United States District Court, D. Maryland
DAVID B. CAPLE, Plaintiff,
GREYHOUND LINES, INC., et al., Defendants.
JAMES K. BREDAR, District Judge.
David B. Caple ("Plaintiff") brought an action pursuant to § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185, against both his former employer-Greyhound Lines, Inc. ("Greyhound")-and his national and local affiliate labor unions-Amalgamated Transit Union ("ATU") and Amalgamated Transit Union, Local Union 1700 ("the Local"). The suit is labeled a "hybrid 301" action because Plaintiff both alleges that Greyhound breached a contract, and also that Plaintiff's labor unions breached their duty of fair representation for failing to adequately advocate on Plaintiff's behalf following Greyhound's breach. Now pending before the Court is the Local's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 12) and Plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint (ECF No. 21). The issues have been briefed,  and no hearing is required, Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons explained below, the Local's motion to dismiss will be GRANTED and Plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint will be DENIED.
Plaintiff was employed by Greyhound from 1998 through June 2013. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 13.) During this time, Plaintiff was a member of the Local, an affiliate of ATU-a national labor organization. (Id. ¶¶ 6-7, 26.) In April 2013, Greyhound and the Local entered into a Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") that remains in effect until March 31, 2018, and governs the dispute described in Plaintiff's complaint and proposed amended complaint. ( See ECF No. 21-3 ¶ 16.) In relevant part, the CBA's Article G-8(a) establishes a procedure for union members to file grievances against Greyhound. ( See ECF No. 20-5.) The CBA's grievance procedure involves three stages, followed by possible arbitration. (Id. )
On June 23, 2013, Plaintiff collided with a fixed object, apparently while driving a Greyhound bus, and Greyhound terminated Plaintiff on June 28 for failing to report this accident within the requisite twenty-four hours. (ECF No. 13 at 11; ECF No. 21-3 ¶¶ 14, 31-32.) On July 3, Plaintiff filed a Step 2 grievance arguing that he was terminated without just cause ( id. ¶ 33), and on July 16, Greyhound denied Plaintiff's Step 2 grievance ( id. ¶ 35). On July 22, the Local filed a timely appeal, and a Step 3 appeal conference was held on July 29. (Id. ¶¶ 36-37.)
The CBA states that "[w]ithin 15 days of the [Step 3 appeal] conference, [Greyhound] must respond with a written decision...." (ECF No. 20-5 at 2.) Greyhound did not respond within fifteen days, however, and instead denied Plaintiff's Step 3 appeal approximately three months later on November 24. (ECF No. 21-3 ¶ 44.) Fifteen days after the Step 3 appeal conference was held, Plaintiff notified the Local that Greyhound's response was overdue. (Id. ¶ 39.) The Local explained that it intended to give Greyhound more time. Three days later-on August 18-the Local informed Greyhound that it had failed to respond in time. ( Id. ¶¶ 40-42.) Specifically, the Local sent the following message to Greyhound: "Today is August 18, 2013, twenty days later, there has not been any response from the hearings; therefore, the union is calling time on [Plaintiff's grievance].... Reinstatement with full seniority and back pay; immediately made whole." (Id. ¶ 43.) After sending this message, the Local did not take any subsequent action in the three months leading up to Greyhound's final decision on November 24. (Id. ¶¶ 45-46.)
After Greyhound denied Plaintiff's Step 3 appeal, Plaintiff requested that the Local pursue arbitration on Plaintiff's behalf pursuant to CBA Article G-8(b). (Id. ¶¶ 50-51; see also ECF No. 20-5.) The Local responded that it would decide whether to bring Plaintiff's case to arbitration during an executive board conference, apparently to be held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (ECF No. 21-3 ¶ 52.) Approximately one month later, the Local notified Plaintiff "that after a very lengthy discussion the board voted not to take [Plaintiff's] grievance to arbitration." (ECF No. 20-12.)
Plaintiff filed this complaint on June 17, 2014. (ECF No. 1.) At present, each of the three defendants in this case are in a different and distinct posture with the Court: The Local filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on August 27, 2014 (ECF No. 12), Greyhound filed its answer to Plaintiff's complaint on September 9 (ECF No. 15), and ATU has yet to be served ( see ECF No. 21 at 2). On October 27, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint. (ECF No. 21). The Local opposes Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend, arguing that Plaintiff's proposed amended complaint would be futile; it allegedly fails to state a plausible claim for the same reasons that Plaintiff's original complaint should be dismissed. (ECF No. 25.) The Court now addresses first Plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint (ECF No. 21), and second the Local's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 12). Both motions hinge on the same analysis: whether Plaintiff's complaint (ECF No. 1) or Plaintiff's proposed amended complaint (ECF No. 21-3) state a plausible claim upon which relief can be granted.
B. LEGAL STANDARD
Leave to file an amended or supplemental pleading should be "freely give[n] where justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). A district court may deny leave, however, if: (1) the new pleading would prejudice the opposing party; (2) the moving party has acted in bad faith; or, (3) the new pleading would be futile (i.e., if it could not withstand a motion to dismiss). Laber v. Harvey, 438 F.3d 404, 426 (4th Cir. 2006); Perkins v. United States, 55 F.3d 910, 917 (4th Cir. 1995). If a district court chooses to deny leave, it must give justifying reasons. See Pittston Co. v. United States, 199 F.3d 694, 705 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)).
To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Facial plausibility exists "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. An inference of a mere possibility of misconduct is not sufficient to support a plausible claim. Id. at 679. As the Twombly opinion stated, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." 550 U.S. at 555. "A pleading that offers labels and conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'... Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s]' devoid of further factual enhancement.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557). Although when considering a motion to dismiss a court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint, this principle does not apply to legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
C. PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE AN AMENDED COMPLAINT (ECF No. 21)
Plaintiff seeks leave to file a first amended complaint that would amend and add factual allegations to support Plaintiff's claim that ATU and the Local breached their duty of fair representation. ( See ECF No. 21-3 ¶¶ 24-69.) The Local opposes Plaintiff's motion on the ground that the proposed amendment "would be futile in curing the defects" already present in Plaintiff's original complaint. (ECF No. 25 at 6.)
On claims for breach of the duty of fair representation, the Fourth Circuit has cautioned that "[f]ederal labor law policy favors [resolution] by the parties of disputes arising under a collective bargaining agreement, " and thus "[t]he federal courts do not invade this domain on the complaint of an employee unless his union is grossly deficient' in its representation or recklessly disregards' the employee's rights." Amburgey v. Consolidation Coal Co., 923 F.2d 27, 29 (4th Cir. 1991). A breach "occurs only when a union's conduct toward a member of the collective bargaining unit is arbitrary, discriminatory, or in bad faith." Vaca v. Sipes, 386 U.S. 171, 190 (1967). "Whether a union acted arbitrarily, discriminatorily, or in bad ...