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Spiegel v. Bekowies

United States District Court, S.D. New York

May 27, 2015

MICHAEL SPIEGEL, Plaintiff,
v.
ERIN BEKOWIES, et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

LORNA G. SCHOFIELD, District Judge:

This action arises out of the termination of Plaintiff’s employment at the Hotel Edison (the “Hotel”) in Manhattan. Defendants are all individuals who worked with Plaintiff at the Hotel. The Amended Complaint (the “Complaint”) alleges in substance that they interfered with Plaintiff’s employment at the Hotel, ultimately resulting in his termination. For the following reasons, Defendants’ motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

The facts below are taken from the Complaint or documents integral to the Complaint and are assumed to be true for the purposes of this motion.

Plaintiff was hired by the Hotel in approximately February 2006 as a front desk assistant manager. Subject to an industry-wide collective bargaining agreement (the “CBA”), Plaintiff joined the hotel union -- the New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council (the “Union”) -- in approximately April 2008. The Complaint alleges that, on several occasions between 2010 and 2012, Plaintiff “observed several dangerous and life-threatening conditions at the Hotel Edison, and reported these conditions to his supervisors.” Instead of correcting these conditions, the Complaint alleges, the Hotel “retaliated against Plaintiff, resulting in three [] terminations of his employment, two [] court-ordered reinstatements and seven [] legal proceedings.” The Complaint alleges that, during 2011 and 2012, Defendants submitted false statements to Hotel management and the Union and gave false testimonies at Union and judicial proceedings concerning Plaintiff’s employment. According to the Complaint, Defendants falsely stated, inter alia, that Plaintiff (1) was physically aggressive and disrespectful toward co-workers and a Hotel guest, (2) stalked the Hotel’s general manager, (3) stole Hotel property, (4) made racist comments to co-workers, and (5) exposed himself to a co-worker. In addition, according to the Complaint, Defendants (1) improperly blocked Plaintiff from attending a Union meeting, (2) instructed Plaintiff’s co-workers to shun and avoid speaking with him, (3) directed racist comments toward Plaintiff, (4) conspired to rescind Plaintiff’s election to a leadership position in the Union and (5) prevented at least one employee from presenting testimony that would have exonerated Plaintiff from certain allegations of wrongdoing. The Complaint alleges that Defendants did so “in a willful effort to wrongly deprive Plaintiff of his contractually protected employment and benefits” at the Hotel. In August 2012, Plaintiff’s employment at the Hotel was terminated, allegedly “[a]s a direct result of Defendants’ fraudulent and unlawful behavior.” An arbitration award, dated March 7, 2013, affirmed the termination of Plaintiff’s employment at the Hotel.[1]

On April 3, 2014, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed this action in New York Supreme Court, New York County. The Complaint alleges three causes of action against each Defendant. First, the Complaint alleges that each Defendant tortiously interfered with “the contract between th[e] Union and Hotel Edison” -- “the legal basis of Plaintiff’s employment with Hotel Edison” -- by supplying false documents and statements against Plaintiff to authorities. Second, the Complaint alleges that each Defendant tortiously interfered with the business relationship with the Hotel “through his employment therein” by supplying false documents and statements against Plaintiff to authorities. Third, the Complaint alleges that each Defendant tortiously interfered with “future prospective economic opportunities [expected] from [Plaintiff’s] employment at Hotel Edison.” On April 28, 2014, Defendants timely removed the action to this Court. On May 30, 2014, Plaintiff moved to remand. By Order dated January 28, 2015, Plaintiff’s motion for remand was denied for the reasons stated on the record the same day. The principal basis for denying the motion and for this Court’s subject matter jurisdiction was that at least one of Plaintiff’s claims is subject to preemption by section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”).

STANDARD

On a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Hooks v. Forman, Holt, Eliades & Ravin, LLC, 717 F.3d 282, 284 (2d Cir. 2013). To withstand dismissal, a pleading “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “requires factual allegations that are sufficient to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.’” Anderson News, L.L.C. v. Am. Media, Inc., 680 F.3d 162, 182 (2d Cir. 2012) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

On a motion to dismiss, the court may consider the complaint, “[d]ocuments that are attached to the complaint or incorporated in it by reference, ” “document[s] upon which the complaint solely relies and which [are] integral to the complaint, ” and “matters of which judicial notice may be taken.” Garanti Finansal Kiralama A.S. v. Aqua Marine & Trading Inc., 697 F.3d 59, 63 n.4 (2d Cir. 2012) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

In construing complaints by plaintiffs proceeding pro se, courts “apply[] a more flexible standard to evaluate their sufficiency than [they] would when reviewing a complaint submitted by counsel.” Lerman v. Bd. of Elections in City of N.Y., 232 F.3d 135, 140 (2d Cir. 2000); see Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (“[A] pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.”). Thus, the Court is obligated to construe pro se pleadings with “‘special solicitude, ’ interpreting the complaint to raise the ‘strongest [claims] that [it] suggest[s].’” Hill v. Curcione, 657 F.3d 116, 122 (2d Cir. 2011) (alterations in original) (quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006)).

DISCUSSION

Section 301 of the LMRA (“Section 301”) seeks “to ensure uniform interpretation of collective-bargaining agreements” throughout the country “to promote the peaceable, consistent resolution of labor-management disputes.” Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 404 (1988). Accordingly, the Supreme Court has held that “if the resolution of a state-law claim depends upon the meaning of a collective-bargaining agreement, the application of state law . . . is pre-empted and federal labor-law principles . . . must be employed to resolve the dispute.” Id. at 405-06. Even where “plaintiffs formulate their complaint as based on state tort law, that formulation is not binding upon [courts] where rights and obligations under the pertinent collective agreement are inextricably involved in the underlying claim.” Dougherty v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 902 F.2d 201, 203 (2d Cir. 1990).

Here, the Complaint alleges three claims against each Defendant under state tort law. Defendants argue that these claims are preempted by Section 301 and therefore must be dismissed. Courts employ a two-step analysis to determine if a claim is preempted by Section 301. First, courts “begin with the elements of plaintiffs’ state law claim[s].” Foy v. Pratt & Whitney Grp., 127 F.3d 229, 233 (2d Cir. 1997). Second, courts determine whether each “state-law claim can be resolved without interpreting the agreement itself.” Id. at 236 (quoting Lingle, 486 U.S. at 409-10). If the state law claims can be resolved without interpreting the agreement, they may be adjudicated on the merits. See ...


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