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Chaney v. Greyhound Lines

June 23, 2010

SHERITA CHANEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GREYHOUND LINES, INC. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Harold Baer, Jr., District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

The plaintiff, Sherita Chaney ("Plaintiff" or "Chaney"), was a bus driver for the defendant, Greyhound Lines, Inc. ("Defendant" or "Greyhound"). In early 2009, she was terminated by Defendant for allegedly failing to obey a direct order to return her bus to a certain location. Chaney brought suit in August 2009, and alleges that Greyhound breached their contract with her. Plaintiff was also a union member, and claims that the union failed to adequately represent her in the termination dispute. Greyhound moved to dismiss, and for the reasons that follow, that motion is GRANTED. However, Chaney will have twenty (20) days from the date of this opinion to replead and file a new complaint.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On July 11, 2005, Greyhound hired Chaney as a driver for the bus company. Compl. ¶ 3. Chaney operated out of Greyhound's New York City terminal at 625 8th Avenue, New York, New York. Id. Chaney was a member of a union, apparently the Amalgamated Transit Union National Local 1700 (the "Union"), with whom Greyhound had a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA"). See Compl. ¶ 5; Girshon Aff., Ex. B (Memorandum of Agreement between Greyhound and Union).

On August 1, 2009, the pro se Plaintiff filed this suit against Greyhound. According to the Complaint, on January 27, 2009, Greyhound made "false statement [sic]" about Plaintiff, and breached the CBA because "they took actions that did not follow by the contract rules nor procedures." Compl. ¶ 4. Moreover, she states that the Union did not represent her interests "to the fullest" because it allowed Greyhound to "cover up the wrongdoings." Id. at ¶ 5. She does not affirmatively state that she was terminated from her employment, but she does say that the actions "cost [her] place of living" and she now has "no way to support [herself] or [her] family." Id. at ¶ 6.

Although it is not clear from the Complaint why Greyhound terminated Chaney's employment, other documents suggest the alleged reasons for her termination.*fn1 Chaney was terminated from her employment because she allegedly "fail[ed] to follow . directives given to her clearly . as she displayed the most unprofessional conduct while in Philadelphia, PA ..." E-mail from Roderick Gibson, Assistant Operations Manager, Greyhound, to Rachel Harris, Operations Manager, Greyhound (January 27, 2009) (on file with Court). Specifically, when instructed to park her bus in the garage, Chaney supposedly refused to do so, and left it at the terminal. Letter from Victor McCoy, Operations Supervisor, Greyhound, to Rachel Harris, Operations Manager, Greyhound (January 27, 2009).

This suit was initially brought to New York State Supreme Court, but Greyhound filed a notice of removal to this Court. Greyhound subsequently filed a motion to dismiss Chaney's Complaint under Rule 12(b)(6). In response, Plaintiff argued that Greyhound did "not give her the proper chance to provide the facts of the matter." Chaney Affirmation in Opp'n to Mot ("Cheney Affirmation")*fn2 . She claimed that there are recorded tapes of phone conversations between the parties, which "support the facts." Id. There are also witnesses, who are "willing to give statements." Id. However, she does not provide any additional facts that more fully explain precisely what happened with regard to her termination, and representation, if any, by the Union. There is no indication that Plaintiff went through a grievance process, arbitration, or any similar union-based process. She does suggest, however, that certain union representatives failed to provide her version of the events and that her employer's termination decision was improper and had to be modified. See Chaney Affirmation. On two separate occasions, in December 2009 and April 2010, this Court sent letters to pro se Plaintiff seeking further elaboration of her claims, and urging that without further information she risked dismissal.. There was no further response or information provided.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

A complaint will be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) if there is a "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P.12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss on this ground, a plaintiff must "plead enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A facially plausible claim is one where "the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Where the court finds well-pleaded factual allegations, it should assume their veracity and determine whether they "plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. at 1950. A court must accept as true all of the factual allegations in the plaintiff's complaint, see, e.g., Rescuecom Corp. v. Google Inc., 562 F.3d 123, 127 (2d Cir. 2009), and may consider "undisputed documents, such as a written contract attached to, or incorporated by reference in, the complaint," Chapman v. New York State Div. for Youth, 546 F.3d 230, 234 (2d Cir. 2008) (internal citations and quotations omitted). "A party appearing without counsel is afforded extra leeway in meeting the procedural rules of litigation," and "courts should not allow a pro se litigant's rights to be impaired by harsh application of technical rules." Sims v. Blot, 534 F.3d 117, 133 (2d Cir. 2008) (internal quotations and citations omitted). Still, the Second Circuit has held that a liberal reading of a complaint does not exempt the pro se plaintiff from "compliance with relevant rules of procedural and substantive law," and the complaint must still satisfy basic pleading requirements. Traguth v. Zuck, 710 F.2d 90, 95 (2d Cir. 1983); see also Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 68(2d Cir. 2009) ("[t]he.claims are legally insufficient even when read with the lenity that must attend the review of pro se pleadings").

B. Plaintiff Attempts to Bring a "Hybrid" § 301 Action

The Complaint does not expressly state Plaintiff's cause of action, but the allegations indicate that she is suing for breach of contract by Greyhound and a failure by the Union to properly represent her. Breach of contract claims that arise out of a collective bargaining agreement are governed by § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). See McKee v. Transco Products, Inc., 874 F.2d 83, 85 (2d Cir. 1989). "An employee may bring a claim against his employer (or former employer) alleging that it breached a collective bargaining agreement, but because such claims require interpretation of the terms of the CBA, they are governed under the LMRA, and not ordinary breach-of-contract principles." Lomako v. New York Inst. of Tech., No. 09 Civ. 6066(HB), 2010 WL 1915041, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. May 12, 2010) (citing, inter alia, Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 405-06 (1988)).

Plaintiff's allegations suggest what is known as a "hybrid" § 301 claim. "A hybrid case is one in which the employee has a cause of action against both the employer and the union. The claim against the employer is that it violated the collective bargaining agreement. The claim against the union is that the union did not properly represent the employee in pressing [her] grievance against the employer." McKee, 874 F.2d at 86; see also Dennis v. L.B.T. Union, No. 07 Civ. 9754(HB), 2009 WL 1473484, at *3-4 (S.D.N.Y. May 27, 2009). The allegations in this case, that Greyhound breached her contract and the Union failed to properly represent her, clearly present a hybrid claim. It makes no difference that Chaney's suit is only against Greyhound. "What makes a case a 'hybrid' action against both union and employer is the nature of the claim, not the identity of the parties." McKee, 874 F.2d at 86. While Chaney may only want to sue Greyhound, an employee can only maintain a breach of contract action that is based on her CBA if she can first prove the Union breached its duty of fair representation in handling her grievance. See Carrion v. Enter. Assoc., 227 F.3d 29, 34 (2d Cir. 2000). "The law is clear that regardless of who is named as a defendant, a hybrid claim is presented if an employee has a cause of action against both the employer and the union, where ...


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