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Sanchez v. New England Confectionery Co., Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

November 20, 2014



DENISE J. CASPER, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Isaias Sanchez ("Sanchez") brings this hybrid action pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185. D. 1. Sanchez alleges a breach of a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") by the New England Confectionary Company ("NECCO") and a breach of the duty of fair representation by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Milners International Union, AFL-CIO Local No. 348 ("Local 348"). Id. at 1. Both defendants have moved to dismiss. D. 10, 15. For the reasons stated below, the Court DENIES Sanchez's motion to disqualify Local 348's counsel, D. 21, and DENIES the motions to dismiss. D. 10, 15.

II. Standard of Review

In considering a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court determines if the facts alleged "plausibly narrate a claim for relief." Schatz v. Republican State Leadership Comm., 669 F.3d 50, 55 (1st Cir. 2012) (citing Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuño-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011)). "[T]he plaintiff need not demonstrate [he] is likely to prevail" at this stage, only that his claims are "facially plausible." García-Catalán v. United States, 734 F.3d 100, 102, 103 (1st Cir. 2013) (citations omitted). A complaint must include facts sufficient 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)." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (footnote omitted). This determination requires a two-step inquiry. García-Catalán, 734 F.3d at 103. First, the Court distinguishes between factual and conclusory legal allegations in the complaint. Morales-Cruz v. Univ. of Puerto Rico, 676 F.3d 220, 224 (1st Cir. 2012). Second, taking the Plaintiff's factual allegations as true, the Court must draw "the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Haley v. City of Boston, 657 F.3d 39, 46 (1st Cir. 2011) (citation omitted).

A litigant need not plead all elements of a claim in his complaint, "provided that, in sum, the allegations of the complaint make the claim as a whole at least plausible." Garayalde-Rijos v. Municipality of Carolina, 747 F.3d 15, 24 (1st Cir. 2014) (quoting Ocasio-Hernández, 640 F.3d at 14-15 (1st Cir. 2011)). "In determining whether a [pleading] crosses the plausibility threshold, the reviewing court [must] draw on its judicial experience and common sense.... This context-specific inquiry does not demand a high degree of factual specificity." García-Catalán, 734 F.3d at 103 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). The Court may consider documents attached or otherwise fairly incorporated into the complaint. Schatz, 669 F.3d at 55 (footnote omitted).

III. Factual Allegations[1]

From 1997 through April 18, 2013, Sanchez was a cook in a section of the NECCO candy factory known as Department 770. D. 1 ¶ 6. On April 12, 2013, Sanchez was temporarily assigned to a different department, a transfer he immediately protested on seniority grounds. Id. ¶ 7. When asked to relocate, Sanchez told his supervisor he wished to speak with his union representative. Id. A discussion ensued in which Sanchez protested the transfer. D. 1, Exh. 4 at 2-6 (arbitration award).[2] The supervisor later reported Sanchez's protest to NECCO's human resources department. Id. at 5. Later that morning, a representative from NECCO's human resources department met with Sanchez, his supervisor and a Spanish-speaking union representative. Id. at 5-6; D. 1 ¶ 9. Following the first meeting, and after the human resources representative spoke to several individuals concerning Sanchez's conduct, he met with Sanchez again. D. 1, Exh. 4 at 6-7. Although Sanchez requested that a Spanish-speaking union representative be present at the meeting, the representative was unavailable. Id. at 5, 7. Instead a non-Spanish-speaking union representative attended the meeting and a NECCO supervisor translated for Sanchez. Id. At this meeting, NECCO suspended Sanchez for three days for an alleged violation of the company's workplace violence policy and he was escorted from the facility by two police officers. D. 1 ¶¶ 9, 10.

On April 18, 2013, NECCO held a post-suspension meeting and terminated Sanchez for violation of the workplace violence policy. Id. ¶ 11. Neither Sanchez nor his private, non-union attorney were in attendance. Id. Sanchez alleges that NECCO's actions violated the CBA because he was terminated without just cause and that Local 348 failed to request mandatory arbitration within thirty days of the April 18, 2013 meeting, as required by the CBA. Id. ¶¶ 12, 14.

The arbitration of Sanchez's grievance followed, held over two days on November 18, 2013 and December 12, 2013. D. 1, Exh. 4 at 1. The parties agreed on the following questions:

(1) whether the grievance was arbitrable due to the untimely filing, and (2) whether NECCO had just cause to discharge Sanchez, and if not, the appropriate remedy for the company's action. Id. The arbitrator heard argument from representatives of Sanchez and NECCO and considered evidence. Id. He also heard testimony of witnesses, including Sanchez, id. at 2-3, his supervisor Luis Centeio, id. at 3-4, his colleague Alberto Vasquez (who overheard portions of the interaction at issue between Sanchez and Centeio), id. at 4, and the representative of NECCO's human resources department, Brian Benoit, who met with Sanchez twice on the day in question, id. at 5-7. The parties submitted written briefs following the hearing, which the arbitrator considered in drafting his award. Id. at 2.

At the arbitration, the parties stipulated that the attorney responsible for filing Sanchez's grievance, attorney Anne Sills, mistakenly believed the union was postponing the filing period while Sanchez's private attorney "sought to get Sanchez back to work." Id. at 8-9. The arbitrator determined that Sanchez's termination was not grievable under the CBA due to the untimely filing. D. 1 ¶ 16. However, [p]ursuant to the agreement of the Union and Employer, [the arbitrator gave] full consideration to the Employer's decision to terminate" Sanchez. D. 1, Exh. 4 at 19. The arbitrator determined that, had the grievance been timely filed, he would have upheld NECCO's termination of Sanchez on insubordination grounds and explained his reasons for doing based upon the evidence presented. D. 1 ¶¶ 16, 18; D. 1, Exh. 4 at 19-22. Sanchez notes, however, that insubordination was not NECCO's stated reason for termination. Id. ¶ 18.

IV. Procedural History

Sanchez instituted this action on March 25, 2014. D. 1. Local 348 and NECCO have now moved to dismiss. D. 10, 15. Sanchez subsequently moved to disqualify Local 348's counsel from representing the union in this case. D. 21. The Court heard the parties on ...

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