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Gibson v. United States Postal Service

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 20, 2014

JOHN GIBSON, JR
v.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE

MEMORANDUM

CATHERINE C. BLAKE, District Judge.

The plaintiff in this case, John Gibson, Jr., was a postal worker with the United States Postal Service ("the Postal Service") at the Clifton East End Postal Station, in Baltimore, Maryland, for eighteen years. (Compl., ECF No. 1, at 2.)[1] Based on several incidents of what the Postal Service believed to be improper conduct, [2] and after a lengthy administrative grievance process, Gibson was removed from his employment. ( Id. at 3-4.) He challenged the final decision to remove him through the grievance procedure of the "National Agreement, " under which his removal was litigated in arbitration between the National Association of Letter Carriers, the union of which Gibson was a member, and the Postal Service. (Arbitration Decision, Def.'s Mot. Ex. 1, ECF No. 7-2, at 1, 11.)[3] The arbitrator upheld Gibson's removal. ( Id. at 1.) Representing himself, Gibson then filed this action to vacate the arbitration award, seeking reinstatement with the Postal Service. The Postal Service has now filed a motion to dismiss, or, in the alternative, a motion for summary judgment, claiming that Gibson lacks standing to challenge the arbitration award, that he has failed to demonstrate the award should be overturned, and that his complaint is untimely. Because the court finds Gibson does not have standing to challenge the arbitration award, the Postal Service's motion to dismiss will be granted.

When ruling on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must "accept the well-pled allegations of the complaint as true, " and "construe the facts and reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997). To survive a motion to dismiss, the factual allegations of a complaint "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level... on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations and alterations omitted). "To satisfy this standard, a plaintiff need not forecast' evidence sufficient to prove the elements of the claim.... However, the complaint must allege sufficient facts to establish those elements." Walters, 684 F.3d at 439 (quotations and citation omitted). "Thus, while a plaintiff does not need to demonstrate in a complaint that the right to relief is probable, ' the complaint must advance the plaintiff's claim across the line from conceivable to plausible.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

"An individual employee represented by a union... generally does not have standing to challenge, modify, or confirm an arbitration award because he was not a party to the arbitration." Bryant v. Bell Atl. Maryland, Inc., 288 F.3d 124, 131 (4th Cir. 2002) (emphasis added).[4] The one exception is when the union has breached its duty of fair representation. Id .; see also Florence v. Potter, 2003 WL 23892686, at *4 (M.D. N.C. 2003) (holding that a postal worker could not challenge an arbitration award where he had not alleged his union breached its duty of fair representation).[5] Such a breach occurs where the union acts in a "discriminatory, dishonest, arbitrary, or perfunctory" manner. Bryant, 288 F.3d at 131 n.3 (quoting DelCostello v. Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 164 (1983)). Gibson was not a party to the arbitration at issue here. ( See Arbitration Decision at 1 (listing the parties to arbitration as the United States Postal Service and the National Association of Letter Carriers, AFL-CIO).) Further, he has alleged no facts to make a plausible claim that the union breached its duty of fair representation. In fact, when he does mention the union or its representatives, Gibson appears to allege that, during arbitration, they made the same arguments he now makes or testified to facts favorable to him. ( See Compl. at 5-7, 10.) Gibson thus does not have standing to bring this lawsuit.[6]

For the reasons stated above, the Postal Service's motion to dismiss will be granted, and Gibson's complaint will be dismissed. A separate order follows.


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