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Degrandis v. Children's Hospital Boston

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 11, 2014



F. DENNIS SAYLOR, IV, District Judge.

This is an employment dispute. Plaintiff Paul DeGrandis has brought suit against his former employer, defendant Children's Hospital Boston, alleging that the hospital unlawfully terminated his employment. The complaint alleges breach of contract; breach of a collectivebargaining agreement under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. ยง 185; and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

Defendant has moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, that motion will be granted as to the claim for breach of contract (Count 1) and the claim for breach of the implied covenant (Count 3), and otherwise denied.

I. Background

A. Factual Background

The facts are summarized below as set forth in the complaint unless otherwise noted.

Paul DeGrandis is a citizen of Florida. Children's Hospital Boston is a hospital located in Boston, Massachusetts.

In September 2003, DeGrandis was hired by Children's Hospital to work as a carpenter. His starting salary was $25.80 per hour.

At all times relevant to the complaint, Children's Hospital was a party to a collectivebargaining agreement with the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 877, AFL-CIO. The union represented various labor organizations, including the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. While working for Children's Hospital, DeGrandis was a member of the union. He participated in the union's central pension fund.

The CBA was originally effective from October 1, 2002, until September 30, 2007. It was automatically extended each year unless a party gave ninety days' notice of the agreement's termination. The CBA provided in part as follows:

The Hospital shall have the right to discharge, suspend, or discipline any employee for just cause, which shall include, but not be limited to, the following grounds: incompetence in performing his assigned duties; abusive or inconsiderate treatment of patients, visitors, volunteers, or fellow employees; insubordination; material misrepresentation on employment applications; the use of profane or obscene language; stealing; unauthorized possession of Hospital property; consumption of alcoholic beverages or intoxication while in the Hospital or on the Hospital grounds; unlawful use of drugs or being under the influence of any drug while in the Hospital or on the Hospital grounds; willful and deliberate destruction or damage to Hospital supplies and/or equipment; disruption of Hospital routine; fighting; and conduct detrimental to the best interests of the Hospital, personnel, volunteers, patients, and visitors.

(Compl., Ex. 1 art. 23.1). In addition, the CBA outlined some of Children's Hospital's management rights, stating:

Except as there is contained in this Agreement an express provision limiting the rights or discretion of the Hospital, all rights, functions, and prerogatives of the management of the Hospital formerly exercised or exercisable by the Hospital remain vested exclusively in the Hospital administration. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the Hospital reserves to itself exclusively, the management of the Hospital; the maintenance of discipline, order and efficiency, the determination of operational policies; the right to subcontract work of a type normally done by members of the bargaining unit...; the direction of the working force; the assignment of work; the procedures by which to establish and maintain the record of hours worked; the right to hire, transfer, and promote; the right to lay off employees for lack of work; the right, from time to time, and whenever in the Hospital's judgment it is necessary, to transfer employees temporarily from one job to another; the right to promulgate and enforce all reasonable rules and regulations relating to the operation of the Hospital, care of patients, and safety measures.

(Def. Mem., Ex. B art. 22.1).

Articles 17 and 18 of the CBA set up a grievance and arbitration procedure for "the settlement of grievances which involve the interpretation and application of a specific provision of" the CBA. ( Id. art. 17.1). Article 17 provided that "[a]ll such grievances will be handled as provided in this Article." ( Id. ). Grievances that were not settled would be submitted to binding arbitration. ( Id. art. 18).

During his employment, DeGrandis was supervised by William Connelly. From 2004 through 2006, DeGrandis received positive employment evaluations. In each year, he met the job performance standards for his employment. For example, his evaluation in 2004 stated that "Paul's knowledge of the tools of his trade are apparent in his work" and "Paul makes an extra effort to help others." (Compl., Ex. 2 at 6, 12). His 2005 evaluation stated that "Paul is very good at completing the work that has been assigned to him." (Compl., Ex. 3 at 5). His 2006 evaluation stated that "Paul pays attention to priority calls and completes as many as he can as soon as he can." (Compl., Ex. 4 at 7).

DeGrandis contends, however, that Connelly harassed him and used foul language with him. According to the complaint, "it became clear over time to DeGrandis that Connelly did not like [DeGrandis] and wanted to terminate his employment." The complaint alleges that Connelly reported misleading information to Children's Hospital to manufacture just cause for terminating DeGrandis's employment.

On June 29, 2007, DeGrandis injured himself at work lifting a barrel weighing more than fifty pounds. His injury was reported to the workers' compensation carrier. He returned to work on July 2.

On July 19, DeGrandis injured his left ankle at work. The accident was also reported to the workers' compensation carrier. DeGrandis returned to work on July 23.

Shortly after those work-related accidents, Children's Hospital proposed terminating DeGrandis's employment. In response, he filed a grievance through the union.

On July 30, DeGrandis injured his back at the workplace and was unable to work until August 6. The workers' compensation carrier was again informed of the injury.

On July 31, DeGrandis, represented by the union, entered into a memorandum of agreement with Children's Hospital. That agreement stated:

All parties hereby agree as a full and final resolution of the Union's grievance for Mr. Paul DeGrandis over proposed discipline for poor work performance, that any further failure to comply with the Employer's generally applicable work standards during the 12 month period following the date of this agreement shall be grounds for immediate termination, and that termination on that basis shall not be subject to the grievance and arbitration provision of the parties' collective bargaining agreement.

(Compl., Ex. 5).

In 2007, DeGrandis received a performance evaluation that stated that he did not meet his job performance standards that year. The evaluation stated that "Although it has been noted that Paul has completed work assigned to him, the work that he does takes a long time, well over the industry standard for a carpenter." (Compl., Ex. 6 at 5). It also stated that "Paul[s] limited ...

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