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Howell v. 1199 Union

United States District Court, S.D. New York

January 16, 2015


Kenneth Howell, Plaintiff, Pro se, Bronx, N.Y. USA.

For Brenda Mundy, Defendant: David Mark Slutsky, Vanessa Flores, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Levy Ratner, P.C., New York, N.Y. USA.


ANALISA TORRES, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff pro se, Kenneth Howell, brings this action against 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East[1] (" 1199 Union"), Estela Vasquez, 1199 Union's Executive Vice President, and Brenda Mundy, an 1199 Union organizer (collectively, " Defendants"). Construing the complaint liberally, Howell alleges that Defendants breached their duty of fair representation and violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Defendants move to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED.


Howell worked for over twenty years at Montefiore Medical Center (" Montefiore"). Pl. Aff. in Opp'n at 9, ECF No. 23. In connection with his employment, he served as a member and delegate of 1199 Union, a labor organization that represents New York City hospital employees. Id. On January 30, 2013, Montefiore fired Howell. Compl. at 4, ECF No.2.

On February 27, 2013, 1199 Union--acting on Howell's behalf--and Montefiore management attended a " third step grievance meeting" to resolve Howell's claim that he was wrongfully discharged. Pl. Aff. in Opp'n at 64, ECF No. 23-1. About two weeks later, after considering the evidence proffered by the parties, the hearing officer found that Howell violated the following hospital regulations: " VII-I Medical Center Rules [and] Regulations, " " VII-20 Maintaining a non-violent workplace, " and " VI-3 Management of Disruptive Conduct." Id. at I, ECF No. 23-2. On this basis, the officer denied Howell's termination complaint. Id.

Howell sought to process his grievance further. But, on March 19, 2013, 1199 Union notified Howell that it declined to arbitrate his case. Flores Decl. Ex. 3 at 3, ECF No. 25-3. A month later, the Chapter Hearing and Appeals Board agreed with the Union's conclusion. Flores Decl. Ex. 4 at 2, ECF No. 25-4. In a June 20, 2013 letter to 1199 Union, Howell decried its determination not to pursue arbitration. Pl. Aff. in Opp'n at 35, 40, ECF No. 23-1. Nonetheless, on July 10, 2013, the Hearings and Appeals Board of the Health System Division upheld the decision, explaining that arbitration would be futile. Flores Decl. Ex. 1 at 2, ECF No. 25-1; see also Compl. at 3.

Meanwhile, on March 25, 2013, Howell filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (" NLRB"). Flores Decl. Ex. A at 2, ECF No. 20. He asserted that " [s]ince on or about March 22, 2013, [1199 Union], by its officers, agents[, ] and representatives, has failed and refused to fully process [Howell's] termination grievance . . . from Montefiore . . . for reasons that are arbitrary, discriminatory[, ] or otherwise unlawful." Id. On May 17, 2013, the NLRB dismissed Howell's allegations, finding, in relevant part, that " [t]here was no evidence presented that the Union's decision not to proceed to arbitration was based on any arbitrary or unlawful consideration." Flores Decl. Ex. 3 at 3. On June 6, 2013, the NLRB Office of Appeals denied Howell's appeal. Flores Decl. Ex. B at 3, ECF No. 20.

Seven months later, on January 8, 2014, Howell commenced this action. Compl. at 1. He alleges that 1199 Union, Vasquez, and Mundy " deliberately" and " maliciously" failed to provide fair representation during his termination proceedings. Compl. at 3; Pl. Aff. in Opp'n at 5. Howell claims that Defendants colluded with Montefiore management by " turn[ing] a blind eye" to Howell's reports of " past documented physical abuse, " " unfair managerial behavior, " and " racial bias[]." Pl. Aff. in Opp'n at 4, 9. Mundy " did not get witness statements in writing nor summon[] any witnesses to give testimony" during the grievance proceedings. Compl. at 3. In addition, she " deliberately withheld witness documentation." Id. Vasquez, for her part, " aided and abetted" Mundy's " intentional mishandling" of the case. Id.

Howell claims Defendants' unfair labor practices, reprisal, and discrimination resulted in his termination and loss of pay. Compl. at 2. In this action, he seeks " full reinstatement" to 1199 Union, as well as reimbursement for lost wages and medical bills. Id. at 10. Finally, Howell requests immediate job placement within another union medical facility. Id.


I. Standard of Review

To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint " must contain sufficient factual matter . . . to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). A court must accept allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences ...

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