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Arnold v. 1199 Seiu

December 15, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Denise Cote, District Judge


Pro se plaintiff Andrew Arnold brings this lawsuit against defendant 1199 SEIU (the "Union") for alleged breach of its duty of fair representation in connection with plaintiff's discharge from employment at Beth Abraham Health Services ("Beth Abraham"). On June 29, 2009, the Union filed this motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, both of the Union's motions are granted.


The uncontested facts below are taken from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 Statements of Material Facts Not in Dispute as supported by the adjoining declarations and exhibits.*fn1 Certain additional facts alleged by plaintiff in his March 26, 2009 complaint are assumed to be true only for the purposes of resolving the motion to dismiss.

The plaintiff, Andrew Arnold, was a full-time employee of Beth Abraham working as an "Authorization Specialist" until he was fired on April 5, 2007. While working at Beth Abraham, plaintiff was a member of the Union. The terms of employment for Union members working at Beth Abraham were governed by a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") concluded between the Union and the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes of New York, an agent acting on behalf of Beth Abraham. The terms of the CBA included, inter alia, that neither Beth Abraham nor the Union could "discriminate[] against" any covered Union employee. The complaint alleges that plaintiff was discriminated against by Beth Abraham during his employment in violation of the CBA. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that Beth Abraham assigned him a "disproportionately greater workload than workers of coordinate jurisdiction of a different gender."

After the plaintiff was fired, the Union grieved plaintiff's discharge from employment. A "step III grievance conference" was held in May 2007, at which plaintiff, three Union representatives, and four Beth Abraham administrators were present (the "step III conference").*fn2 Following the conference, Beth Abraham upheld its decision to fire plaintiff and denied the grievance by memorandum of May 24, 2007. The basis for this decision, as set out in the memorandum, was that plaintiff had exhibited "[s]ubstandard work performance" and had "failed to improve [his] work performance" since a previous step III hearing held on September 13, 2006.

Thereafter, by letter of May 30, 2007, a representative of the Union, Elise Laviscount, notified plaintiff that it had conducted "a thorough investigation of [his] grievance" and "concluded that it does not warrant arbitration." The letter noted, however, that plaintiff had the right "to make further appeal through the Chapter Hearing and Appeal Board" by submitting a request for appeal in writing within 48 hours of plaintiff's receipt of the Union's letter. The Chapter Hearing and Appeals Board had the authority to direct the Union to take plaintiff's case to arbitration.*fn3 The letter went on to state that "your failure to respond within the specified time will leave us no alternative but to believe you are not interested in pursuing the matter and we will, therefore, consider the case closed." Plaintiff did not file a request to appeal the Union's determination. Instead, on July 7, 2007, plaintiff sent a letter to the Union stating that he was "not in a position to revive our now defunct relationship of some 30 days." On September 4, 2007, the Union sent a letter advising plaintiff that his case was closed because plaintiff had failed to file an appeal of the denial of his grievance.

In the complaint, plaintiff alleges that the Union "fail[ed] to represent [him] fairly" in connection with his grievance hearing. The complaint also alleges that the Union failed to conduct an adequate investigation before deciding not to take plaintiff's claims to arbitration; that the Union "breached the contract"; and that, as a result, "1199 SEIU has breached its statutory duty of fair representation by the manner in which it handled [plaintiff's] grievance."


Plaintiff filed this action in New York Supreme Court, Bronx County, on or about March 26, 2009. After being served, the Union filed a notice of removal in this Court on June 17 and filed a motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment on June 29. Plaintiff moved to remand his case to state court on July 1, and the plaintiff's motion was denied by an August 17 Memorandum Opinion and Order. The Union's motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment became fully submitted on August 27.


I. Standards of Decision

The Union has moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and, in the alternative, has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56. "Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain a 'short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). For a plaintiff's claim to survive a motion to dismiss, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (citation omitted)). Applying this plausibility standard is "a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950.

A court considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) "must accept as true all allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party." Vietnam Ass'n for Victims of Agent Orange v. Dow Chem. Co., 517 F.3d 104, 115 (2d Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). Moreover, pleadings filed by pro se plaintiffs are to be construed liberally. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) ("[A] pro se complaint . . . must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." (citation ...

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