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Stephens v. 1199 SEIU, AFL-CIO

United States District Court, E.D. New York

September 23, 2014

PRECIOUS STEPHENS, Plaintiff,
v.
1199 SEIU, AFL-CIO & BAYVIEW NURSING AND REHABILITATION CENTER, Defendants

Page 285

For Precious Stephens, Plaintiff: Daniel F DeVita, Daniel F. DeVita, Esq., Garden City, NY.

For 1199 SEIU, AFL-CIO, Defendant: David M. Slutsky, G. Micah Wissinger, Sara D. Newman, Levy Ratner, P.C., New York, NY.

For Bayview Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Defendant: William Matthew Groh, LEAD ATTORNEY, Clifford Paul Chaiet, Naness, Chaiet & Naness, LLC, Jericho, NY.

Page 286

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

PAMELA K. CHEN, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Precious Stephens (" Stephens" ) asserts " hybrid" claims of breach of contract pursuant to § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (" § 301" ), 29 U.S.C. § 185, and breach of the implied duty of fair representation (" DFR" ) pursuant to the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 151 et seq. (" hybrid § 301/DFR claims" ). DelCostello v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 164-65, 103 S.Ct. 2281, 76 L.Ed.2d 476 & n.14 (1983) (Brennan, J.) (describing the recognition of hybrid § 301/DFR claims by Vaca v. Sipes, 386 U.S. 171, 87 S.Ct. 903, 17 L.Ed.2d 842 (1967) (White, J.), and Hines v. Anchor Motor Freight, Inc., 424 U.S. 554, 96 S.Ct. 1048, 47 L.Ed.2d 231 (1976) (White, J.)).[1] These claims are based on the requisite allegations that (i) Stephens's former employer, Defendant Bayview Nursing and Rehabilitation Center (the " Employer" ), breached a collective bargaining

Page 287

agreement and settlement agreement as to Stephens; and (ii) Defendant 1199 SEIU, AFL-CIO (the " Union" ), on behalf of Stephens as a Union member, declined to arbitrate the Employer's breaches, thereby breaching the Union's DFR. (Dkt. No. 1-3 (" Compl." ) ¶ ¶ 4-11.)[2] Defendants now seek summary judgment dismissing these claims against them. (Dkt. No. 95; Dkt. No. 97.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' summary judgment motions are granted.

I. Background[3]

A. The Termination Decision

Stephens began working for the Employer, a nursing home, as a certified nursing assistant on July 2, 2005. (Union 56.1 ¶ 1.) The Employer, however, initially decided to terminate Stephens's employment on June 26, 2006, in an alleged breach of its collective bargaining agreement with the Union, of which Stephens was a member. ( Id.; Employer 56.1 ¶ 10; Compl. ¶ 4.)[4] Pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement, the Union commenced the grievance process over the Employer's termination decision. (Union 56.1 ¶ 2.)

On June 29, 2006, three days after the termination decision, Stephens--along with the Union's Vice President, Joanne McCarthy (" McCarthy" ), and its Organizer, Jennie Stallings (" Stallings" ) (collectively, the " Union representatives" )--met with the Employer's representative, Frank Iannucci (" Iannucci" ), for 35-40 minutes, as part of " step two" in the grievance process, to argue for Stephens's reinstatement. ( Id. ¶ 3; Employer 56.1 ¶ 12; Dkt. No. 97-1 (" Union Exs." ), Ex. C, at 52:5-52:13.) McCarthy testified that she and Stallings met with Stephens immediately prior to the meeting to obtain her version of the events that precipitated the termination decision. (Union Ex. C, at 52:14-52:18.)[5] During the meeting, Iannucci

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nonetheless explained that the Employer would not be reinstating Stephens's employment. ( Id. at 53:9-53:20; Union Ex. B, at 65:20-65:25.) McCarthy did not take notes of the meeting, as she did at most other meetings. (Union Ex. C, at 56:11-56:24; Stephens Ex. 10, at 31:25-32:3.)

After the preliminary meeting with Iannucci, McCarthy and Stallings privately advised Stephens that her case could not be arbitrated, because it would not succeed, and that one remaining option was to settle with the Employer which, in lieu of termination, would accept her resignation. (Union 56.1 ¶ 5.) Stephens testified as much at her deposition:

Q. Let me ask you a question then: Did you speak with Jennie Stallings and/or Joanne McCarthy about taking your case to arbitration?
A. Yes, sir.
* * *
A. At the same time we did the settlement agreement, I went to Ms. Jennie Stallings and said I want to go to arbitration because [the Employer] refused to take me back. Let the administration judge decide.
Q. What did she say to you?
A. She said no[.]
* * *
Q. So you had a discussion about the merits of your case, correct?
A. Yes.
Q. And . . . did the union tell . . . you that your case would not be successful?
A. Jennie Stallings told me it would not be successful because the charge nurse, or the nurse on the floor gave a damaging statement in her testimony, that I was ...

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