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Apolinario v. United Healthcare Workers-West

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 10, 2014

RICARDO APOLINARIO, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED HEALTHCARE WORKERS— WEST, SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION CTW, CLC, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT UNITED HEALTHCARE WORKERS - WEST'S MOTION TO DISMISS FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT RE: ECF No. 11

JON S. TIGAR, District Judge.

Before the Court is United Healthcare Workers - West's ("UHW") motion to dismiss the First Amended Complaint. Mot., ECF No 11; FAC, ECF No. 10. The Court will grant the motion.

I. BACKGROUND

This action arises out of Seton Medical Center's termination of Plaintiff, Ricardo Apolinario, and United Healthcare Workers West, Service Employees International Union's (UHW) failure to maintain a grievance on behalf of Apolinario.

The Court draws the following facts from Apolinario's Fist Amended Complaint and Construes them in the light most favorable to Apolinario. Apolinario was employed by Seton Medical Center from 1993 to 2013. In 2012, Seton issued Apolinario a "NOTICE OF FINAL WRITTEN WARNING AND THREE (3) DAY SUSPENSION" for "repeated rude and offensive conduct" and "demeaning and disrespectful comments about supervisory personnel." FAC ¶ 11. Related to this disciplinary action, Apolinario was required to sign a "Last Chance Agreement" or face "immediate termination." Id . ¶ 12.

In 2013, Apolinario was terminated based on the allegation that he again "engaged in rude conduct toward a co-worker in violation of said Last Chance Agreement." Id . ¶ 16. UHW initially lodged a grievance on behalf of Apolinario, but subsequently withdrew it. Id . ¶ 17. Apolinario appealed the UHW's decision and UHW denied the appeal. Id . ¶¶ 19-20.

Apolinario subsequently brought this action alleging that, in failing to pursue his grievance, UHW breached its duty of fair representation. Plaintiff also named as a Defendant Seton Medical Center, which answered on January 16, 2014.

II. JURISDICTION

Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA") grants federal district courts original jurisdiction over claims for violations of contracts between an employer and a union. 28 U.S.C. § 185(a). Since this case is founded on a claim arising under federal law, jurisdiction is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

In a motion to dismiss, courts accept the material facts alleged in the complaint, together with reasonable inferences to be drawn from those facts, as true. Navarro v. Block , 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). However, "the tenet that a court must accept a complaint's allegations as true is inapplicable to threadbare recitals of a cause of action's elements, supported by mere conclusory statements." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). In addition, to survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Plausibility does not mean probability, but it requires "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.

IV. ANALYSIS

Apolinario alleges that UHW breached its duty of fair representation by failing to pursue a grievance on his behalf. FAC ¶¶ 24-25. He alleges that UHW's conduct was undertaken "maliciously, fraudulently, and oppressively, with the wrongful intention of injuring Plaintiff and from an improper and evil motive amounting to malice, and in conscious and reckless disregard of his rights as an employee." Id . ¶ 31. UHW moves to dismiss on the grounds that Apolinario failed to plead sufficient facts to survive a motion to dismiss. ECF No. 11 at 5.

"As the exclusive bargaining representative of [its] employees" a union has "a statutory duty fairly to represent all of [its] employees, both in its collective bargaining... and in its enforcement of the resulting collective bargaining agreement." Vaca v. Sipes , 386 U.S. 171, 176 (1967) (citations omitted). "An employee has no absolute right to have a grievance taken to arbitration." Castelli v. Douglas Aircraft Co. , 752 F.2d 1480, 1482-83 (9th Cir. 1985). "Unions need not arbitrate every case." Indeed, they "may screen grievances and arbitrate only those they believe are meritorious." Johnson v. U.S. Postal Serv. , 756 F.2d 1461, 1465 (9th Cir. ...


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