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Beatty v. Passaro

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 26, 2018



          Kevin McNulty United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff, Douglas Beatty, Jr., is a letter carrier for the United States Postal Service ("USPS").[1] He was involved in a physical altercation with his supervisor. USPS attempted to have him removed, but an arbitrator ruled in his favor. As a condition of his return, however, Mr. Beatty was obligated to attend counseling sessions. Near his return date, USPS and Mr. Beatty disputed whether he had completed the counseling, and he was temporarily barred from returning for a period of a few days. That dispute was summarily resolved by an arbitrator, who awarded Mr. Beatty back pay for the days he was not allowed to return. Mr. Beatty, pro se, filed suit in small claims court in New Jersey, seeking to challenge in part, enforce, or supplement the arbitration award(s). The defendants, USPS (referred to by Mr. Beatty in his complaint as "Wayne Post Office") and Gus Passaro, a postmaster, removed that action to this Court. For the reasons below, I will grant the unopposed motion of USPS and Passaro for summary judgment.

         I. Summary[2]

         Mr. Beatty has worked for USPS as a letter carrier for approximately 19 years. (SoF ¶ 6.) On September 17, 2016, while working at the Post Office in Wayne, New Jersey, Mr. Beatty got into a physical altercation with his supervisor, Eric Martinez. (Id. ¶ 7.) Martinez suffered injuries that required medical treatment in an emergency room. (Id. ¶ 11.)

         USPS and the National Association of Letter Carriers ("NALC), Mr. Beatty's union, have a collective bargaining agreement, which outlines a grievance arbitration process to resolve all disputes regarding the terms and conditions of employment for carriers like Mr. Beatty. (Id. ¶¶ 1-5.) The matter went to arbitration. The arbitrator found that Mr. Beatty pushed Mr. Martinez twice, but that he did so in self-defense and as a result of provocation by Martinez. (Id. ¶ 8.)

         Mr. Beatty was placed in "emergency placement off-duty (unpaid) status" beginning September 17, 2016. (Id. ¶ 9.) On October 20, 2016, USPS issued Mr. Beatty a notice of removal charging him with unacceptable conduct and with violating the "Zero-Tolerance Policy" against workplace violence. (Id. ¶ 10.) NALC challenged the removal, and a hearing occurred on March 30, 2017. (Id. ¶ 12.) On June 3, 2017, the arbitrator found that Mr. Beatty had violated several sections of the Postal Service's Employee and Labor Relations Manual, as well as other policies. Nevertheless, the arbitrator reduced the removal to time served with no back pay "in light of the mitigating circumstances of obvious provocation present in this case," and taking into account that Mr. Beatty was a long-term employee with no prior disciplinary actions. (Id. ¶ 14.) However, the arbitrator conditioned reinstatement on the completion of counseling sessions by Mr. Beatty. (Id. ¶ 15.)

         When Mr. Beatty was set to return to work, a disagreement arose over whether he had complied with that condition-specifically over whether he provided sufficient documentation of completion of the sessions from a social worker. (Id. ¶ 16.) Mr. Beatty claimed he was ready to return to work as of June 26, 2017, but USPS disagreed and would not allow him to return until July 7, 2017. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18.) An arbitrator resolved the issue via teleconference on July 6, 2017 and ruled that Mr. Beatty would receive back pay for the period of June 26, 2017 to July 6, 2017. (Id. ¶ 20.) The issue of vacation days (raised later, in this action) was not addressed either in the award or at the teleconference. [Id. ¶ 21.)

         On October 17, 2017, Mr. Beatty filed an action in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Small Claims Section, demanding $2, 589.29 and the restoration of three vacation days, which he claims "were taken from [him]." (Cplt.) He also states that Mr. Passaro and USPS failed to pay him what he was owed pursuant to the arbitration award. (See id.)[3]Meanwhile, on October 24, 2017, USPS issued a check to Mr. Beatty in the amount of $ 1, 163.11, the net amount of back pay he was owed after taxes and other withholdings. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 28; see also ECF no. 3, ex. 6, ¶ 3 ("Declaration of Yasmin Green").)

         Mr. Beatty has not filed any additional grievances with the arbitrator regarding the back pay. (Id. ¶ 29.) Defendants removed the small-claims action to federal court. (ECF no. 1.) They filed a motion to dismiss or in the alternative for summary judgment. On May 8, 2018, I gave Mr. Beatty twenty-one days to show cause for his failure to respond and that wanted him that unless he did, the defendants' motion could be treated as unopposed and granted. (ECF no. 4.) Mr. Beatty has not replied. Service of the order by mail has been returned as undeliverable, and there has been no update of Mr. Beatty's address. I will consider the motion as unopposed.

         II. Discussion

         a. Standard of Review

         Defendants move to dismiss the complaint, or in the alternative for summary judgment. Because the defendants' motion relies on documents, such as die collective bargaining agreement, that are not attached to the pleadings, I have out of caution elected to treat it as a motion for summary judgment.

         A court "shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material act and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (explaining that summary judgment is appropriate where "there is no genuine issue of material fact to be resolved and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law}; Alcoa, Inc. v. United States, 509 F.3d 173, 175 (3d Cir. 2007). Summary judgment is desirable because it eliminates unfounded claims without resort to a costly and lengthy trial, Celotex, 477 U.S. at 327, but a court should grant summary judgment only "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with die affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving parry is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

         However, if a party fails to address the other party's properly supported assertion of fact, the court may consider "granting] summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials-including the facts considered undisputed- show that the movant is entitled to it... ." Fed R. Civ. P. 56(e). Local Civil Rule 56.1(a) deems a movant's statement of material facts undisputed where a party does not respond or file a counterstatement. L. Civ. R. 56(a). A failure to dispute a party's statement of material facts, however, "is not alone a sufficient basis for the entry of a summary judgment." See Anchorage Assocs. v. Virgin Islands Bd. of Tax Review,922 F.2d 168, 175 (3d Cir. 1990) (holding that even where a local rule deeming unopposed motions to be conceded, the court was still required to analyze the movant's summary judgment motion under die standard prescribed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)); see also Muskett v. Certegy Check Sews., Inc., No. 08-3875, 2010 WL 2710555 (D.N.J. July 6, 2010) ("In order to grant Defendant's unopposed motion for summary judgment, where, as here, 'the moving party does not have the ...

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