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Schoppe v. Whitworth

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 2, 2016

CHARLES VON SCHOPPE, Plaintiff,
v.
ATKINSON WHITWORTH, d/b/a JET-A-WAY; TEAMSTERS LOCAL 25; and MARK LESSARD, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          F. Dennis Saylor IV United States District Judge.

         This is an employment dispute arising out of an alleged wrongful termination. Plaintiff Charles Von Schoppe was an employee of Atkinson-Whitworth Corporation, d/b/a Jet-A-Way; he was also a drug addict. He was terminated by Jet-A-Way after he took time off to seek inpatient treatment at a drug and alcohol treatment center. He alleges that Jet-A-Way discriminated against him on the basis of disability in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B, and that his union, Teamsters Local 25, and its business agent, Mark Lessard, violated their duties of fair representation by failing to pursue a grievance, seek arbitration, or seek a hearing concerning his termination.

         Defendants Teamsters Local 25 and Lessard have moved to dismiss the fair representation claim on the grounds that the claim is time-barred and that the claim cannot be brought against Lessard as an individual union business agent. For the following reasons, the motion will be granted.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         Charles Von Schoppe was employed by Atkinson-Whitworth Corporation, d/b/a Jet-AWay, as a solid-waste disposal driver from April 2004 until his termination on August 1, 2013. (Compl. ¶ 6). Throughout his employment, Von Schoppe was a drug addict. (Compl. ¶ 9).

         The employees of Jet-A-Way were represented by the Teamsters union, Local 25. (Compl. ¶¶ 3-4). Mark Lessard was the union business agent. (Compl. ¶ 4).

         On June 10, 2013, Von Schoppe worked with a representative of the Teamsters Local 25 Employee Assistance Plan to begin inpatient care at a drug and alcohol treatment center in Worcester, Massachusetts. (Compl. ¶ 11). That same day, he informed Lessard that he was ill and needed to seek medical treatment. (Compl. ¶ 12). According to the complaint, Lessard told Von Schoppe that he would inform the owner and president of Jet-A-Way, Rolando Jeter, that Von Schoppe was ill and receiving medical treatment, but never did. (Id.). Approximately ten days later, Von Schoppe was terminated for gross insubordination. (Compl. ¶ 14).

         According to the complaint, Lessard refused to pursue a grievance against Jet-A-Way, or seek arbitration or a hearing of any kind regarding the termination. (Compl. ¶ 15). Instead, according to the complaint, Lessard entered into an agreement with Jet-A-Way to bypass the protections available to Von Schoppe under the collective bargaining agreement. (Compl. ¶ 20).

         B. Procedural Background

         On May 20, 2016, Von Schoppe filed the complaint in this action in the Massachusetts Superior Court. The complaint alleged that (1) defendant Jet-A-Way discriminated against him on the basis of his disability in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B (Count 1) and (2) defendants Teamsters Local 25 and Mark Lessard violated their duties of fair representation by failing to file a grievance or arbitrate or seek a hearing regarding plaintiff's termination by Jet-AWay (Count 2). On September 8, 2016, defendants removed the action to this Court.

         Defendants Teamsters Local 25 and Lessard have now moved to dismiss Count 2 on the grounds that the fair representation claim is time-barred and that Lessard is immune for liability for such a claim. For the following reasons, defendants' motion to dismiss will be granted.

         II. Legal Standard

         On a motion to dismiss, the court “must assume the truth of all well-plead[ed] facts and give plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences therefrom.” Ruiz v. Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp., 496 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2007) (citing Rogan v. Menino, 175 F.3d 75, 77 (1st Cir. 1999)). To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must state a claim that is plausible on its face. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). That is, “[f]actual 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. at 555 (citations omitted). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). ...


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