The opinion of the court was delivered by: BUCKLO
The plaintiff, Ronald Thoele, filed suit against the defendant, the United States Postal Service ("USPS"), under the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. Both sides move for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the USPS' motion is granted and Mr. Thoele's motion is denied.
Mr. Thoele's claim arises from a series of events that began in late December, 1994. At that time, Mr. Thoele was employed as a manual distribution clerk by the USPS in Winnetka, Illinois. Mr. Thoele's father had surgery on December 6, 1994, and due to a problem with insurance coverage, was discharged from his nursing home residence on December 22, 1994. Mr. Thoele contacted the USPS on December 21, 1994, and requested eight hours of Leave Without Pay ("LWOP"). The next day, Mr. Thoele contacted his supervisor at the USPS, Kathy Eagon, and requested sixteen additional hours of LWOP, asking that his absence be charged to FMLA leave. Ms. Eagon informed Mr. Thoele his request for FMLA leave would be considered when the proper paperwork was submitted. On December 31, 1994, Mr. Thoele sent a "Request For Or Notification Of Absence" form to the Winnetka Post Office requesting that his 96 hour absence, from December 20 to January 9, be charged to FMLA leave. On January 6, 1995, Ms. Eagon rejected Mr. Thoele's FMLA leave request for a variety of reasons. Mr. Thoele returned to work on January 17, 1995.
On February 6, 1995, Mr. Thoele received a "Notice of Removal" from the USPS. Mr. Thoele was informed he would be discharged from the Postal Service on March 17, 1995, due to his inability to maintain a regular work schedule. Aside from Mr. Thoele's December and January absences, he was absent for various dates in September and had previously been suspended four times for failure to maintain a regular work schedule. Mr. Thoele filed a grievance which was denied. On February 16, 1995, the USPS stated for the first time that it believed Mr. Thoele had been ineligible for FMLA leave when it was requested in December, 1994, and January, 1995. The American Postal Workers Union ("APWU") appealed Mr. Thoele's grievance to arbitration. On December 4, 1995, the arbitrator determined Mr. Thoele had not been terminated for just cause. The arbitrator did find a one month suspension was appropriate. Mr. Thoele was reinstated.
During January, 1996, the USPS made repeated attempts to contact Mr. Thoele and reinstate him at the Winnetka Post Office. On January 31, 1996, Mr. Thoele was again informed he would be removed from Postal Service duties effective March 9, 1996. The USPS's reason for terminating Mr. Thoele were absences during January, 1996, and his prior inability to maintain a regular work schedule. On February 10, 1996, Mr. Thoele reported to work at the Winnetka Post Office. At that time, Ms. Eagon informed Mr. Thoele he was being placed on administrative leave until he was discharged.
Mr. Thoele's complaint states that the jurisdictional basis for his claim is the FMLA. In his summary judgment motion and response, Mr. Thoele, for the first time, argues his suit is also one to enforce the arbitrator's award granted in this case. Mr. Thoele's complaint does not include this claim or a jurisdictional basis for this claim. It is well settled in the Seventh Circuit that a plaintiff cannot amend his complaint with a later filed brief. Auston v. Schubnell, 116 F.3d 251, 255 (7th Cir. 1997); Harrell v. United States, 13 F.3d 232, 236 (7th Cir. 1993).
Even if Mr. Thoele's argument for enforcement of the arbitrator's award was timely, it is still improper. As a postal employee, Mr. Thoele is represented by the American Postal Workers Union ("APWU"). The collective bargaining agreement between the APWU and the USPS states that the APWU is the exclusive bargaining representative for all postal clerks. (1994-98 Coll. Bargaining Agree. at 1). Additionally, according to the collective bargaining agreement, the APWU controls a postal clerk's grievance during arbitration. (1994-98 Coll. Bargaining Agree. at 101-07). Under Section 1208(b) of the Postal Reorganization Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1201 et seq., I have jurisdiction to hear "suits for violation of contracts between the Postal Service and a labor organization representing Postal Service employees...." Section 1208(b) is the "analogue" of Section 301 of the Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). Thus, courts consider Section 301 case law applicable to actions brought under Section 1208(b). United States Postal Serv. v. National Rural Letter Carriers' Ass'n, 294 U.S. App. D.C. 337, 959 F.2d 283, 286 (D.C. Cir. 1992); United States Postal Serv. v. American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO, 893 F.2d 1117, 1119-20 (9th Cir. 1990); Bacashihua v. United States Postal Serv., 859 F.2d 402, 405 (6th Cir. 1988); Trent v. Bolger, 837 F.2d 657, 659 (4th Cir. 1988). Under Section 301, and thus Section 1208(b), an "aggrieved employee normally lacks standing to attack the results of the grievance process." Bacashihua, 859 F.2d at 405. The Seventh Circuit has noted a jurisdictional limit in Section 301, that "the litigant must be an employer or labor organization...." Pierce v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 112 F.3d 893, 895 (7th Cir. 1997). By its language, Section 1208(b) contains the same jurisdictional limitation. An employee, such as Mr. Thoele, may still bring suit under the collective bargaining agreement, but such suit must establish that the union breached its duty of fair representation. Id.; Bacashihua, 859 F.2d at 406; Melendy v. United States Postal Serv., 589 F.2d 256, 260 (7th Cir. 1978). Mr. Thoele has neither claimed nor attempted to establish a breach of the APWU's duty of fair representation. Thus, even if Mr. Thoele's claim to enforce the arbitrator's award was timely, it would be deficient.
Mr. Thoele does not dispute that he failed to work the necessary 1,250 hours to be eligible for FMLA leave. Instead, he makes a variety of arguments to prove he should still be covered by the FMLA: 1) that under the terms of the FMLA an employer must notify an employee that he or she is ineligible to receive leave within two days of the leave or the employee will be deemed eligible, 2) that the arbitrator determined the USPS did not notify Mr. Thoele he was ineligible for FMLA leave until after he took the leave and thus, this court is collaterally estopped to determine otherwise, 3) he would have worked 1,250 had it not been for an improper suspension in June, 1994. All of Mr. Thoele's arguments are without merit.
As currently implemented in the Code of Federal Regulations, the FMLA requires an employer to advise an employee if he or she is ineligible for FMLA leave. 29 C.F.R. § 825.110(d). If the employer does not notify an employee of ineligibility within two days of the leave period, the employee is deemed eligible for the leave. The USPS did not inform Mr. Thoele of his FMLA ineligibility until February 16, 1995. The rule requiring notification, however, was not in existence at the time Mr. Thoele requested FMLA leave. It became effective on April 6, 1995. 60 Fed. Reg. 6,658, 6,658 (1995). Between the passing of the FMLA and the implementation of the regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations, the FMLA was effectuated using interim rules. The interim rules did not require an employer to notify an employee of ineligibility. 58 Fed. Reg. 31,794, 31,816 (1993). The rule requiring an employer's notification of ineligibility has been held to be non-retroactive. Bauer v. Varity Dayton-Walther Corp., 118 F.3d 1109, 1111 n.1 (6th Cir. 1997); Schlett v. AVCO Fin. Serv., Inc., 950 F. Supp. 823, 835 (N.D. Ohio 1996); Robbins v. Bureau of Nat'l Affairs, Inc., 896 F. Supp. 18, 21-22 (D.D.C. 1995). Thus, Mr. Thoele's argument that the USPS' failure to notify him of ineligibility rendered him automatically eligible for FMLA leave is without merit. The USPS was not under an obligation at the time Mr. Thoele requested leave to notify him of his ineligibility.
Mr. Thoele next argues that since the arbitrator found that an employee is deemed eligible for FMLA leave if he or she is not notified otherwise, I am bound to apply collateral estoppel to find that Mr. Thoele was an eligible employee. Collateral estoppel applies if: "(1) the issue sought to be precluded is the same as that involved in the prior action; (2) the issue was actually litigated; (3) the determination of the issue was essential to the final judgment; and (4) the party against whom estoppel is invoked was fully ...