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CARRINGTON v. RCA GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS

April 26, 1991

NEVILLE CARRINGTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RCA GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS, INC., INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, LOCAL UNION 111, NICHOLAS BAFITIS, JOHN BACARDI, ARTHUR FRIEDLAND, CHRISTOPHER MCLOUGHLIN AND JOHN KINNEY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Debevoise, District Judge.

  OPINION

This motion comes before the Court on defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint. For the following reasons, defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part. Because I am dismissing all federal claims from this case, but certain state law claims shall remain, I am remanding this case to the state court from which it was removed.

PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Neville Carrington originally filed this action in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, for Middlesex County, on January 28, 1991. In his complaint, the allegations of which are taken as true for purposes of the present motion, plaintiff alleges that prior to September 15, 1988, he was employed as a computer technician by defendant RCA Global Communications, Inc. ("RCA"). Complaint, Count I, ¶ 2. Plaintiff further alleges that defendant International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local Union 111 ("IBT"), is the successor union of the American Communications Association, Local 10, which acted as the collective bargaining agent for certain employees of RCA, including plaintiff. Id., ¶ 4. At all times relevant to the complaint, plaintiff alleges, a collective bargaining agreement was in effect between defendant RCA and defendant IBT. Id., ¶ 15.

According to the complaint, on September 7, 1988, while plaintiff was working at an RCA facility in Piscataway, New Jersey, a fellow employee of RCA, without provocation, physically assaulted plaintiff. Id., ¶ 9. Subsequently, and apparently in relation to this incident, on September 14, 1988 defendant Christopher McLaughlin, an agent of defendant IBT, informed plaintiff that he would be discharged from employment effective September 15, 1988. Id., ¶ 12. The next day, plaintiff received a "notice of layoff" from defendant Nicholas Bafitis, manager of labor relations for defendant RCA, informing plaintiff that he was being discharged as of that day. Id., ¶ 13.

Based on the foregoing allegations, plaintiff asserts three causes of action. First, plaintiff alleges that under the collective bargaining agreement between RCA and IBT, as well as under RCA's independent company policy (possibly as embodied in a personnel manual), RCA employees such as plaintiff could be discharged only for cause. Id., ¶¶ 16-17, 21. Furthermore, plaintiff alleges, under the collective bargaining agreement RCA must give ten (10) days notice before discharging an employee, and the agreement also contained certain grievance and appeal procedures for discharged union members, of which plaintiff was never advised. Id., ¶¶ 18, 20. Finally, plaintiff alleges that the collective bargaining agreement also includes certain implied covenants of good faith and fair dealing. Id., ¶ 19. Therefore, plaintiff claims that his discharge was in violation of both the collective bargaining agreement and RCA company policy. Id., ¶ 21. Plaintiff thus brings a cause of action against individual defendants Bafitis, John Bacardi and Arthur Friedland, each of whom is allegedly an agent or employee of RCA, for knowingly inducing RCA to breach the collective bargaining agreement and company policy by discharging plaintiff. Id., ¶ 23.

Count II of the complaint states a claim for discrimination against defendant RCA as well as individual RCA employees Bafitis, Bacardi and Friedland. Plaintiff alleges that he is black, Complaint, Count II, ¶ 4, and that the defendants discriminated against him on the basis of race by discharging him, in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"), N.J.S.A. 10:5-12a. Id., ¶ 7.

Finally, Count III of the complaint also states a claim of discrimination, this time against defendant IBT and individual defendants Christopher McLaughlin and John Kinney, who are allegedly agents or employees of the union. Plaintiff alleges that these defendants discriminated against him on the basis of race by failing to advocate plaintiff's position with RCA management, failing to advise plaintiff of his grievance and appeal rights under the collective bargaining agreement, and otherwise taking a passive role in connection with plaintiff's discharge, again in violation of the NJLAD, N.J.S.A. 10:5-12b. Complaint, Count III, ¶¶ 3, 5.

The case having been removed, both the employer and union defendants have filed separate motions to dismiss, on the following grounds: (1) plaintiff's claim for wrongful discharge is a "hybrid" claim under the LMRA and is therefore governed by a six month statute of limitations; because plaintiff's complaint was filed over two years after he was discharged, defendants argue, the wrongful discharge claim is barred by the statute of limitations; (2) RCA and, apparently, the union, argue that the discrimination claims against them are also preempted under the LMRA and subject to a six month statute of limitations, and therefore should also be dismissed as time barred; (3) alternatively, RCA and the union argue that even if plaintiff's state law discrimination claims are not preempted by the LMRA, the applicable statute of limitations under the NJLAD is two years, and therefore plaintiff's claims are still time barred; and (4) all of the individual defendants argue that the complaint against them should be dismissed in any event because they have not been properly served.

DISCUSSION

I.  JURISDICTION.

At the outset, I agree that this case is properly before the Court under federal "arising under" jurisdiction. As defendant RCA argues, and as plaintiff concedes, a claim for wrongful discharge based on the terms of a collective bargaining agreement, such as plaintiff asserts in Count I of his complaint, is completely preempted by the LMRA. See Krashna v. Oliver Realty, Inc., 895 F.2d 111, 115 (3d Cir. 1990).

Ordinarily, of course, under the well-pleaded complaint rule, where a plaintiff's complaint on its face states only state law causes of action, the fact that issues of federal law may be involved, as in the nature of a defense, will not suffice to create federal question jurisdiction. See Franchise Tax Board v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 10, 103 S.Ct. 2841, 2846, 77 L.Ed.2d 420 (1983); Taylor v. Anderson, 234 U.S. 74, 75-76, 34 S.Ct. 724, 725, 58 L.Ed. 1218 (1914); see also Skelly Oil Co. v. Phillips Petroleum Co., 339 U.S. 667, 672, 70 S.Ct. 876, 879, 94 L.Ed. 1194 (1950). This is true even though federal law may preempt state law, for the issue of federal preemption is still only raised as a defense, and therefore cannot create federal question jurisdiction under the well-pleaded complaint rule. Franchise Tax Board, 463 U.S. at 25-27, 103 S.Ct. at 2854-55.

However, an exception to this application of the well-pleaded complaint rule "is that Congress may so completely preempt a particular area, that any civil complaint raising this select group of claims is necessarily federal in character. For 20 years, this Court has singled out claims pre-empted by § 301 of LMRA for such special treatment." Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 63-64, 107 S.Ct. 1542, 1546, 95 L.Ed.2d 55 (1987). This is because "§ 301 is so powerful as to displace entirely any state cause of action `for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization.' Any such suit is purely a creature of federal law, notwithstanding the fact that state law would provide a cause of action in the absence of § 301." Franchise Tax Board, 463 U.S. at 23, 103 S.Ct. at 2853-54. Therefore, because the Third Circuit has held, and plaintiff concedes, that a claim for wrongful discharge such as plaintiff's is completely preempted by § 301 of the LMRA, see Krashna v. Oliver Realty, Inc., 895 F.2d at 115, under the complete preemption doctrine plaintiff's claim is one "arising under" federal law and therefore within this Court's subject matter jurisdiction. Even if plaintiff's other claims arise only under state law, they may still be heard under this Court's pendent jurisdiction.

II. PLAINTIFF'S WRONGFUL DISCHARGE CLAIM.

Defendant RCA argues that plaintiff's wrongful discharge claim is a "hybrid" claim preempted by the LMRA, to which a six month statute of limitations applies. Because, RCA argues, plaintiff brought his claim over two years after his discharge, it should be dismissed as barred by the statute of limitations. Plaintiff concedes that his wrongful discharge claim is preempted by the LMRA, but argues (1) that his claim is not a "hybrid" claim, and therefore the six month statute of limitations does not apply, and (2) even if his claim is a "hybrid" claim, the complaint was timely filed.

Ordinarily, an employee who brings a claim, such as plaintiff's wrongful discharge claim, against an employer for breach of a collective bargaining agreement is first required to exhaust any grievance or arbitration remedies provided in the collective bargaining agreement. DelCostello v. Int'l Brotherhood of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 163, 103 S.Ct. 2281, 2289, 76 L.Ed.2d 476 (1983). However, an employee is not required to exhaust his remedies under the grievance procedures if the union breaches its duty of fair representation in connection with the grievance process (as, for example, where the union fails to process the employee's claim). Id. at 164, 103 S.Ct. at 2290. In such a case, the employee may bring a so-called "hybrid" action against both the employer, for breach of the collective bargaining agreement, and the union, for breach of the duty of fair representation. Id. For such a "hybrid" claim, the Supreme Court has held, the applicable statute of limitations is six months, as provided under § 10(b) of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 160(b). Id. at 169, 103 S.Ct. at 2293.

Plaintiff argues, however, that his wrongful discharge claim is not a "hybrid" claim because he does not actually assert a claim for breach of duty of fair representation against the union. This argument is without merit. Although plaintiff does not assert a claim for breach of duty of fair representation against the union, the allegations in his complaint are precisely that the union breached its duty to plaintiff by failing to advise him of his rights under the collective bargaining agreement. See Complaint, Count I, ΒΆ 20. As the Supreme Court has held, the two claims in a "hybrid" action are "inextricably interdependent." DelCostello, 462 U.S. at 164, 103 S.Ct. at 2291. Without a claim ...


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