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Hrabinski v. Exxon Chemical Co.

Decided: May 15, 1992.

RICHARD HRABINSKI AND DEBORAH HRABINSKI, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
EXXON CHEMICAL COMPANY, A DIVISION OF EXXON CORPORATION, JERRY FRIX, FRAN SCHIACCHETANO, ED MILLER, JOHN HEDDEN, INDEPENDENT LABORATORY EMPLOYEES UNION, INC., DONNA HERRAN, DON GIVENS, WILLIAM BOWMAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



Alley, J.s.c.

Alley

OPINION

ALLEY, J.S.C.

1. Introduction:

Plaintiff asserts claims arising from alleged violations of his rights as a "whistleblower" under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, N.J.S.A. 34:19-1 et seq., against defendants that include his former employer, his former Union, and some of their respective officials. The only claim he has been able to articulate against the Union and its officials is an alleged breach of the duty of fair representation created under federal law (see, e.g., Vaca v. Sipes, 386 U.S. 171, 87 S. Ct. 903, 17 L. Ed. 2d 842 (1967)).

The question presented in this motion for summary judgment by the defendant Union and its officials is whether the time bar that applies to plaintiff's claims against them is established by:

(a) a state law statute of limitations, or

(b) a federal six-month limitation period taken from the time allowed for filing unfair labor practices charges with the National Labor Relations Board under Section 10(b) of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 160(b).

For the following reasons, the claims against the Union are barred by the federal six-month limitation period.

2. The Facts:

Plaintiff Richard Hrabinski was employed in a laboratory of defendant Exxon Chemical Company from the beginning of 1987. He left that employment in June 1989 having accumulated about nine and one-half years of service with Exxon Chemical Company and an affiliated Exxon company. (His wife also asserts a claim against the Union and its officials, but it stands or falls with his claim, and unless otherwise specified, "plaintiff" refers to Mr. Hrabinski). Plaintiff was a member of the Independent Laboratory Employees Union, Inc. ("Union") during his employment with Exxon, and the terms and conditions of his employment were governed by collective bargaining agreements between the Union and the employer.

From approximately March 1987 until he left the company at the end of June 1989, plaintiff contends, he was required by Exxon supervisors to participate in a fraudulent scheme of altering and misrepresenting certain laboratory test data. Allegedly he expressed concern to management about being required to participate in these practices and was told that they involved matters of engineering judgment. He also claims that he alerted Union representatives to his concerns ...


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