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Lay v. Local Union 689 of Amalgamated Transit Union

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 1, 2019

EMANUEL LAY, SR. Plaintiff,
v.
LOCAL UNION 689 OF THE AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION, AFL-CIO Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PETER J. MESSITTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Emanuel Lay, Sr. (“Lay”) filed this action on July 16, 2018 against his former employer, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“WMATA”) and his union, Local Union 689 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, AFL-CIO (“Local 689”), alleging breach of a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) and breach of the union's duty of fair representation. Both WMATA and Local 689 filed Motions to Dismiss. ECF Nos. 4, 9. The Court has previously dismissed WMATA from the case. ECF No. 19.

         For the following reasons, the Court now GRANTS Local 689's Motion to Dismiss.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Between November 16, 2001 and April 26, 2016, Lay worked for WMATA, primarily as a Station Manager and Bus Operator at WMATA's Glenmont Division. Amended Complaint (“AC”) at ¶¶ 10-11, ECF No. 21. During that time, he was a dues-paying member of Local 689, covered by the collective bargaining agreement between WMATA and Local 689. Id. at ¶¶ 11- 12.

         In February 2015, Lay informed his union representative, Mary Canady, that his former girlfriend told him she planned to fabricate allegations against him that would lead to his dismissal from WMATA. Id. at ¶ 13. Shortly thereafter, Lay's former girlfriend filed a complaint with the WMATA Office of Inspector General (“OIG”), alleging that Lay had (a) participated in a scheme to defraud WMATA of farecard revenue for personal gain, (b) misused other WMATA resources, and (c) misappropriated property from WMATA's lost and found system. Id. at ¶ 14. Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement Local 689 had with WMATA, Lay was provided with a statement of the precise charges against him on August 24, 2015. Id. at ¶ 16. Also, beginning on August 24, 2015, Lay allegedly cooperated with an investigation by OIG, consenting to an interview without representation by Local 689. Id. at ¶ 19. On September 15, 2015, however, Lay declined a request by OIG to be re-interviewed without representation by Local 689. Id. at ¶ 20. Lay, through counsel, attempted to contact WMATA to discuss the investigation further, but was unsuccessful. Id. at ¶ 21. On December 24, 2015, OIG completed its investigation of Lay. Id. at ¶¶ 23-24.

         On April 20, 2016, Lay attended a meeting at the Glenmont Division of WMATA to discuss the results of the OIG investigation. Id. at ¶ 27. Present at the meeting were WMATA Assistant Superintendent Dionne Truehart, WMATA Acting Assistant Director Shanita Bowmen, WMATA Supervisor J.D. Bright, Local 689 Shop Steward Ozzie L. Andrews, and a representative from OIG. Id. At the meeting, Lay was asked to address the allegations against him but refused to discuss them without a representative from Local 689 present. Id. at ¶ 29. The meeting ended but was reconvened during the afternoon of April 20, with WMATA Senior Supervisor John Bright joining the original group. Id. at ¶ 30. Lay alleges that WMATA representatives ignored his request that Andrews be appointed to represent him during the meeting, and that instead WMATA appointed Local 689 Assistant Business Agent Marlene Flemmings-McCann to act on his behalf. Id. at ¶ 31. After the appointment of Flemmings-McCann, Lay submitted a written statement denying the allegations of fraud made against him. Id. at ¶ 33. There was no further meeting. On April 26, 2016, after reviewing OIG's report of its investigation into the allegations against Lay, WMATA terminated him from service. Id. at ¶ 34.

         On May 4, 2016, Lay filed a grievance with Flemmings-McCann, alleging that he had been wrongfully terminated. Id. at ¶ 35. Flemmings-McCann invoked Lay's right to arbitration. Accordingly, pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement for WMATA employees, hearings on Lay's dismissal were held on February 2 and March 31, 2017.[1] At the March 31 hearing, Lay alleges that WMATA representatives, as well as Flemmings-McCann, prevented one of his key witnesses, Shop Steward Andrews, from testifying on his behalf. Id. at ¶ 40. On July 14, 2017, thereafter, he says, he contacted Flemmings-McCann to learn of the outcome of the hearing, and Flemmings-McCann allegedly told him she had not received notice of decision. Id. at ¶ 41. On September 22, 2017, the arbitration board issued its decision, affirming Lay's termination. Id. at ¶ 42. Lay alleges he did not receive a copy of the arbitration decision, nor did he receive notice of the decision, nor was he advised of his right to appeal within six months. Lay says it was not until February 2, 2018-more than four months following the arbitration decision-that he received a voicemail message from Flemmings-McCann notifying him of the decision. Id. at ¶¶ 44-45.

         On July 16, 2018, more than five months after that, Lay filed the present action against WMATA and Local 689, alleging breach of the collective bargaining agreement and breach of the duty of fair representation. ECF No. 1. WMATA moved to dismiss the Complaint on August 31, 2018, ECF No. 4, and Local 689 moved to dismiss on September 14, 2018. ECF No. 9. On December 11, 2018, the Court dismissed WMATA from the case on the grounds that the time for Lay to appeal the arbitration decision had run, but deferred ruling on Local 689's Motion. ECF No. 19. Instead, the Court required Local 689 to file supplemental briefing discussing any duty it may have had to inform Lay of his right to appeal the adverse decision of the arbitration board at or about the time the decision was issued. Id. The Court also granted Lay leave to file an Amended Complaint, which he did on December 28, 2018. ECF No. 21. Local 689 filed the required supplement to its Motion to Dismiss on December 31, 2018, ECF No. 22. Lay filed his supplemental Opposition on January 10, 2019, ECF No. 23, and Local 689 filed its supplemental Reply on January 22, 2019. ECF No. 24.

         II. Analysis

         A. Statute of Limitations

         Lay's suit is filed pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 (“LMRA”), which provides for “hybrid” claims of breach of a collective bargaining agreement against an employer and breach of the duty of fair representation against an employee's union. 29 U.S.C. § 185, et seq. Such claims are subject to a six-month statute of limitations. See DelCostello v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 163 (1981); Foy v. Giant Food, Inc., 298 F.3d 284, 291 (4th Cir. 2002) (citing DelCostello, 462 U.S. at 171-72.).

         A hybrid cause of action arises when an employee knew or should have known that a violation of his rights occurred. See Dement v. Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co., 845 F.2d 451, 460-61 (4th Cir. 1988). The cause of action “‘accrues at the point where the grievance procedure has been exhausted or otherwise breaks down to the employee's disadvantage. It is only at this point that the employee is cognizant of any alleged breach of the duty owed him by the union.'” Id. at 460. (quoting Haynes v. Reynolds Metals Co., 769 F.2d 1520, 1522 (11th Cir. 1985)). However, the six-month statute of limitations may be equitably tolled if “a defendant, by active deception, conceals a cause of action.” Lekas v. United Airlines, Inc., 282 F.3d 296, 301 (4th Cir. 2002). To invoke equitable tolling, a plaintiff must show that the defendant attempted to mislead him, and that plaintiff reasonably relied on the misrepresentation by neglecting to file a timely action. English v. Pabst Brewing Co., 828 F.2d 1047, 1049 (4th Cir. 1987).

         In the present case, the statute of limitations to file suit on Lay's hybrid claim began to run on September 22, 2017, when the arbitration board issued its decision affirming his termination by WMATA. Applying the DelCostello six-month statute of limitations from that date, Lay had until March 22, 2018 to bring his action against WMATA and Local 689. As noted, however, Lay ...


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