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Faulkner v. Dominguez

January 28, 2010

LEE FAULKNER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STEPHANIE DOMINGUEZ, AN INDIVIDUAL; MICHELLE SPACH, AN INDIVIDUAL; PAUL LOBER, AN INDIVIDUAL; SWA AIRLINES, A TEXAS CORPORATION; TRANSPORT WORKERS UNION OF AMERICA, TRANSPORT WORKERS UNION LOCAL 555, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dean D. Pregerson United States District Judge

ORDER (1) DISMISSING PLAINTIFF'S RAILWAY LABOR ACT CLAIM AND (2) GRANTING SWA'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON PLAINTIFF'S STATE LAW CLAIMS [Motion filed on November 16, 2009]

This matter comes before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the defendant SWA Airlines Co. ("SWA"). After reviewing the papers submitted by the parties and considering the arguments raised therein, the Court DISMISSES Plaintiff's Railway Labor Act ("RLA") claim, GRANTS SWA's motion, and adopts the following Order.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

On November 21, 2008, the plaintiff Lee Faulkner ("Plaintiff") filed suit against his former employer, SWA, and his former Union, the Transportation Workers Union of America, Transport Workers Union Local 555 ("TWU"), alleging causes of action for (1) wrongful termination in violation of public policy; (2) breach of contract; (3) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; and (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Compl. 1:16-21.)

On February 6, 2009, the Court ordered Plaintiff to show cause why this action should not be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. (Dkt. No. 4.) Plaintiff submitted a brief in response to the order to show cause on February 20, 2009, arguing that "any unresolved dispute between the plaintiff FAULKNER and SWA Airlines (SWA) . . . falls under the provisions of 45 U.S.C. Chapter 8, Subchapter II [The Railway Labor Act ("RLA")], and thus is properly under the jurisdiction fo this court." (Pl.'s Br. on O.S.C. 2:28-3:4.)

On March 18, 2009, the Court issued an Order Finding Federal Question Jurisdiction, concluding that "although the Plaintiff did not explicitly state that the claims [against TWU] arise out of [its] affirmative 'fair representation' duty that unions owe to their representatives under the RLA, a fair reading of the entire Complaint makes clear that the Plaintiff is alleging such an action." (Order 4:23-27, Dkt. No. 24.) The Court therefore found federal question jurisdiction on the basis of Plaintiff's unfair representation claim against TWU, and supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims. (Id.)

SWA and TWU both moved for summary judgment on November 16, 2009. Although Plaintiff opposes SWA's motion, he filed a Notice of Non-Opposition to TWU's motion on January 4, 2010. (Dkt. No. 81.) Because Plaintiff did not oppose TWU's motion, the Court is required to "assume that the material facts as claimed and adequately supported by [TWU] are admitted to exist without controversy . . . ." L.R. 56-3. As a result, the Court granted TWU's motion and entered judgment in favor of TWU. (Dkt. Nos. 94, 98.)

A. Factual History

Except where otherwise noted, Plaintiff has admitted these facts exist without controversy. Plaintiff was employed by SWA as a ramp agent at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California, until his employment was terminated after he admitted to submitting falsified doctor's notes to SWA on behalf of himself and three other SWA employees. (SWA's Statement of Undisputed Facts and Conclusions of Law ("SUF") 1, 12-15, 19.)

During all times relevant to this case, TWU and SWA were parties to a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA"), which governed the terms and conditions of employment for SWA's ramp, operations, provisioning, and freight agents, including Plaintiff. (SUF 2.) The agreement provided that employees like Plaintiff could be terminated for abusing sick leave or sick pay and that they could be subject to disciplinary action, including termination, for falsifying any Company records, including claims for sick leave or sick pay. (SUF 5-6.) Plaintiff was aware of these terms of the CBA. (SUF 8.)

Between 2004 and 2007, Plaintiff submitted six doctor's notes on his own behalf that purported to be from Family Health Care Medical Group, despite knowing that each of the notes was falsified. (SUF 13.) SWA initiated a fact-finding hearing into whether Plaintiff had abused sick time and sick pay after learning that Family Health Care Medical Group had gone out of business around the year 2000. (SUF 10.) During the fact-finding hearing, in which Plaintiff was represented by TWU, Plaintiff admitted to writing the six doctor's notes he had submitted on his behalf. (SUF 13.) He also admitted to writing similar doctor's notes and submitting them to SWA on behalf of three other employees without their knowledge or consent. (SUF 19.) Plaintiff now claims that he did not, in fact, write any of the letters. (Pl.'s Opp'n to SUF 13, 19.) This evidence, however, is immaterial, as Plaintiff does not dispute having knowingly submitted falsified notes, only having written them himself. (Id.)

Following the fact-finding hearing, Plaintiff was informed in a meeting with a SWA station manager and his TWU representative that SWA was terminating his employment for knowingly presenting a falsified doctor's note in violation of the CBA. (SUF 15.) Plaintiff never filed a grievance under the CBA to challenge his termination (SUF 16.)*fn1 Two of the other SWA employees for whom Plaintiff admitted submitting falsified doctor's notes were terminated by SWA. (SUF 20.) They, however, asked TWU to grieve their terminations, and ultimately reached a settlement with SWA resulting in their reinstatement. (Id.)

The sole reason plaintiff was terminated from employment with SWA was the fact that he submitted falsified doctor's notes to SWA. (SUF 22.) SWA did not terminate Plaintiff's employment because of any physical disability, ...


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