United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
GRAPHIC COMMUNICATIONS CONFERENCE/INT'L BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS LOCAL, 285M, Plaintiff,
MCDONALD & EUDY PRINTERS, INC., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. Grimm United States District Judge.
a labor organization, filed suit against Defendant printing
company to compel arbitration following Defendant's
discharge of union employee Mike Milligen. Pending before the
Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss,  which argues that
the claim is barred under res judicata given a prior National
Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) decision not to
prosecute and that Plaintiff has not stated a claim for
breach of contract because it failed to timely submit the
matter to arbitration. ECF No. 20 (“Def.'s
Mot.”), at 2-3. Because an NLRB decision not to issue
an unfair labor practices complaint does not have res
judicata effect and the procedural timeliness defense raised
by Defendant is one for an arbitrator to resolve,
Defendant's Motion is denied.
and Defendant are parties to a collective bargaining
agreement (“CBA”), which covers the terms and
conditions of employment of the union employees at
Defendant's facility, including a provision outlining the
grievance process for employee discharge disputes. ECF No.1
(“Compl.”), at 2. In July 2017, employee and
union member Mike Milligen was terminated following two
disciplinary warnings. Id. As a result, Plaintiff
and Mr. Milligen initiated the CBA's grievance process by
filing a grievance, which Defendant denied. Id. at
3. Next, pursuant to the CBA's grievance process, the
parties conducted a Joint Standing Committee meeting, which
failed to resolve the grievance, as did subsequent
communications between the parties over the following months.
Id. Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant has since
refused to participate in the grievance process and submit
the matter to arbitration as required under the CBA.
Id. at 4.
has brought suit to compel arbitration under the CBA pursuant
to Section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act,
which provides that “[s]uits for violation of contracts
between an employer and a labor organization representing
employees in an industry affecting commerce . . . may be
brought in any district court of the United States having
jurisdiction of the parties, without respect of the amount in
controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the
parties.” 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). Defendant
contends that Plaintiff's demand for arbitration was
untimely and in the alternative that the suit is barred by
res judicata because Plaintiff has already sought redress
before the NLRB. Def.'s Mot. at 6-7.
purpose of a 12(b)(6) motion is “to test the
sufficiency of the complaint and not to resolve contests
surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the
applicability of defenses.” Presley v. City of
Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006)
(quoting Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231,
243 (4th Cir. 1999)) (internal quotation marks omitted).
However, res judicata may be asserted as an affirmative
defense in a motion to dismiss if it is clearly established
by the allegations in the complaint. Andrews v. Daw,
201 F.3d 521, 524 n.1 (4th Cir. 2000); see also Thomas v.
Consolidation Coal Co., 380 F.2d 69, 75 (4th Cir. 1967)
(allowing res judicata to be raised in motion to dismiss
where NLRB declined to issue complaint). When considering a
12(b)(6) motion, the Court “may also consider documents
attached to the complaint . . . as well as those attached to
the motion to dismiss, so long as they are integral to the
complaint and authentic.” Philips v. Pitt Cty.
Mem'l Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009).
judicata “bars a party from suing on a claim that has
already been litigated to a final judgment by that party . .
. and precludes the assertion by such parties of any legal
theory, cause of action, or defense which could have been
asserted in that action.” Ohio Valley Envtl. Coal.
v. Aracoma Coal Co., 556 F.3d 177, 210 (4th Cir. 2009)
(quoting 18 James Wm. Moore et al., Moore's Federal
Practice § 131.10(1)(a) (3d ed. 2008)) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
Supreme Court and the Fourth Circuit have long held that res
judicata applies to administrative agency actions when the
agency “is acting in a judicial capacity and resolves
disputed issues of fact properly before it which the parties
have had an adequate opportunity to litigate.”
B&B Hardware, Inc. v. Hargis Industries, Inc.,
135 S.Ct. 1293, 1303 (2015) (quoting United States v.
Utah Const. & Mining Co., 384 U.S. 394, 422 (1966))
(internal quotation marks omitted); see also Astoria Fed.
Sav. & Loan Ass'n v. Solimino, 501 U.S. 104, 107
(1991) (same); Rosenfeld v. Dep't of Army, 769
F.2d 237, 240 (4th Cir. 1985) (same). An agency's
decision not to prosecute, however, does not constitute
adjudication on the merits for purposes of res judicata.
Thomas, 380 F.2d at 77-78 (“[A] refusal of the
National Labor Relations Board to issue a complaint does not
constitute an adjudication for purposes of applying the
doctrine of res judicata in a subsequent court
action[.]”); see also United Food & Commercial
Workers, Local 400 v. Marval Poultry Co., 708 F.Supp.
761, 765 (W.D. Va. 1989) (“Of course, the court
recognizes that a refusal by NLRB to issue a Complaint does
not constitute an adjudication for the purposes of applying
the doctrine of res judicata.”) (citing
Thomas, 380 F.2d at 78).
Motion to Dismiss, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's
claim must be dismissed on grounds of res judicata, because a
claim concerning Defendant's failure to arbitrate was
raised and decided before the NLRB. Def.'s Mot. at 6-7.
However, the NLRB simply declined to issue an unfair labor
practices complaint, and accordingly dismissed
Plaintiff's charge. See ECF No. 20-6. NLRB's
decision not to issue a complaint is not an adjudication of
the disputed facts in the case after a full opportunity for
the parties to litigate. Thomas, 380 F.2d at 77-78.
Therefore, res judicata does not bar Plaintiff from bringing
to State a Claim
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a defendant to move
to dismiss a complaint due to a plaintiff's
“failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted.” Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
8(a)(2), a complaint must contain “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief.” Notably, although a complaint “does
not need detailed factual allegations, ” Rule 8
requires “more than an unadorned,
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009);
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007). “To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(6), plaintiffs' ‘[f]actual allegations
must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level,' thereby ‘nudg[ing] their claims
across the line from conceivable to plausible.'”
Aziz v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 391 (4th Cir.
2011) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). When
considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the
Court must accept the material facts alleged in the complaint
as true, though statements of legal conclusions are not
afforded the same assumption of truth. Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678; Aziz, 658 F.3d at 391. Further, a
dismissal may not be based merely on “a judge's
disbelief of a complaint's factual allegations.”
McLean v. United States, 566 F.3d 391, 399
(4th Cir. 2009). Under Maryland law, a complaint alleging
breach of contract must allege “facts showing a
contractual obligation owed by the defendant to the plaintiff
and a breach of that obligation by defendant.”
Decohen v. Capital One, N.A., 703 F.3d 216, 227 (4th
Cir. 2012) (quoting RRC Northeast, LLC v. BAA Maryland,
Inc., 994 A.2d 430, 440 (2010)) (internal quotation
argues that Plaintiff failed to allege that it satisfied the
requisite timeline under their CBA, which requires the
parties to select an arbitrator within five days of the Joint
Conference Committee's decision on a grievance.
Def.'s Mot. at 6. Defendant then alleges that because
Plaintiff failed to invoke arbitration within the prescribed
timeframe, it cannot show that Defendant had a contractual
obligation to proceed to arbitration, and therefore it cannot
state a claim for breach of contract under Maryland law.
response, Plaintiff argues that there is a presumption of
arbitrability, that the Court should only decide whether the
parties are bound by the arbitration clause in question, and
that any procedural defenses raised by Defendant should be
decided by the arbitrator. ECF No. 21 at 3-5. The parties do
not contest that they are governed and bound by the CBA and