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Hylton v. RY Management

July 25, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: George B. Daniels, District Judge


On March 11, 2005, pro se plaintiff Gina Hylton filed a complaint in the Supreme Court of the State of New York against her union, Service Employees International Union, Local 32BJ ("Local 32BJ"), her former employers, RY Management and River Park Associates ("River Park"), and Bernard Young, a contract arbitrator.*fn1 Pursuant to 29 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1446, the matter was removed to this Court.

Plaintiff alleges that River Park and Local 32BJ conducted unfair labor practices by engaging in a "secret and unlawful collaboration" to make it "markedly difficult" for plaintiff to carry out her bargaining duties as shop steward. Plaintiff further alleges that defendants collaborated to arbitrarily terminate her employment in breach of their collective bargaining agreement. Plaintiff also alleges that Local 32BJ failed to subpoena key witnesses at plaintiff's arbitration proceeding in breach of its duty of fair representation under the collective bargaining agreement. Plaintiff alleges that "although [her] dues were always current, she was prevented from using the medical services provided by the insurance coverage of [her union]." Plaintiff makes numerous state and federal statutory claims, as well as tort and constitutional claims. Plaintiff also claims intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Defendants move to dismiss plaintiff's claims, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Defendants argue that the complaint is time-barred. Defendants further argue that the complaint does not meet the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a). Defendants' motions to dismiss are granted.

Plaintiff worked as a dispatcher and porter for approximately eight years at the River Park Towers, a federally subsidized housing development located in Bronx, New York.. Defendant River Park owns River Park Towers. Plaintiff was initially hired in the management office of River Park to perform dispatcher and clerical duties. In 1993, plaintiff was transferred to the maintenance office, where she worked as a porter.

Plaintiff was a rank and file member of Local 32BJ. In 2000, plaintiff was elected by her fellow workers as "Shop Steward," the union-sanctioned representative of her fellow employees. Plaintiff alleges that the service she performed for union constituents caused defendants to conspire against her. Plaintiff further alleges that RY Management had a practice of intentionally purchasing inadequate cleaning supplies, then blaming workers for not satisfactorily performing their janitorial duties.

Plaintiff alleges that after she was elected Shop Steward, she was summarily removed from the Maintenance office. Plaintiff further alleges that she was assigned to work by herself on the outside grounds, stairways, and roof of River Park Towers. Plaintiff alleges that she was not given any orientation or training to perform the janitorial work in a proper and safe manner.

On March 11, 2002, River Park terminated plaintiff's employment, citing numerous work deficiencies including failure to complete assigned work, failure to follow the orders of management, and other personal misconduct. In April, 2002, Local 32BJ filed a complaint against River Park on plaintiffs behalf alleging that she was discharged in contravention of the union's collective bargaining agreement. Plaintiff claims that she was suspended, and later terminated, because of false charges filed by RY Management. RY Management charged that plaintiff used a vacant apartment room for her personal use. An arbitration hearing was held on November 8, 2002. Plaintiff alleges that legal counsel for the union did not subpoena key witnesses to testify on plaintiff's behalf. On December 10, 2002, the arbitrator concluded that the plaintiff had been "discharged for just cause."

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) will be denied "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of [her] claim which would entitle [her] to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). In assessing the sufficiency of a pleading, factual allegations in the complaint must be taken as true and reasonable inferences must be construed in favor of the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). Since plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the pleadings of the amended complaint are to be liberally construed and interpreted in such a mariner as to raise the strongest argument they suggest. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994). This is particularly applicable with regard to a pro se complaint asserting civil rights violations. Deravin v. Kerik, 335 F.3d 195, 200 (2d Cir. 2003). In discrimination cases, the pleading requirements '"are very lenient, even de minimis."' Id. (quoting Brown v. Coach Stores, Inc., 163 F.3d 706, 710 (2d Cir. 1998)). Accordingly, plaintiffs amended complaint will be held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers,' and can only be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it appears 'beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of [her] claim which would entitle [her] to relief."' Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976) (quoting Haines v. Kemer, 404 US 519, 520-21 (1972)).

Unfair Labor Practice Claim

Sections 7 and 8 of the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA."), 29 U.S.C. §§ 157-58, govern plaintiffs unfair labor practices claim against the defendant. These claims are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board. San Diego Bldg. Trades Council, Millmen's Union, Local 2020 v. Gannon, 359 U.S. 236, 245 (1959); see also Golden State Transit Corp. v. City of Los Angeles, 493 U.S. 103, 108 (1989) (holding that the National Labor Relations Board has exclusive jurisdiction to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices by employers and unions). This Court therefore lacks jurisdiction over this claim. See Buckley v. American Federation of Television, 496 F.2d 305, 311-12 (2d Cir. 1974). Plaintiffs claim under the NLRA is dismissed.

Section 401/Fair-Representation Claim

Plaintiff's claim that she was terminated without just cause in breach of the collective bargaining agreement is governed by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. §185. See DelCostello v. Int'l Bd. of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 164 (1983). Local 32BJ's duty of fair representation is "implied under the scheme of the National Labor Relations Act." See Delcostello, 462 U.S. at 164; Carrion v. Enterprise Ass'n, Metal Trades Branch, 227 F.3d 29, 33 (2d Cir. 2000). An employee may sue both her former employer and her union in response to the employee's belief that she was not fairly represented at an arbitration hearing. DelCostello, 462 U.S. at 164; Carrion, 227 F.3d at 33. This type of suit is known as a hybrid Section 301/fairrepresentation claim because it alleges that (1) the employer breached the labor contract and that (2) the union breached its duty of fair representation. DelCostello, 462 U.S. at 164-65; Carrion, 227 F.3d at 33. A six-month statute of limitations applies to hybrid Section 301/fairrepresentation claims, which commences when the arbitrator issues the award. Ghartey v. St. Johns Queens Hosp., 869 F.2d 160, 164-66 (2d Cir. 1989); see also Kavowras v. New York Times, 328 F.3d 50, 56 (2d Cir. 2003).

The arbitrator issued his decision on December 10, 2002. Under the six-month statute of limitations period, the plaintiff's hybrid Section 301/fair-representation claim and unfair labor practices claim were required to have been filed no later than June 10, 2003. Plaintiff did not file her original complaint until March 11, 2005, nearly two years after ...

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