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Brown v. McClure

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

September 3, 2013

ANGELA S. BROWN, Plaintiff,
DAVID McCLURE, et al., Defendants.


Ellen L. Hollander United States District Judge

Angela S. Brown, the self-represented plaintiff, was terminated from her employment as a Bus Operator with the Maryland Transit Authority (“MTA”) for talking on her cellular phone while driving, in violation of MTA rules. Defendant Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1300 (“Local 1300”), her former bargaining representative, invoked the arbitration provisions of its collective bargaining agreement with the MTA and, on Ms. Brown’s behalf, challenged her dismissal, claiming it was without just cause. In a written decision, the arbitrator upheld the termination. Thereafter, plaintiff initiated this suit against Local 1300 and defendant David McClure, the President of Local 1300, claiming, among other things, that “[t]he Union and MTA are not following the rules they made[ ], ” and “are picking and choosing who they want to get their job back.” See Complaint (ECF 1). Plaintiff alleges that other MTA employees, who were also members of Local 1300, were not discharged from employment or were reinstated after engaging in similar or more serious misconduct. See generally Id . at 2-5.

Construing plaintiff’s complaint liberally, see Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), and drawing from both her allegations and the Civil Cover Sheet filed with her pleading, see ECF 1-1, I discern six distinct claims that she appears to assert against defendants: (1) breach of the duty of fair representation, in violation of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), 29 U.S.C. § 152(2); (2) violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq.; (3) violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 206 & 207; (4) violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2612; (5) fraud; and (6) wrongful discharge.[1]

Defendants have moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), and for failure to state a claim, under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), or, in the alternative, for summary judgment (“Motion”) (ECF 7). In support of the Motion, defendants filed a memorandum of law (“Memo”) (ECF 7-1) and several exhibits, including a copy of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between Local 1300 and the MTA (“CBA”) (ECF 7-2); a copy of the Arbitration Opinion and Award (“Arbitration Award”) (ECF 7-3); the Affidavit of David McClure (ECF 7-4); and an unreported opinion authored by Judge William N. Nickerson in Gloria Jones v. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1300, Civ. No. 04-1488 (D. Md. Dec. 8, 2004) (ECF 7-5).[2] Plaintiff filed a one-page opposition to the Motion (“Opposition” or “Opp., ” ECF 9). Defendants did not file a reply.

No hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I will grant the Motion to dismiss as to plaintiff’s federal claims under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). As to the State law claims, I decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3). Therefore, I will dismiss the State claims, without prejudice to plaintiff’s right to pursue them in State court.


Plaintiff was formerly employed as an MTA Bus Operator, a position that she held for approximately fourteen years. See Arbitration Award at 3. On August 18, 2010, a video camera installed on her bus recorded her taking her hands off of the steering wheel on multiple occasions in order to use her cellular phone, to eat, and to look in a notebook, all while driving in traffic. Id. at 5-6. The video also showed that plaintiff was not wearing a seatbelt. Id. at 3. Although there were no passengers on the bus at the time, the MTA terminated plaintiff’s employment based on violations of MTA policy, including prohibitions on cellphone use while driving, as well as driving without a seatbelt and eating on the bus. Id. at 7-8.[4]

At the time, plaintiff was a member of Local 1300, which was a party to a collective bargaining agreement with the MTA. See CBA. Article 8, § 1 of the CBA establishes a grievance procedure for “[a]ny employee . . . who claims to be aggrieved by any action of MTA, whether occasioned by discharge or other discipline or whether because of alleged discrimination against him/her by reason of the failure to apply to him/her any of the benefits of this Agreement to which he/she believes himself/herself entitled . . . .”

In accordance with the CBA, plaintiff filed a grievance to challenge her dismissal, which the MTA denied. In response, Local 1300 invoked the arbitration provisions of the CBA, asserting that the MTA lacked just cause to discharge plaintiff. Article 9, Section (1) of the Collective Bargaining Agreement states:

Should any grievance be unsettled as provided in Article (8) hereof, or should any difference arise between MTA and the UNION as to the meaning or application of any provision of this Agreement, which after reasonable effort cannot be mutually adjusted, either MTA or the UNION may within forty-five (45) days thereafter, request in writing that the dispute be submitted to arbitration.

A hearing was held on August 24, 2011, at which Local 1300 and the MTA “were each afforded full opportunity to present witnesses and documents and to cross-examine witnesses and challenge documents offered by others.” Arbitration Award at 1. At the hearing, plaintiff “did not deny engaging in the activities shown on the [video] tape.” Id. at 6. Instead, she explained that the phone calls concerned her twenty-three year old son, who suffers from Down Syndrome and Sickle Cell Anemia, and were made on an emergency basis. Id. at 6-7. She claimed that her son had called her because he was having difficulty breathing, and that she called her daughter for help. Id. at 7. According to plaintiff, she looked in the notebook to find her daughter’s phone number. Id. However, she subsequently admitted that she was not certain that the phone calls at issue were with her son and daughter. See id.

The arbitrator issued a written decision on August 29, 2010. See Id . Based on plaintiff’s violation of MTA rules, the arbitrator concluded that “dismissal was an appropriate penalty, ” and upheld the MTA’s decision to discharge Ms. Brown. Id. at 20.

As noted, plaintiff complains that other individuals employed by the MTA, some of whom she has identified by name, engaged in similar misconduct but did not lose their jobs, or were reinstated after being discharged. See generally Complaint. She also complains that the arbitration procedure took longer than three weeks; that Local 1300 did not provide her with a copy of the arbitration decision when it was issued; and that there was “wrong information” in her “arbitration papers, ” which she does not further specify. See generally id.

Standard of Review

I will evaluate the Motion as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[5]

To survive a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain facts sufficient to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2008); see Aschroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (“Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard for ‘all civil actions’ . . . .” (citation omitted)); see also Simmons v. United Mortg. & Loan Inv., LLC, 634 F.3d 754, 768 (4th Cir. 2011). Whether a complaint adequately ...

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