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Beck-Pell v. Sheet Metal Workers Local #100

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

August 15, 2019

ROBIN BECK-PELL, Plaintiff,
v.
SHEET METAL WORKERS LOCAL #100, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          PAUL W. GRIMM, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Robin Beck-Pell, who is proceeding without counsel, is an African-American, female, sheet metal worker over the age of 40 who was a member of the Sheet Metal Workers Local #100 (“Local 100” or the “Union”). Am. Compl. 6, ECF No. 5. She believed that contractors were hiring workers in other classes-younger workers, male workers, and workers who were not African-American or Black. Id. She complained to Local 100 about this perceived discrimination, but Local 100 did not act on her behalf. Id. She filed suit, alleging race, color, sex, and age discrimination and retaliation, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634 (“ADEA”), as well as breach of contract. Compl. 4-6, ECF No. 1; see Am. Compl.[1] Now pending is the Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 40, that Local 100 filed.[2] Because Ms. Beck-Pell cannot prevail on any of her claims, I will grant Defendant's motion.

         Factual Background [3]

         “Local 100 is a labor organization that negotiates and enforces collective bargaining agreements covering sheet metal construction workers [both apprentices and journeymen (who have completed their apprenticeships)] in Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and several counties in West Virginia.” LaBille Decl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 40-3 (Declaration of President and Business Manager of Local 100); see Pl.'s Opp'n 2. Local 100 “is affiliated with the International Association and is governed by its [International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers] Constitution and Ritual” (“Constitution and Ritual”). LaBille Decl. ¶ 30; see Const. & Ritual, ECF No. 40-3, at 106.

To assist its members in obtaining employment, Local 100 operates a referral system. Local 100's system is a nonexclusive referral system, which means that any member, other than an apprentice, has the right to solicit a job with any local or out-of-town contractor within the jurisdiction of Local 100 regardless of the member's position on the unemployment list. Likewise, any signatory contractor, whether local or out-of-town, has the right to offer any member of Local 100 a job regardless of the member's position on the unemployment list. Signatory contractors also can fire from any source without regard to the referral list.
Upon lay off, Local 100 members sign an unemployment list maintained by Local 100. Local 100 then sends that list out each Friday to its signatory contractors, and the contractors are free to either hire from the list or from other sources.
. . .
A member's spot on the unemployment list rises when individuals above them on the list notify the union that they have been hired. Upon being laid off, members return to the bottom of the list.

         LaBille Decl. ¶¶ 5-6, 24. While Local 100 will “do what they can to assist members in obtaining work, ” Local 100 “members have the ultimate responsibility for obtaining their own employment with one of Local 100's signatory contractors. And Local 100's signatory contractors are ultimately responsible for making hiring decisions.” Id. ¶¶ 9-10.

         Robin Beck-Pell completed her sheet metal work apprenticeship and became a sheet metal mechanic in 2001 or 2002. Beck-Pell Dep. 26:16-27:2, ECF No. 40-4. At the time, she already was a member of the Local 100. See Member Hr. Listing, ECF No. 40-3, at 16. “In 2004 [she] was laid off, for what [she] believed to be age and race discrimination.” Pl.'s Opp'n 3, ¶ 2. She filed an administrative complaint with the EEOC and received a Notice of Right to Sue but did not pursue the matter further “because [she] went back to work.” Id.

         Since January 2010, [4] when she completed her job assignment with Dynamic Systems, Inc. at the National Ball Park, Beck-Pell has been seeking Local 100's assistance in procuring work. Am. Compl. 6; Member Hr. Listing, ECF No. 40-3, at 12. She “put [her] name on the [Union's] out-of-work list, ” and she has “called and [gone] out on Job sites to look for work, ” but without success. Am. Compl. 6; see Pl.'s Opp'n 3, ¶ 3. She claims, without elaboration, that “[t]he [unemployment] list that the union has is not accurate.” Pl.'s Opp'n 4, ¶ 8.

         Ms. Beck-Pell alleges that the contractors would tell her that she “had to go thru [sic] the union in order to be employed at one of the Job sites, ” but, “[w]hen [she] went to the Union Hall they were still saying that there was no work.” Am. Compl. 6; see Pl.'s Opp'n 3, ¶ 3. Ms. Beck-Pell did, however, receive one job assignment through Local 100: She “was refer[red] to a job from the local in 2012 after not working, since 2010” and she worked briefly for a company called Critchfield Mechanical, Inc. in August and September 2012. Pl.'s Opp'n 4, ¶ 5 (stating that she “work[ed] for 6 days with Critchfield Mechanical, Inc.”); see Member Hr. Listing, ECF No. 40-3, at 12 (20 hours worked in August 2012 and 80 hours worked in September 2012).

         On July 16, 2013, Ms. Beck-Pell complained about the hiring process to Local 100 representatives because “males were getting employment” while “[n]o black females over the age of 40 w[ere] being picked up for work.” Am. Compl. 6; see Pl.'s Opp'n 4, ¶ 4. In her grievance letter, she stated that “[t]he union reps of local #100 are aware that there are no black females, journeymen, over the age of 40, . . . working [sic] for any contractors in local #100, ” and “[t]he sheet metal workers union local has not addressed this situation.” July 16, 2013 Grievance Ltr., ECF No. 40-3, at 95. She stated that it could be retaliation because the black, female journeymen “had filed a suit against one of the local #100 contractor[]s” and, “since that incident occurred, [they] have not been able to get work with any local contractors.” Id. She explains in her Opposition that her grievance was “against the Local 100 for not protecting [her] rights as a union member[;] [she] was not going to file[] against the contractor[]s.” Pl.'s Opp'n 4, ¶ 7.

         In response to the grievance letter, Local 100 clarified that it “does not operate an exclusive hiring hall” and that “union members may apply for work directly with signatory contractors.” Nov. 1, 2013 Ltr. to Beck-Pell, ECF No. 40-3, at 99. Beck-Pell insists that, “once[] [she] became a journeyman, every job [she] worked, [she] was referred through the hall.” Pl.'s Opp'n 4, ¶ 9 (capitalization removed). Because Beck-Pell was complaining about the contractors' failure to hire her and other black women over the age of 40, Local 100 provided guidance for “pursu[ing] a grievance or grievances against contractors.” Id.

Local 100 asked [her] to provide information about the contractor[]s that refused to hire [her], so, [she] needed to provide facts to support what [she] was saying. They wanted the names of the contractors to which [she] had applied for employment, the positions for which [she] had appl[ied], evidence that the contractor had openings at the time that [she] applied, and the contractor's response to [her] application and the date of the response.

Pl.'s Opp'n 4, ¶ 6; see Nov. 1, 2013 Ltr. to Beck-Pell, ECF No. 40-3, at 99. She did not provide any additional information, and Local 100 did not file a grievance on her behalf. Beck-Pell Dep. 176:5-178:3. Beck-Pell herself filed an EEOC charge of discrimination based on age, sex, and race against Local 100 in August 2014. See 2018 EEOC Charge, ECF No. 40-3, at 127 (discussing earlier charge); Am. Compl. 6.

         Ms. Beck-Pell made her final dues payment on September 30, 2014, when she paid dues through August 31, 2014. Member Payment Hist., ECF No. 40-3, at 104. On November 3, 2014, when her September and October dues had not been paid, Local 100 informed her that, “as of November 1, 2014, [she was] suspended in accordance with Sheet Metal Workers' International Association Constitution and Ritual and Local 100's rules and regulations.” Nov. 3, 2014 Ltr., ECF No. 40-3, at 105. It notified her that, up until December 31, 2014, she could pay a reinstatement fee of $250.00, in addition to one month's dues ($34.50), for a total of $284.50. Id.

         Ms. Beck-Pell claims that, on an unspecified date, she “tried to pay [her] union dues, ” but Local 100 “refused to take [her] payments.” Am. Compl. 6. According to Beck-Pell, she “contacted the local to determine how much [she had] to pay to get back in the local and be reinstated as a member, ” and they “advised [her that] she had to pay 284.50.” Pl.'s Opp'n 4, ¶ 9. But she did not attempt to pay until April 2017, “[w]hile the [2014] EEOC matter was ongoing, ” at which time Local 100 informed her that it did not “want [her] money and [she] needed to get a job first.” Id.; see Apr. 2, 2018 Witness Stmt. 2, ECF No. 43-12 (Beck-Pell's unsigned statement). She viewed that response as retaliatory and filed an EEOC complaint alleging retaliation. Pl.'s Opp'n 4, ¶ 9; see 2018 EEOC Charge. According to LaBille:

It is a standing policy of Local 100 that in order to reinstate membership in Local 100 following a suspension, an individual must first obtain employment in the industry and then request reinstatement and pay the appropriate fees. Local 100 adopted this policy to prevent the situation where an individual would spend hundreds of dollars to be ...

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