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Thibodeaux v. Teamsters Local 853

United States District Court, N.D. California

June 26, 2017

TEAMSTERS LOCAL 853, Defendant.


          MARIA-ELENA JAMES United States Magistrate Judge.


         Pending before the Court is Defendant Teamsters Local 853's (“Defendant” or “Local 853”) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff George Thibodeaux's (“Plaintiff”) First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 12(b)(6). Dkt. No. 33. Plaintiff filed an Opposition (Dkt. No. 35) and Defendant filed a Reply (Dkt. No. 36). The Court finds this matter suitable for disposition without oral argument and VACATES the June 29, 2017 hearing. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b); Civ. L.R. 7-1(b). Having considered the parties' positions, relevant legal authority, and the record in this case, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion for the following reasons.


         A. Allegations of the FAC

         For almost twenty years, Plaintiff was employed as a commercial driver of a cement mixer truck by Central Concrete Supply Co. and was a member of Local 853. FAC ¶¶ 1, 8-9, Dkt. No. 32. On March 7, 2013, Plaintiff was operating a cement mixer that experienced a drum control problem, which caused a concrete spill. Id. ¶ 14. On March 19, 2013, Central Concrete sent Plaintiff a letter terminating his employment “effective today . . . based on your unacceptable behavior relative to your most current concrete spill on March 7, 2013.” Id. ¶ 13. Plaintiff alleges Central Concrete terminated him without just cause. Id. ¶ 14.

         Central Concrete, Local 853, and Plaintiff are governed by a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) that prevents an employer from terminating an employee without just cause. Id. ¶¶ 10-11. The agreement provides that all disputes arising under the terms of the agreement “shall be resolved” through an escalating dispute resolution procedure. Id. ¶ 12. In the first step, the dispute may be taken up with local management at the employee's discretion; however, the local union shall take up any formal dispute in the locality with the employer. Id. If the union and the employer are unable to resolve the dispute, the second step requires the dispute to be referred to the Board of Adjustment. Id. If the Board of Adjustment fails to resolve the dispute, at the third step, the dispute “shall be submitted to an impartial arbitrator upon the request of either party.” Id.

         Plaintiff alleges he requested Local 853 thoroughly investigate the drum control problem, but that Local 853 failed to do so; in particular, Local 853 failed to interview the mechanic responsible for the truck mixer and did not obtain pertinent maintenance records. Id. ¶¶ 16-17. Plaintiff also requested Local 853 take up a formal dispute with his employer; Local 853 did so. Id. ¶¶ 15, 18. When the dispute was not resolved, the Board of Adjustment conducted a hearing on May 23, 2013. Id. ¶¶ 18-19. Plaintiff alleges that, at the hearing, Local 853 did not adequately present the factual circumstances supporting his grievance “and instead made perfunctory arguments to the effect that Thibodeaux was a team player and wanted to work with Central Concrete.” Id. ¶ 19. During the May 23, 2013 meeting, Dan Varela-Local 853's business agent-acted as Chairman of the Board of Adjustment. Id. ¶ 23. Varela seconded the motion to deny Plaintiff's grievance. Id. ¶ 20. Plaintiff did not discover that Varela denied his grievance until March 23, 2017, when he received the meeting minutes for the May 23, 2013 meeting. Id.

         B. Procedural Background

         On December 27, 2016, Plaintiff initiated this action in California Superior Court against Local 853 alleging four state law claims: breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, intentional misrepresentation, and negligent misrepresentation. See Compl., Dkt. No. 1. Defendant removed the action to this Court, asserting the Complaint alleged a breach of the duty of fair representation, a claim that arises under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), 29 U.S.C. § 151 et seq., a federal question that gives the Court subject matter jurisdiction. See Not. of Removal ¶ 3, Dkt. No. 1. In denying Plaintiff's motion to remand the action, the Court found Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. § 185(a), preempted Plaintiff's claims. See Order re: Mot. to Remand, Dkt. No. 19.

         Defendant moved to dismiss the action on the ground it was barred by the statute of limitations. See Mot. to Dismiss, Dkt. No. 11. The Court found that Plaintiff's claims could “be fairly characterized” as a “hybrid” claim, to which a six-month statute of limitations applied. Order Dismissing Compl. at 6-7, Dkt. No. 31. The Court further found the statute of limitations started to run on or about October 16, 2013, when Defendant notified Plaintiff “the grievance was final and binding . . . . The union has exhausted its defense of your termination under the [CBA].” Id. at 8.[1] The Court thus granted the Motion to Dismiss, but gave Plaintiff leave to amend to allege additional facts to show the statute of limitations was tolled due to Defendant's fraudulent conduct. Id. at 9. Plaintiff timely filed the FAC, which asserts a single claim for breach of the duty of fair representation based on Local 853's failure to serve his interests by (1) failing to investigate the drum problem; (2) failing to adequately present the factual circumstances to the Board of Adjustment; (3) concealing from Plaintiff that Varela had denied his grievance; and (4) failing to notify Plaintiff it had not presented his grievance to an impartial arbitrator.


         Rule 8(a) requires that a complaint contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A complaint must therefore provide a defendant with “fair notice” of the claims against it and the grounds for relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotations and citation omitted).

         A court may dismiss a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) when it does not contain enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Id. at 570. “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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “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.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a ...

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