United States District Court, D. Maryland
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, District Judge.
Presently pending and ready for resolution in this employment discrimination action are motions to dismiss filed by Defendants Unite Here Local 25 ("Local 25") (ECF No. 10) and Ryman Hospitality Properties, Inc., f/k/a Gaylord Entertainment Company ("Gaylord Entertainment") (ECF No. 17). The relevant issues have been briefed and the court now rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6, no hearing being deemed necessary. For the reasons that follow, the motion filed by Local 25 will be granted and the motion filed by Gaylord Entertainment, construed as a motion to quash, will also be granted.
Plaintiff Moises Rodriguez commenced this action on May 28, 2013, by filing a complaint alleging violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), against his former employer, Gaylord Entertainment, and violation of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 151 et seq. ("LMRA"), against Gaylord Entertainment and Local 25, his former union. (ECF No. 1). According to the complaint, Plaintiff, a Hispanic male, began his employment with Gaylord Entertainment at the Gaylord National Harbor Hotel on or about March 3, 2008. He became a member of Local 25 in 2009, and, shortly thereafter, the union negotiated a labor contract with Gaylord Entertainment for its employees, including Plaintiff.
Plaintiff alleges that he was involved in an altercation on the job on or about April 23, 2010, when "another employee... approached him, called him a basura[, ]' and placed his finger on [Plaintiff's] cheek." (ECF No. 1 ¶ 12). In response, Plaintiff "tossed a linen napkin in [the other employee's] direction." ( Id. at ¶ 14). As a result of this conduct, "Gaylord Entertainment suspended [Plaintiff] for two weeks, and after a grievance meeting held between [Local 25] and Gaylord Entertainment, terminated [his] position[.]" ( Id. at ¶ 15).
Alleging that "other non-Hispanic employees at Gaylord [Entertainment] have instigated physical fighting and verbal altercations without being discharged from their employment" ( id. at ¶ 16), Plaintiff asserts that the termination "was motivated by [his] race" ( id. at ¶ 23), in violation of Title VII. He further asserts that "Gaylord [Entertainment] violated the [LMRA] by discharging [him] without just cause in breach and violation of the terms of [his] employment agreement" ( id. at 26), and that Local 25 "breached [its] duty of fair representation owing to Plaintiff in the processing of [his] grievance in violation of Plaintiff's rights under the collective bargaining agreement and the [LMRA]" ( id. at ¶ 30).
On November 19, 2013, Local 25 filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 10). Plaintiff opposed that motion (ECF No. 12) and Local 25 filed a reply (ECF No. 14). On January 15, 2014, Gaylord Entertainment moved to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(5). (ECF No. 17). Plaintiff has not responded to that motion.
II. The Rule 12(b)(6) Motion
A. Standard of Review
Local 25 moves to dismiss the LMRA claim against it on statute of limitations grounds pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the complaint. Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). A plaintiff's complaint need only satisfy the standard of Rule 8(a), which requires a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). "Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 n. 3 (2007). That showing must consist of more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" or "naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal citations omitted). At this stage, all well-pleaded allegations in a complaint must be considered as true, Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994), and all factual allegations must be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, see Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 783 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)). In evaluating the complaint, unsupported legal allegations need not be accepted. Revene v. Charles County Commissioners, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989). Legal conclusions couched as factual allegations are insufficient, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, as are conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events, see United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979).
The statute of limitations is an affirmative defense that should only be employed to dismiss claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) when it is clear from the face of the complaint that the plaintiff's claims are time barred. See Eniola v. Leasecomm Corp., 214 F.Supp.2d 520, 525 (D.Md. 2002); see also 5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1357, at 352 (1990) ("A complaint showing that the statute of limitations has run on the claim is the most common situation in which the affirmative defense appears on the face of the pleading, " rendering dismissal appropriate).
According to Local 25, "claims arising in the context of the union's administration of the collective bargaining agreement are typically hybrid' § 301/[breach of the duty of fair representation ("DFR")] claims"; that is, they "necessarily combine two causes: a claim against the employer for breach of the collective bargaining agreement, brought under § 301 of the [LMRA]... and a claim against the union for violation of the DFR based on its handling of the employee's grievance." (ECF No. 10-1, at 4-5 (citing DelCostello v. Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 164-65 (1983)). The union further asserts that it is "well settled that when... a plaintiff brings a hybrid' § 301/DFR claim, the applicable statute of limitations is six months." ( Id. at 5). Noting that the complaint makes clear that Plaintiff "knew at least by July 1, 2010[, ] that Local 25 had declined to represent' [him] in challenging his termination... [he] was required to file his complaint no later than January 1, 2011." ( Id. ). Thus, Defendant argues that the instant complaint, filed on November 19, 2013, is time-barred.
Local 25 correctly states the applicable legal standard. As Judge Williams observed in Lewis v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Civ. No. 11-0997-AW, ...