United States District Court, D. New Jersey
LESTER D. CRISPIN, JR, Plaintiff,
NEWARK MORNING LEDGER COMPANY, et al. Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.
matter is before the Court on Defendant Newark Morning Ledger
Company's (hereinafter, “Star Ledger”) Motion
to Dismiss Plaintiff Lester D. Crispin's Complaint,
pursuant Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (ECF No.
9). In a prior decision, this Court granted Defendant's
Motion to Dismiss without prejudice. (ECF No. 32,
14-cv-2621). Plaintiff asserts claims under Section 301 of
the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. §
185, and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A.
§ 10:5-12, et seq. (ECF No. 1,
Lester Crispin's present cause of action stems from an
employment dispute between him and his employer, the Star
Ledger. Plaintiff was a truck driver for the Star Ledger and
was a member of the Newspaper and Mail Delivers' Union of
New York and Vicinity,  which had a collective bargaining
agreement (CBA) with the Star Ledger that extended through
March 30, 2015. (Complaint at ¶¶ 3-4). On December
29, 2009, while on duty, Plaintiff was involved in a car
accident and charged with driving while intoxicated,
operating a commercial vehicle while intoxicated, and
reckless driving. (Id. at ¶ 7). Later that same
day, Plaintiff was advised that he would be suspended
indefinitely, without pay, for having violated the Star
Ledger's policy under the CBA. (Id. at ¶
than four years later, on May 8, 2013, Plaintiff was
acquitted of driving while intoxicated, but convicted of
reckless driving. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-13).
Thereafter, as part of the CBA's grievance process, a
Joint Standing Committee reviewed Plaintiff's request for
reinstatement. (ECF No. 1-4, “Exhibit E”). As
part of its resolution, the Committee required, among other
things, that Plaintiff participate in any recommended
Employee Assistance Programs and complete a drug and alcohol
abuse evaluation. (Id.). The resolution also
disentitled Plaintiff to any backpay for the period from
December 29, 2009 to his return to work. (Id.).
Plaintiff refused to accept the forfeiture of backpay and,
thereafter, failed to pursue subsequent grievance proceedings
provided under the CBA.
on March 5, 2014, Plaintiff filed a complaint against the
Star Ledger in New Jersey Superior Court, which was later
removed to this Court based on federal question jurisdiction
under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act
(LMRA), 29 U.S.C. § 185. (ECF No. 1-1, in 14-cv-2621).
This Court later dismissed Plaintiff's complaint, without
prejudice, for failing to exhaust all remedies under the
parties' CBA on June 19, 2015. (Complaint at ¶ 42).
Three weeks later, on July 7, 2015, Plaintiff wrote to his
union, seeking an expedited appeal of the Joint
Committee's resolution, to be heard no later than no
later than July 19, 2015. (ECF No. 1-12, “Exhibit
K”). However, according to the Complaint, Plaintiff
never received a response from the union. (Complaint at
September 13, 2017, more than two years after this
Court's prior dismissal, Plaintiff filed this present
six-count complaint. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges: (1)
breach of contract; (2) breach of the covenant of good faith
and fair dealing; (3) violation of the New Jersey Law Against
Discrimination (“LAD”); (4) equitable estoppel;
(5) theft by deception; and (6) equitable fraud. Defendant
seeks dismissal of these claims since Plaintiff's failed
to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60 and his
claims are time barred under Section 301 of the LMRA.
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court is
required to accept as true all allegations in the Complaint
and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom,
and to view them in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. See Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran
& Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 (3d Cir. 1994).
“To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint 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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570, (2007)). While a court will accept
well-pleaded allegations as true for the purposes of the
motion, it will not accept bald assertions, unsupported
conclusions, unwarranted inferences, or sweeping legal
conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; see also Morse v.
Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir.
1997). A complaint should be dismissed only if the
well-pleaded alleged facts, taken as true, fail to state a
claim. See In re Warfarin Sodium Antitrust Litig.,
214 F.3d 395, 397-98 (3d Cir. 2000). The question is whether
the claimant can prove any set of facts consistent with his
or her allegations that will entitle him or her to relief,
not whether that person will ultimately prevail.
Semerenko v. Cendant Corp., 223 F.3d 165, 173 (3d
Cir. 2000). “The pleader is required to ‘set
forth sufficient information to outline the elements of his
claim or to permit inferences to be drawn that these elements
exist.'” Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176,
183 (3d Cir. 1993) (quoting 5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur
R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure §
1357, at 340 (2d 3d. 1990)). “While a complaint
attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need
detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to
provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment]
to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and
a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level, . . . on the assumption
that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if
doubtful in fact).” Id. (internal quotation
marks and citations omitted).
Star Ledger seeks dismissal of Counts I, II, IV, V, and VI on
the basis that they are time-barred by the six-month statute
of limitations for claims brought under Section 301 of the
LMRA. Neither party disputes that Plaintiff's claims are
based on the CBA and are preempted by the LMRA. See
Johnson v. NBC Universal, Inc., 409 F. App'x 529,
531 (3d Cir. 2010) (“State law claims are completely
preempted by the LMRA when the claims are
‘substantially dependent upon analysis of the terms of
an agreement made between the parties in a labor contract . .
. .'” (quoting Allis-Chalmers Corp. v.
Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 220 (1985))); see also Pilvalis
v. Lockheed Martin Corp., No. 12-1354, 2013
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 38211, at *26 (D.N.J. Mar. 20, 2013)
(“It is well-established that suits alleging a breach
of contract based on a collective bargaining agreement are
preempted by § 301 of the LMRA, and are thus governed by
federal law”). Here, the Court is tasked with
determining whether Plaintiffs claims are time-barred by
Section 10(b) of the LMRA, 29 U.S.C. § 160.
making this determination, the Court must first determine
whether Plaintiff has alleged a “pure” or
“hybrid” Section 301 claim. See Pivalis,
2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 38211, at *27 (citing DelCostello
v. Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 164-65 (1983)).
“‘Pure' claims are standard § 301
actions in which a union brings suit against an employer on
behalf of an injured employee, ” these claims follow
the analogous state statute of limitations. Id. at
*27-28 (citing Serv. Emps. Int'l Union Local 36 v.
City Cleaning Co., 982 F.2d 89, 94-96 (3d Cir. 1992)).
However, “hybrid” claims “are suits brought
by an employee against both his employer and union, ”
and “are subject to the six-month federal limitations
period of the LMRA.” Id. In this instance,
Plaintiff is seeking relief against the employer without any
claim against the union. The case does not precisely fit
within the definition of puree or hybrid. Id.;
see also Porter v. Sunbelt Rentals, Inc., No.
13-6901, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78513, at *13 (D.N.J. June 10,
2014). Where, as here, the plaintiff only asserts claims
against his employer for breach of the CBA, such claims are
still treated as hybrid. Id. at *28-29 (citing
cases). This being said, contrary to Plaintiff's
assertion, even though a plaintiff may have only asserted
claims against his employer, he must nevertheless
“‘allege, and eventually prove, that the union
breached its duty of fair representation' in order to
successfully and completely establish a viable hybrid
claim.” Id. at *30 (quoting Swayne v.
Mount Joy Wire Corp., No. 10-3969, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
46236, at *22 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 29, 2012)).
these principles in mind, the Court finds several reasons for
dismissing Plaintiff's claims. First, Plaintiff's
Complaint presents no claims against the union, nor does the
record suggest that the union has breached its duty of fair
representation or has otherwise acted in bad faith.
Therefore, Plaintiff has failed to properly state a Section
301 hybrid claim. See Pilvalis, 2013 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 38211, at *31; see also Swayne, 2012 U.S.
Dist. 46236, at *28 (“plaintiff's allegations fail
to state a section 301 claim because they do not plausibly
suggest that the Union violated its duty of fair
representation”). Second, even assuming that Plaintiff
asserted a proper Section 301 hybrid claim, his claims would
nevertheless be time-barred. As noted above, “[a]
section 301 claim must ordinarily be filed within six months
from the date of accrual.” Vadino v. A. Valey
Engineers, 903 F.2d 253, 260 (3d Cir. 1990). “The
six-month period commences when the claimant discovers, or in
the exercise of reasonable diligence should have discovered,
the acts constituting the alleged violation.”
Id. (internal quotation ...