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Pope v. ABF Freight System, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

July 24, 2018

WILLIAM D. POPE, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
ABF FREIGHT SYSTEM, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          Graham C. Mullen United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 10) filed by Defendant ABF Freight System, Inc. (“ABF”). Plaintiff William D. Pope, Sr., (“Pope”) has responded, and Defendant has filed a reply. This matter is now ripe for adjudication.

         For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion is granted in part, denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Pope's Employment with ABF

         According to the Complaint, Pope is a black citizen and resident of Caldwell County, Lenoir, North Carolina. ABF is a major transportation company that operates in North America to provide short-term and long-term truck hauls. Local Union #391, International Brotherhood of Teamsters (“the Local Union”) is the sole and exclusive representative of ABF's employees who are members of the Local Union.

         ABF and the Local Union entered into the ABF National Master Freight Agreement and Carolina Freight Council Supplemental Agreements (“the Agreement”) on or about April 1, 2013. The Agreement allegedly states that all ABF employees become Union members “on and after the thirty-first (31st) calendar day following the beginning of their employment.” The Agreement further states that employees in their probationary period “may be terminated without further recourse; provided, however, that the Employer may not terminate the employee for the purpose of ‘evading' the Agreement or discriminating against Union members.” The Agreement was in effect throughout the relevant time period.

         Pope initially worked as a part-time employee at ABF's Hickory terminal. On or about May 9, 2016, Pope became employed as a “part-time City Driver” for ABF out of the Kernersville terminal. He was considered a “casual driver” with no seniority, and he was initially placed in a 30-day probationary period. On or about June 12, 2016, Pope became employed full-time and was told that he was on a second 30-day probationary period. Pope enrolled in Local Union membership on his thirty-first day of employment and executed a card authorizing the Local Union to represent him as his collective bargaining agent with ABF.

         On or about June 24, 2016, Pope asked “Matt, ” a dispatcher, about his route options now that he was a full-time driver.[1] Matt allegedly became “highly agitated” at this question, cursed at Pope, and “barked” at Pope that he “has no options.” Pope claims that he thereafter “became a target for management.” Pope called the Local Union for assistance. A Union steward informed both Matt the dispatcher and Mark Adams (“Adams”), who was an Operations Supervisor in Kernersville, that Pope was a Union member and was planning to become a line-haul driver once he reached his 30-days as a full-time driver. On July 1, 2016, Adams told Pope that he was doing a “great job, ” and he informed Pope that he had reprimanded Matt for how he had treated Pope.

         On July 6, 2016, Pope went on a city delivery with another employee. While lifting “heavy items” during that delivery, Pope injured his back. Pope claims that he had to continue working in spite of the injury, but that he immediately reported the injury to the other employee and to the dispatcher. Upon returning to the terminal, Pope informed Adams of the injury. Adams then typed up the paperwork that Pope needed to go to the doctor. The doctor “concluded that [Pope] had to be placed on light duty due to his disability, ” and Pope claimed to be in “substantial pain.” On or about July 6, 2016, Adams received the doctor's conclusions, said “Well, they're not really back doctors anyway, ” and immediately terminated Pope's employment. When Pope requested a Union steward to be present, Adams became “belligerent” and “hostile.” Adams did find a Union steward, however, and he told the steward that Pope “had customer complaints against him and that it was his right to fire [Pope] within 30 days.”

         B. Procedural Background

         On August 5, 2016, Pope filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. EEOC, claiming that he had been discriminated against because of his race, disability, and age, and in retaliation for complaining about ABF's practices in violation of Title VII and the ADA. Pope also filed a complaint with NCDOL's Employment Discrimination Bureau on the same grounds. Both the EEOC and the NCDOL declined to investigate Pope's claims but issued Pope right to sue letters.

         Pope then filed a Complaint in the Superior Court of North Carolina, Mecklenburg County. The matter was removed to this Court on September 21, 2017. In his Complaint, Pope alleges that he did not commit any wrongdoing to merit his termination. Rather, Pope claims that Adams terminated him because “Adams didn't want [Pope] to be able to bid on the longer drives because he had personal friends that he wanted to send on the easier longer trips.” Pope also alleges that the termination was “discriminatory and in retaliation for and directly related to [Pope's] Union activities, the injury he suffered at work and/or the filing of a worker's compensation claim.” And finally, Pope alleges that the termination was motivated by his race. In support of this allegation, Pope claims that a white employee was also injured while on duty around the same time but was placed on light duty and received his full pay and support from the Union. Additionally, other black employees allegedly warned Pope that Adams “doesn't hire Blacks, ” would make “an example” of Pope, and “treated White employees better.” Pope's Complaint asserted four causes of action against ABF, Adams, and the Local Union: (1) that his termination was in violation of the North Carolina Retaliatory Discrimination Act (REDA), N.C. Gen. Stats. §§ 95-240, et seq.; (2) that he was discriminated against and retaliated against on the basis of his race in violation of § 1981 and Title VII; (3) that he was denied a reasonable accommodation and was retaliated against in violation of the ADA; and (4) that Defendants breached a valid contract (the Agreement).

         Pope voluntarily dismissed with prejudice all claims with respect to Adams and the Local Union. Accordingly, ABF is the only remaining defendant. ABF has moved to dismiss part of count 2, count 3, and count 4 of Pope's Complaint.

         II. ...


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