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Kaufer v. Red Bank Local #0986 APWU

October 29, 2007

PETER KAUFER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RED BANK LOCAL #0986 APWU, AFL-CIO, DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted filed by defendant Red Bank Local #0986, APWU, AFL-CIO ("Defendant" or "Union"). Defendant alleges that Plaintiff's complaint is time-barred under the applicable statute of limitations. For the reasons below, the Union's motion is granted.

I. Background

A. Factual Background*fn1

Plaintiff is a member of the Union. He has been an employee of the Postal Service since March of 1989, working as a custodian at the Red Bank Post Office. Many years prior to his employment with the Postal Service, Plaintiff suffered a traumatic head injury that left him permanently injured and disabled. Plaintiff was hired at the Postal Service under a program for severely handicapped individuals sponsored by the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation for the State of New Jersey ("DVR"). When originally hired, Plaintiff was to be placed into a full-time position with reduced working hours with the goal that Plaintiff would gradually assume full-time responsibilities. Other accommodations promised Plaintiff included early work hours, rest time, and weekends off.

After Plaintiff's initial 90-day probationary period, Plaintiff arrived at Red Bank to assume his full-time duties and was told that another employee would be overseeing Plaintiff. Plaintiff, however, believed that this employee, in fact, filled the position that was supposed to be Plaintiff's, and instead Plaintiff was given part-time custodial duties. Sometime thereafter, this other employee died and his position was filled by yet another employee.

In November 1992, a representative from the DVR wrote a letter to the Postal Service stating that Plaintiff had been working as a part-time custodian but that the intent of the Postal Service and the DVR at the time of Plaintiff's hiring was that Plaintiff would be employed in a full-time position. The letter made clear that Plaintiff was qualified for full-time employment and that a certification to that effect had been submitted to the Postal Service in the past.

For the next six or seven years, Plaintiff repeatedly questioned his reduced hours and sought confirmation of his status as a full-time employee as well as enforcement of the working-hours accommodations agreed upon. In February 1995, Plaintiff wrote to the Postmaster of the Red Bank Post office requesting an increase in hours. In April 1995, a representative from the DVR similarly wrote the Postal Service requesting that Plaintiff be given full-time hours.

In October 1995, the Postmaster of Red Bank apparently "converted" Plaintiff to full-time status. However, the conversion was shortly thereafter deemed a "mistake" and it was rescinded. In rescinding the conversion, the Postmaster explained that Plaintiff's "noncompetitive status applied only to his initial hiring and not to any subsequent career moves," such as conversion to full-time status. Amend. Compl at ¶ 23.

According to the Amended Complaint, "[a]t this juncture, . . . the representatives of [the Union] . . . sided with management regarding the 'conversion.'" Id. at ¶ 25. Plaintiff alleges that the Union took this position against him because "allowing the conversion [to full-time status] would have forced the Union to acknowledge that the plaintiff had been denied his full-time position since hiring. . . [and] the Union never insisted that Plaintiff be re-evaluated." Id.

Plaintiff continued to make numerous attempts over several years to obtain a full-time position with the agreed upon accommodations of early work hours and weekends off. In 1998, he wrote to the human resources manager and submitted various forms regarding the position he sought. A psychologist working with Plaintiff wrote to the Postal Service confirming that Plaintiff was capable of working a forty-hour week. Plaintiff wrote again to the Red Bank Postmaster in 2000, to no avail.

In May 2002, the Postal Service placed another employee into a full-time custodian position in the Red Bank Post Office with the hours Plaintiff had been requesting. In July 2003, Plaintiff submitted a letter from his physician advising that it was difficult for plaintiff to work afternoon hours later than 3:30 p.m. In response, the Postal Service sent Plaintiff to one of its own physicians, who opined that Plaintiff was medically qualified to perform his job, but the doctor recommended a change in work hours if possible.

In early 2004, one of the two full-time custodial positions in the Red Bank Post Office became available. However, Plaintiff was not offered this position, but instead remained part-time. Plaintiff was also was advised that he would be assigned new work hours, but these new hours were contrary to the accommodations promised Plaintiff when he was hired (i.e., early morning hours, weekends off). Plaintiff sought assistance obtaining a full-time position and accommodations from the President of the Union, Joseph Shevlin. According to the Amended Complaint, Mr. Shevlin "did nothing" to assist Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 48.

The Amended Complaint states that Plaintiff made other requests to the Postal Service through 2004 and beyond in an attempt to secure a full-time position and appropriate working hours. As of the filing of this action, the Postal Service has failed to grant him full-time status and provide the agreed upon working-hour accommodations. With respect to the Union, Plaintiff alleges that the Union's "actions" -- its refusal to assist Plaintiff with his grievance -- have denied Plaintiff "valuable benefits and caused him extreme mental anguish." Id. at ΒΆ 61. Specifically, Plaintiff contacted the Union "[o]n several occasions . . . to seek their assistance in securing his accommodation with his original time slot and full-time regular status, [but] [t]he Union has refused to take up his cause or otherwise assist him in ...


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