Thus, if the employee received the full
relief he requested through internal procedures, his §
301 action would become moot, and he would not be entitled to
a judicial hearing. Similarly, if the employee obtained
reactivation of his grievance through internal union
procedures, the policies underlying Republic Steel
would come into play, and the employee would be required to
submit his claim to the collectively bargained
dispute-resolution procedures. In either case, exhaustion of
internal remedies could result in final resolution of the
employee's contractual grievance through private rather
than judicial avenues.
Clayton, 451 U.S. at 692.
defendants have filed motions to dismiss. PATCO has moved to
dismiss plaintiffs complaint under Rule 12(b)(1) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, arguing that the Court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the matter because of
plaintiff s failure to exhaust his remedies under the CBA.