United States District Court, D. New Jersey
October 5, 2005.
JOEL H. GRICE, Plaintiff,
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE & NATIONAL POSTAL MAIL HANDLERS UNION, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: DICKINSON DEBEVOISE, Senior District Judge
Presently before the court is the motion of defendant National
Postal Mail Handlers Union Local 300 (the "Union") to dismiss
pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(1) or 12(b)(6). For the reasons
set forth below, the motion will be granted. BACKGROUND
The facts relevant to this action have been outlined in the
court's opinion dated June 28, 2005 and will be summarized here.
Plaintiff Joel H. Grice ("Plaintiff") was employed by the United
States Postal Service ("USPS") as a mail handler at the
Hackensack Processing and Distribution Center located in
Hackensack, New Jersey. He commenced his employment with USPS on
or about May 13, 1995, and was terminated on or about May 21,
2003 for failing to maintain satisfactory attendance. Plaintiff
filed a grievance, but an arbitrator issued an award in favor of
USPS, finding that USPS properly issued Plaintiff a Notice of
Plaintiff initiated EEO counseling on April 6, 2004 and filed
an administrative EEO complaint of discrimination on or about May
13, 2004 against USPS. On May 21, 2004, the EEO complaint was
dismissed. Plaintiff appealed the dismissal of his EEO complaint.
On October 27, 2004, the EEOC issued a decision which affirmed
the dismissal on the grounds that Plaintiff's record lacked the
requisite prior EEO involvement necessary for stating a
retaliation claim. The EEOC decision notified Plaintiff of his
right to file a civil action in federal court within ninety (90)
days of receipt of the EEOC decision.
On February 14, 2005, Plaintiff filled out a form Complaint in
the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County. In
the section asking for a summary of "what happened that resulted
in [Plaintiff's] claim against the defendant", Plaintiff wrote
that he "was caused pain and suffering due to discriminatory
practices." Plaintiff left blank another section asking for a
list or description of the harm that occurred as a result of
defendant's acts. The Complaint does not provide any further
Plaintiff's state court action was removed to this court. On or
about May 19, 2005, USPS filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary
judgment. In an opinion dated June 28, 2005, USPS's motion for
summary judgment was granted. The only remaining defendant is the
A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) should not be granted
unless "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no
set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to
relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); Johnsrud
v. Carter, 620 F.2d 29, 33 (3d Cir. 1980); Craftmatic Sec.
Litig. v. Kraftsow, 890 F.2d 628, 634 (3d Cir. 1989).
Allegations contained in the Complaint will be accepted as true,
Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322 (1972), and Plaintiff shall be
"given the benefit of every favorable inference that can be drawn
from those allegations." Schrob v. Catterson, 948 F.2d 1402,
1405 (3d Cir. 1991). A pro se complaint should be held to
less stringent standards and can only be dismissed for failure to
state a claim if it appears "beyond doubt that the plaintiff can
prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle
him to relief." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)
(citation omitted). "Legal conclusions made in the guise of
factual allegations, however, are given no presumption of
truthfulness." In re MobileMedia Secs. Litig.,
28 F. Supp. 2d 901, 922 (D.N.J. 1998) (citations omitted).
Although a complaint need only contain "a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief," FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2), the complaint must "give the
defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests." Leatherman v. Tarrant County
Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 168
(1993) (citation omitted). In this case, the Complaint fails to
provide fair notice of what Plaintiff's claim(s) is/are and the grounds. There is an utter
absence of factual allegations in the Complaint. Plaintiff has
merely stated that he "was caused pain and suffering due to
discriminatory practices." Plaintiff has not set forth what the
discriminatory practices were or to which defendant(s) the
allegedly discriminatory practices can be attributed.
Following oral argument on September 12, 2005, this Court gave
an order allowing plaintiff seven days to file any papers or
supporting documentation which would assist the Court to
comprehend any factual allegations he had to support his claim of
discrimination. Plaintiff's supplemental documentation still
fails to provide adequate support for the complaint.
The Complaint, and supplemental documentation have failed to
state a discrimination claim against the Union because Plaintiff
has not alleged facts showing that he exhausted his
administrative remedies against the Union. Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq., establishes the
exclusive remedy for federal employees who allege discrimination
in the workplace. Robinson v. Dalton, 107 F.3d 1018, 1020-1021
(3d Cir. 1997). A charge of unlawful employment practice must be
filed with the EEOC within 180 days after the alleged unlawful
employment practice occurred. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e). The
Complaint states that the allegedly unlawful discrimination
occurred on July 12, 2003. However, Plaintiff has not filed a
discrimination claim with the EEOC against the Union to this
date. The EEOC complaint was filed against USPS only.
Accordingly, Plaintiff cannot state a claim of discrimination
against the Union with respect to his discharge from USPS because
it is time-barred.
Additionally, any claim that Plaintiff might have for breach of
fair representation against the Union is barred by the statute of
limitations. An employee may sue his union "when the union
representing the employee in the grievance/arbitration procedure
acts in such a discriminatory, dishonest, arbitrary, or perfunctory fashion as
to breach its duty of fair representation." Del Costello v.
Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 164 (1983). The statute
of limitations for breach of fair representation claims is six
months. Id. at 169-171. Plaintiff commenced this action on
February 14, 2005. Therefore, the latest date on which any breach
of fair representation could have occurred is August 14, 2004.
The Complaint, however, indicates that the allegedly unlawful
act(s) of Defendants occurred on July 12, 2003, which means that
the statute of limitations bars Plaintiff's claim for breach of
unfair representation. Accordingly, any claim for breach of
unfair representation will be dismissed because such act(s)
occurred prior to August 14, 2004.
For the reasons set forth above, the Union's motion to dismiss
will be granted. An appropriate order will be issued.
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