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Reese v. Donahoe

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 10, 2015

IANTHA REESE, Plaintiff,
PATRICK R. DONAHOE, Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service, AMERICAN POSTAL WORKERS' UNION, AFL-CIO, Defendants

For Plaintiff: Gabriel L. Williams, Esq., THE LAW OFFICE OF GABRIEL WILLIAMS, LLC, New York, NY.

For Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service Patrick R. Donahoe, Defendant: Layaliza K. Soloveichik, Assistant United States Attorney, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK, Brooklyn, New York.

For American Postal Workers' Union, Defendant: Robert B. Stulberg, Esq., Amy F. Shulman, Esq., BROACH & STULBERG, LLP, New York, New York.

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Hon. Sterling Johnson, Jr., Senior United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Iantha Reese (" Plaintiff" or " Reese" ) commenced this action against her former employer, the United States Postal Service (the " Postal Service" ) and her union, American Postal Workers' Union, AFL-CIO (the " APWU" or " National Union" ), alleging that the Postal Service breached its collective bargaining agreement with the APWU (the " CBA" ) by placing her on emergency leave and ultimately terminating her employment without just cause, and that the APWU breached its duty of fair representation (" DFR" ). Currently pending before the Court are Defendants' motions to dismiss. Defendant Postal Service moves to dismiss the action, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Defendant APWU similarly moves under Rule 12(b)(6), however, because the APWU's motion presents matters outside the pleadings, its motion will be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56. For the reasons stated below, the Defendants' motions are GRANTED.

I. Background

Plaintiff was employed by the Postal Service, located at 315 Empire Boulevard in Brooklyn, New York, for over 25 years, from 1987 to January 28, 2013, and most recently, worked as a Sales and Services/Distribution Associate. The APWU is a labor organization that represents individuals employed by the Postal Service. During her employment with the Postal Service, Reese was a member of the APWU and its local affiliate, APWU Brooklyn Local No. 251 (" Brooklyn Local" ).[1] Plaintiffs responsibilities at the Postal Service included conducting various financial transactions, including the selling of stamps and money orders.

On three occasions in January and February of 2011, Plaintiffs Point of Sale computer reflected shortages. The first two shortages occurred on January 12 and 31, 2011, and were for $850 and $430, respectively, which Reese reported to her supervisor, José Farrell (" Farrell" ). The third shortage occurred on February 24, 2011, which, according to Plaintiff, was caused by a computer malfunction that interrupted two money order transactions, resulting in a shortage of $1,817.44 for that day. Under Farrell's direction, she explained the shortage on a routing slip (the " February Routing Slip" ):

I was 1810 short. My machine shut off in the middle of 2 money orders. One for $1000 and the other for $817.44. I called the help desk. They said to just put the shortage in and they will investigate.

Approximately one year later, on March 28, 2012, Reese was questioned by the Postal Service's Office of Inspector General (" OIG" ) about the three shortages. Lorraine Popper (" Popper" ), a Brooklyn Local's representative, assisted Reese through the interrogation. Reese does not recall whether Popper advised her to submit a sworn statement following this meeting,

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but was later informed by a representative of the National Union that a sworn statement should have been submitted. Following the meeting, the OIG reported its findings to Jonas Yau (" Yau" ), the Acting Manager of the Postal Service, who suspended Reese without pay that same day by handing her a notice titled " Emergency Placement in Off-Duty Status (Without Pay)" (the " Emergency Placement Notice" ). The Emergency Placement Notice cited reasons for Reese's suspension, which included her inconsistent responses and her violation of the Postal Service's policy prohibiting employees from issuing and cashing their own money orders.

On May 30, 2012, Yau conducted a pre-disciplinary interview, during which Plaintiff confirmed purchasing and cashing her own money orders. On June 15, 2012, Plaintiff was issued a Notice of Removal, terminating her employment for " failure to account for postal service funds," effective July 24, 2012.

The National Union and Brooklyn Local grieved Plaintiffs suspension and termination. Brooklyn Local represented Reese up to the arbitration, while the National Union represented her during the arbitration stage. The APWU served the Postal Service with a request for information and documents related to the grievance. On December 13, 2012, a hearing was held before ...

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