United States District Court, D. Maryland
TEAMSTERS LOCAL No. 355 A/V INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS
SYSCO BALTIMORE, LLC
CATHERINE C. BLAKE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
pending before the court is a motion to dismiss filed by
defendant Sysco Baltimore, LLC ("Sysco"). For the
reasons outlined below, Sysco's motion to dismiss will be
an unincorporated labor organization, represents Sysco
employees. (Am. Compl. ¶ 3). Sysco "sells and
distributes food and food-related products."
(Id. ¶ 4). During the spring of 2016, Sysco
implemented a Distracted Driving and Electronics Policy (the
"Policy"), which prohibited employees from using
cell phones while operating company vehicles. (Id., Ex.
2 ["Arbitration Decision"] at 2-4, ECF No. 1
-2). In the course of defending the Policy in arbitration,
Sysco admitted that the Policy was developed after Sysco and
Teamsters negotiated their Collective Bargaining Agreement
("CBA"). (Arbitration Decision at 5). But company
employees, including Kulcsar, were required to sign for
receipt of the Policy. (Id.). And the Policy
explicitly stated that the penalty for violation would
"be termination] as permissible under applicable
law." (Id. at 4).
this suit was initiated, Teamsters challenged the Policy as
an "unreasonable exercise of managerial prerogatives
that are traditional in labor-management relations and
unreasonable under the Management Rights Article of the
Agreement." (Id.). Article 3 of the CBA, which
governs management rights, reads: "Operation of the
plant, direction of the workforce and the authority to
execute all of the various duties, functions and
responsibilities required to manage the business are vested
in the [Company], except where modified by this
Agreement." (Id. (citing CBA at 3)).
Teamsters' challenge to the Policy was rejected in
arbitral proceedings. (Arbitration Decision at 4 (citing
Teamsters Local 335 and Sysco Baltimore, LLC,
(McKee) FMCS No. 170301-53452-1)).
February 27, 2017, Sysco fired employee Daniel Kulcsar
("Kulcsar") for using his cell phone while
operating a Sysco vehicle. (Am. Compl. ¶ 6). Kulcsar
challenged his termination in accordance with the grievance
procedure outlined in Teamsters' CBA. (Id.
¶ 8). Because no resolution was reached, the dispute was
sent to arbitration, as specified by the CBA. (Id.
¶¶ 8-9). The arbitrator found Sysco had just cause
to discipline Kulcsar, but concluded that Sysco lacked just
cause to terminate Kulcsar. (Id. ¶
The arbitrator concluded Sysco should offer Kulcsar the next
new-hire position that became available in the warehouse
associate classification in the bargaining unit, but stated
that Kulcsar would be treated as a new hire with a
"seniority date for bidding purposes that matches the
date he begins work in that classification."
asks the court to vacate the remedial portion of the
Arbitration Decision, and issue an order reinstating Kulcsar
as a Delivery Associate with his original seniority.
(Id. ¶ 19). Teamsters alleges the arbitrator
exceeded his authority under the CBA, disregarded the terms
of the CBA, and impermissibly added to or modified the CBA.
(Id. ¶¶ 15-17).
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). "Even though the
requirements for pleading a proper complaint are
substantially aimed at assuring that the defendant be given
adequate notice of the nature of a claim being made against
him, they also provide criteria for defining issues for trial
and for early disposition of inappropriate complaints."
Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir.
2009). "The mere recital of elements of a cause of
action, supported only by conclusory statements, is not
sufficient to survive a motion made pursuant to Rule
12(b)(6)." Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435,
439 (4th Cir. 2012) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). 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
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 (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 plaintiffs claim 'across
the line from conceivable to plausible.'"
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
Fourth Circuit has made clear that "review of a
labor-arbitration decision pursuant to a CBA is 'very
limited.'" Brow?} & Pipkins, LLC v. Service
Employees International Union, 846 F.3d 716, 723 (4th
Cir. 2017) (quoting Major League Baseball Players Ass
'n v. Garvey, 532 U.S. 504, 509 (2001) (per
Courts are not authorized to review the arbitrator's
decision on the, merits despite allegations that the decision
rests on factual errors or misinterprets the parties'
agreement. . . . [I]f an arbitrator is even arguably
construing or applying the contract and acting within the
scope of his authority, the fact that a court is convinced he
committed serious error does not suffice to overturn his
decision. It is only when the arbitrator strays from
interpretation and application of the agreement and
effectively dispenses his own brand of industrial justice
that his decision may be unenforceable. When an arbitrator
resolves disputes regarding the application of a contract,
and no dishonesty is alleged, the arbitrator's
improvident, even silly, factfinding does not provide a basis
for a reviewing court to refuse to enforce the award.
Brown & Pipkins, 846 F.3d at 723-24 (quoting
Major League, 532 U.S. at 509 (internal citations
and quotation marks omitted)).
amended complaint does not clear the Rule 12(b)(6) hurdle.
Teamsters argues that the arbitrator exceeded his authority
under the CBA by ignoring Section 4 of Article 4 of the CBA,
which governs Seniority. But in concluding that Sysco had
just cause to discipline, but not to terminate, Kulcsar and
doling out discipline that modified Kulcsar's seniority
status, the arbitrator was plausibly construing the CBA.
There are at least three ways in which the arbitrator might
have interpreted the CBA to reach this result. First, Section
4 of Article 4 of the CBA discusses Seniority. (CBA at 6). It
sets out a list of prerequisites that might trigger the loss
of seniority. (Id). But the plain text of this
section does not indicate that the list is exhaustive rather
than illustrative; the list does not specify that these are
the only occurrences that might cause an employee to
lose seniority. (Id.). The arbitrator might,
therefore, have concluded that the list is illustrative, and
that the facts of Kulcsar's case independently justified
a modification of his seniority. Second, Section 4 of Article
4 notes that "[s]eniority shall be broken and an
individual's employment terminated if any of the
following occurs." (Id.). Because the
arbitrator concluded that just cause to terminate Kulcsar did
not exist, he may have concluded that this section did not
govern Kulcsar's case at all. The arbitrator may then
have reasonably crafted his remedy based on the circumstances
of Kulcsar's case, without exceeding his authority under
the CBA. Third, at least ...