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United Transportation Union v. National Railroad Passenger Corp.

February 4, 2008



Plaintiffs United Transportation Union ("UTU") and Carmen J. Famulare ("Famulare") filed this Complaint, pursuant to the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq. ("RLA" or "Act"), on April 24, 2006 against Defendant National Railroad Passenger Corporation ("Amtrak" or "Defendant"). Compl. (Dkt. No. 1). Plaintiffs seek review of the Award rendered by Public Law Board No. 6865 ("Board"), which upheld Defendant's termination of Famulare's employment. Id. The Board denied Plaintiffs' claim that Famulare's dismissal, stemming from actions he took while serving as a union representative, violated the RLA. Administrative R., Award No. 10 (Dkt. No. 15, Attach. 1) at 2-3 ("Award"). Pursuant to 45 U.S.C. § 153 First (q), Plaintiffs are asking the Court to overturn and set aside the Award and restore Famulare to his previous position as conductor.*fn2

Compl. (Dkt. No. 1) at ¶¶ 1, 8.

Presently before the Court are Motions for summary judgment filed each by Plaintiffs and Defendant. In their summary judgment Motion, Plaintiffs are asking this Court to set aside the Award on the following grounds: (1) the Board's decision failed to comply with the RLA because the Board did not enforce an RLA provision prohibiting employers from disciplining employees for conduct occurring in the capacity of union representative; and (2) the Board exceeded its jurisdiction by failing to abide by the same RLA provision, which was incorporated into the collective bargaining agreement.*fn3 Pls.' Mem. of Law (Dkt. No. 16, Attach. 3) at 2. Defendant's Motion for summary judgment asks the Court to dismiss the Complaint, thereby upholding the Award in its entirety. Def.'s Mot. (Dkt. No. 17) at 1.

I. Background

Plaintiff Famulare was employed by Amtrak as a conductor beginning in 1994 and also served as local chairman of the United Transportation Union, the labor union authorized to represent certain classes of Amtrak employees. Compl. (Dkt. No. 1) at ¶¶ 2-3; Def.'s Stmnt. of Mat. Facts (Dkt. No. 17, Attach. 1) at ¶¶ 2-3. One duty of the local chairman is to represent Amtrak employees at on-property investigation hearings, if an employee elects to have union representation at this disciplinary proceeding. Pls.' Stmnt. of Mat. Facts (Dkt. No. 16, Attach. 2) at ¶ 5; Def.'s Resp. (Dkt. No. 18, Attach. 4) at ¶ 5. Famulare represented an Amtrak employee, Warren Cox, at one such investigatory hearing on February 4, 2005. Pls.' Stmnt. of Mat. Facts (Dkt. No. 16, Attach. 2) at ¶ 7; Def.'s Resp. (Dkt. 18, Attach. 4) at ¶ 7. Amtrak accused Famulare of attempting to bribe a witness for Amtrak, who was not an Amtrak employee, during a break in the hearing by offering her free transportation in exchange for altering her testimony against Cox. Pls.' Stmnt. of Mat. Facts (Dkt. No. 16, Attach. 2) at ¶ 8. For purposes of this appeal, the Board's factual finding that Famulare did engage in this conduct is conclusive upon the Court. See § 153 First (q). Plaintiffs had argued Famulare's innocence before the Board, which ultimately rested its decision on a judgment that the Amtrak witness was more credible than Famulare. Award (Dkt. No. 15, Attach. 1) at 2.

Based on this conduct, Amtrak charged Famulare with violating various Amtrak Service Standards and removed him from service. Administrative R., Letter to Famulare (Dkt. 15, Attach. 16) at 1-3. After a formal investigation and hearing, Amtrak issued a Notice of Discipline terminating Famulare's employment on March 17, 2005. Pls.' Stmnt. of Mat. Facts (Dkt. No. 16, Attach. 2) at ¶¶ 9-11. UTU subsequently pursued a grievance on behalf of Famulare, which proceeded through the on-property appeal process delineated in the collective bargaining agreement, and then to binding arbitration before the Board. Def.'s Stmnt. of Mat. Facts (Dkt. No. 17, Attach. 2) at ¶¶ 5-8; see 45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq. The parties opted to utilize the public law board in lieu of National Railroad Adjustment Board arbitration. See Award (Dkt. No. 15, Attach. 1) at 1.

While Amtrak asked the Board to confirm the outcome of the on-property proceedings, UTU argued, inter alia, that Amtrak's dismissal of Famulare violated the RLA because it was based on his activities as a union representative, not an employee. See Administrative R., Carrier Submission to Board (Dkt. No. 15, Attach. 3); Administrative R., UTU Submission to Board (Dkt. No. 15, Attach. 16). With regard to this argument by Plaintiffs, the Board concluded that under the RLA, significant latitude is provided to employee-representatives when functioning as such.

However, that latitude falls far short of being a 'cloak of immunity,' and does not cover activities such as that involved in this case. If representatives from either side were permitted to bribe or otherwise suborn witnesses, the time-tested disciplinary process would have no validity or credibility. Under these circumstances, we find that the Grievant was subject to discipline if the charges were proved. Additionally, we find no credible evidence of union animus.

Award (Dkt. No. 15, Attach. 1) at 2. The Board found Famulare guilty of the charges and denied Famulare's claim to be restored to his employment position. Id. at 2-3.

II. Discussion

A. Standard for Summary Judgment

Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). In applying this standard, courts must "'resolve all ambiguities, and credit all factual inferences that could rationally be drawn, in favor of the party opposing summary judgment.'" Brown v. Henderson, 257 F.3d 246, 251 (2d Cir. 2001) (quoting Cifra v. General Elec. Co., 252 F.3d 205, 216 (2d Cir. 2001)).

Once the moving party meets its initial burden by demonstrating that no material fact exists for trial, the non-movant "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (citations omitted). The non-movant "must come forth with evidence sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to find in her favor." Brown, 257 F.3d at 251 (citation omitted). The nonmoving party "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials" of the pleadings; bald assertions or conjecture unsupported by evidence are insufficient to overcome a motion for summary judgment. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Carey v. Crescenzi, 923 F.2d 18, 21 (2d Cir. 1991); Western World Ins. Co. v. Stack Oil, Inc., 922 F.2d 118, 121 (2d Cir. 1990).

In the present case, no material facts remain in dispute. See 45 U.S.C. ยง 153 First (q); Pls.' Resp. (Dkt. No. 19, Attach. 1) at 2-3; Def.'s Resp. (Dkt. No. 18, Attach. 1) at 1. The Court will render judgment as a ...

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