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Peters v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 6, 2017

VALERIE PETERS
v.
INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS, LOCAL UNION NO. 1200

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Presently pending and ready for resolution in this employment case is a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment filed by Defendant International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local Union No. 1200 (“Defendant” or “Local IBEW”). (ECF No. 8). The issues have been fully briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss, construed as a motion for summary judgment, will be denied.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background[1]

         Defendant represents broadcasting and freelance members working for TV stations, production houses, and sporting events across the nation. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 14). Plaintiff began working as an office assistant for Defendant in 1994. (Id. ¶ 16). Plaintiff was hired as an hourly employee and was paid $10.50 hourly. (Id. ¶¶ 32, 33). Upon hire, Plaintiff was offered and accepted an employment agreement that included terms for a medical plan for all employees with premiums paid by Defendant, vacation and holiday pay, sick leave, termination only for just cause, and payment for unused vacation time upon termination. (Id. ¶ 18). On May 15, 2005, Plaintiff was offered and she accepted an updated employment agreement, which included the same terms as the prior agreement and additional terms for an employee pension benefit, amended vacation pay, and updated severance terms. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 20). The updated agreement still included the term that Plaintiff's employment could only be terminated for “just cause.” (Id. ¶ 21).

         Defendant began renting out its offices in December 2010 and told employees to work from home. Local IBEW documents, supplies, and equipment were moved to Plaintiff's home office. (Id. ¶ 55). In January 2015, Plaintiff was promoted from Office Assistant to Production Coordinator, and her hourly rate increased to $25.45. (Id. ¶¶ 17, 36). In July 2015, the office manager in charge of member billing and dues processing was terminated, and Plaintiff's supervisor and Local IBEW Business Manager Tom Albano passed all of the office manager's duties and responsibilities to Plaintiff with no additional compensation. (Id. ¶¶ 56, 57). In August 2015, Plaintiff asked Mr. Albano about hiring a part-time employee to assist Plaintiff with her multiple duties. Instead, Mr. Albano hired an accountant who was not tasked with assisting Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 59). In addition to working at least 8 hours a day Monday through Friday, Plaintiff was required to work 8 hours a day on Saturday and Sunday approximately 30 weekends a year to assist with different TV sporting events staffed by Local IBEW members. (Id. ¶ 37, 38). Defendant did not pay Plaintiff for all of her overtime hours and only paid Plaintiff overtime on two occasions - once in 2014 and once in 2016. (Id. ¶ 52, 53).

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant failed to provide her a medical plan and that the Local IBEW Board “met and finally approved” a medical plan for her and her husband in September 2015. (Id. ¶¶ 23, 27). In October 2015, Plaintiff asked Mr. Albano for the status of her medical plan, and Mr. Albano responded that “they lost the paperwork.” (Id. ¶ 28). Plaintiff's medical plan was not finalized until late January 2016 and became effective in February. (Id. ¶ 29).

         On July 6, 2016, Kenneth Brown was sworn in as the new Local IBEW Business Manager. That same day, around 11 a.m., Mr. Brown, Mr. Albano, Mr. Albano's son, and a friend of Mr. Albano's son, arrived at Plaintiff's home unannounced. Plaintiff's husband answered the door and the men demanded entrance into Plaintiff's home to retrieve Local IBEW documents, supplies, and equipment. Plaintiff's husband told the men, “[Plaintiff] is unavailable at the moment and will be right with you.” (Id. ¶ 62). When Plaintiff came to the door, she saw a U-Haul truck driving down her driveway, which her husband had asked Mr. Brown to drive off their property. Mr. Brown came back to inform Plaintiff that he was there to get “his stuff” and that he was relocating the Local IBEW office. (Id.). Plaintiff was “shocked, ” “began hyperventilating, ” and told Mr. Brown that they should have given her notice. (Id. ¶¶ 63, 64). The men then removed all Local IBEW materials from Plaintiff's home to the new Local IBEW office, approximately 80 miles away from Plaintiff's home. (Id. ¶ 66).

         Plaintiff alleges that, by the actions of Mr. Brown and Mr. Albano, Defendant forced her to resign on July 6 and breached her employment agreement by terminating her employment without just cause and failing to pay her earned vacation balance and pension contributions upon termination. (Id. ¶¶ 67, 70, 71). Plaintiff contends that she is owed $9, 569.20 in unused vacation time, $2, 646.80 in pension contributions, and approximately $51, 876.00 for overtime worked during the period of July 2013 through July 2016. (Id. ¶¶ 54, 72).

         B. Procedural Background

         On January 16, 2017, Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (the “FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq. (Count I); the Maryland Wage and Hour Law (the “MWHL”), Md.Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 3-401, et seq. (Count II); and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law (the “MWPCL”), Md.Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 3-501, et seq. (Count III). Plaintiff also alleges breach of contract (Count IV). (ECF No. 1). On March 17, Defendant filed the pending motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. (ECF No. 8). Plaintiff submitted her opposition on March 31 (ECF No. 11), and Defendant replied on April 14 (ECF No. 12).

         II. Standard of Review[2]

         Defendant has moved to dismiss or for summary judgment. Because both parties rely extensively on matters outside the pleadings, the court will treat the motion as a motion for summary judgment. See Walker v. True, 399 F.3d 315, 319 n.2 (4thCir. 2005); Offen v. Brenner, 553 F.Supp.2d 565, 568 (D.Md. 2008).

         A court may enter summary judgment only if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Emmett v. Johnson, 532 F.3d 291, 297 (4th Cir. 2008). Summary judgment is inappropriate if any material factual issue “may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, ...


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