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Arnold v. Beth Abraham Health Services

December 30, 2009


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


Pro se plaintiff Andrew Arnold brings this lawsuit against Beth Abraham Health Services, Inc. ("Beth Abraham") and two Beth Abraham administrators, Yoni Kono and Maureen Connolly (collectively, the "defendants") arising out of the termination of Arnold's employment on April 5, 2007. On July 10, 2009, the defendants filed this motion to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint. For the following reasons, the defendants' motion is granted.


The facts below are taken from the plaintiff's complaint. Additional detail is provided in the recent opinion in the related case of Arnold v. 1199 SEIU, No. 09 Civ. 5576 (DLC), 2009 WL 4823906 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 15, 2009) ("Arnold I").

Arnold was a full-time employee of Beth Abraham until he was fired on April 5, 2007. While working at Beth Abraham, he was a member of the 1199 SEIU labor union (the "Union"). As such, his terms of employment were governed by a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") between the Union and Beth Abraham. The terms of the CBA included, inter alia, that neither Beth Abraham nor the Union could discriminate against any covered employee. The complaint alleges that Beth Abraham assigned plaintiff a "disproportionately greater workload than workers of coordinate jurisdiction of a different gender" and thereby "distributed [his] work assignments on the basis of discrimination/retaliation in violation of anti-discrimination provisions in the CBA."

After the plaintiff was fired, the Union contested the plaintiff's discharge from employment. A grievance hearing was held in May 2007 at which plaintiff's discrimination claims were raised. Following the conference, Beth Abraham upheld its decision to fire the plaintiff and denied his grievance.


Plaintiff filed this action in New York Supreme Court, Bronx County, on or about March 26, 2009. After being served, defendants filed a notice of removal in this Court on July 2, and the case was assigned to the Honorable Alvin K. Hellerstein. The defendants then filed a motion to dismiss on July 10. Plaintiff moved to remand his case to state court on July 17, and the plaintiff's motion was denied by Judge Hellerstein on August 19. This action was reassigned on September 2 because it was related to Arnold I, a case then pending before this Court. The defendants' motion to dismiss became fully submitted on September 9.


Beth Abraham has moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). "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 omitted)); Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) ("Even after Twombly, . . . we remain obligated to construe a pro se complaint liberally.").

I. Breach of the Collective Bargaining Agreement

Although plaintiff does not refer to a federal statute by name, the complaint alleges that the defendants breached the CBA between Beth Abraham and the Union. "It has long been established that an individual employee may bring suit against his employer for breach of a collective bargaining agreement." DelCostello v. Int'l Bhd. Of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 163 (1983). Because plaintiff's claims involve interpretation of the CBA, plaintiff's claims are governed by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185. An employee ordinarily "is required to attempt to exhaust any grievance or arbitration remedies provided in the collective bargaining agreement" before filing suit, however, and therefore an employee only has standing to sue under Section 301 if the union "breach[ed] its duty of fair representation" in representing the employee. DelCostello, 462 U.S. at 163-64; see also Dougherty v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 902 F.2d 201, 203 (2d Cir. 1990). Such a suit is known as "a hybrid § 301/duty of fair representation claim." Sanozky v. Int'l Ass'n of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, 415 F.3d 279, 282 (2d Cir. 2005); see also DelCostello, 462 U.S. at 164-65 (outlining the two claims and identifying them as "inextricably interdependent").

To prevail on a hybrid Section 301/fair representation claim, the plaintiff "must demonstrate both (1) that [the employer] breached its collective bargaining agreement and (2) that [the union] breached its duty of fair representation." Sanozky, 415 F.3d at 282. In other words, although the plaintiff need not name both the employer and the union as defendants, the plaintiff must prove fault by both in order to succeed against either. Carrion v. Enterprise Ass'n, Metal Trades Branch Local Union 638, 227 F.3d 29, 33 (2d Cir. 2000); see also DelCostello, 462 U.S. at 165 ("The employee may . . . sue one defendant and not the other; but the case he must prove is the same whether he sues one, the other, or both."). The Supreme Court has clarified that hybrid Section 301/fair representation claims are subject to a six-month statute of ...

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