United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
June 21, 2004.
ROCKFORD TOWNSHIP HIGHWAY DEPT., et al.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: PHILIP REINHARD, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Count I of plaintiff Lonette Rivera's ("Rivera") First Amended
Complaint against defendant, International Brotherhood of
Teamsters Local 325 ("Union"), alleges that the Union breached
its duty of fair representation to her by not arbitrating her
claim with the second defendant, the Rockford Township Highway
Department ("RTHD"), pursuant to the Labor Management Relations
Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185. Rivera's Count VI against the Union alleges
the Union did not arbitrate her claim with the RTHD because of
her gender, giving rise to a claim of discrimination based on sex
under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 2000e, et seq.
Jurisdiction is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The Union moves to
dismiss Counts I and VI pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted. The Union argues Rivera's Count I claim for
breach of the duty of fair representation should be dismissed
because no CBA existed at the time Rivera was terminated and
further that the claim is barred by the statute of limitations.
The Union also argues that Rivera's Count VI claim for sex
discrimination lacks a sufficient allegation that gender was a
motivating factor for any employment practice.
Rivera's Count II claims that the RTHD breached the terms of
its collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") with the Union by
refusing to arbitrate her grievance. The RTHD moves to dismiss
this count pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted, claiming no CBA existed at the
time of Rivera's request for arbitration and that it was
therefore not bound to grant it to her. The RTHD also moves to
strike, pursuant to FRCP 12(f), Rivera's references in her
amended complaint to an existing CBA after July 30, 2001 as they
pertain to all counts against the RTHD. In addition, the RTHD
makes a motion to exclude evidence under Federal Rule of Evidence
408 that the RTHD settled a previous sexual harassment charge
with Rivera, the assertion is stated in Paragraph 14 of her
On a motion to dismiss under FRCP 12(b)(6), "the Court accepts
as true all well-pleaded factual allegations of the complaint,
drawing all reasonable inferences in (non-moving) plaintiff's
favor." Brownlee v. Joe Cotton Ford, Inc., 1999 U.S. Dist LEXIS
1348, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 5, 1999), citing Midwest Grinding
Co. v. Spitz, 976 F.2d 1016, 1019 (7th Cir. 1992). A
complaint should be dismissed where it appears beyond a doubt
that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts that would entitle
her to relief. Mattice v. Mem'l Hosp. of S. Bend, 249 F.3d 682,
684 (7th Cir. 2001).
Rivera's factual allegations are, inter alia, that on December
13, 2000 she filed a sexual harassment charge against the RTHD;
Rivera alleges she was retaliated against as a result of her
filing. That charge, separate from the one currently at issue,
was settled in March 2002. The Union, of which Rivera is a
member, had a CBA with the RTHD that was to renew itself for
another year on July 31, 2001 unless either party informed the
other in writing by May 1, 2001 that it would seek to
re-negotiate the CBA's terms, resulting in termination of the
existing CBA. In December 2001 the Union successfully arbitrated
the grievance of a male employee. On July 18, 2002 Rivera was
notified of her termination from employment with the RTHD. Rivera
asserts that her termination was prompted due to her gender: that
she was fired because she was a woman. On July 27, 2002, upon
receiving a complaint from Rivera, the Union filed a grievance on
her behalf with the RTHD and declared, on October 10, 2002, a
desire to arbitrate the matter. Rivera received a letter from the
Union on February 10, 2003 stating that the Union could not
arbitrate her grievance because the RTHD did not accede to the
existence of a CBA. On August 21, 2003 Rivera filed suit against
the Union and the RTHD. Counts I and VI, specified above, pertain
to the Union as the defendant; Counts II-V name the RTHD as the
defendant, with only Count II at issue in the pending motion by
As for Rivera's Count I and Count II allegations, that the
Union breached its duty of fair representation to her by not
arbitrating her claim with the RTHD as permitted by the CBA, and
that the RTHD breached the terms of the CBA by failing to
arbitrate her grievance, the Supreme Court has held that a union
owes its members a duty of fair representation which it breaches
when it represents members in a discriminatory manner.
DelCostello v. Int. Bhd. of Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 154-55
(1983). Claims against unions for breach of this duty are subject
to a six-month statute of limitations period. Christiansen v.
APV Crepaco, Inc., 178 F.3d 910 (7th Cir. 1999); Chapple v.
Nat'l Starch & Chem. Co., 178 F.3d 501 (7th Cir. 1999). The
six-month statute of limitations applies in hybrid suits where
the plaintiff sues her employer for breaching a collective
bargaining agreement in addition to the union for failing to
fairly represent her interests. Christiansen, 178 F.3d at 914.
The period "begins to run when the claimant discovers, or in the
exercise of reasonable diligence should have discovered, the acts
constituting the alleged violation Id.
Even assuming a CBA, existed the facts are that Rivera
discovered the Union would not arbitrate her claim against the
RTHD on February 10, 2003, giving her six months from that day to
file suit against the Union for an alleged breach of its duty of
fair representation. The complaint was not filed, however, until
August 21, 2003, eleven days after the six-month statute of
limitations had expired, time-barring the complaint. The Union's
motion to dismiss plaintiff's Count I on this basis is granted.
In its defense to Count II, the RTHD also attempts to dismiss
the count by arguing it was not bound to arbitrate Rivera's
grievance because there was no existing CBA, arguing that any
pre-existing CBA terminated on July 30, 2001. Whether there was
an existing CBA when Rivera sought to arbitrate her grievance
need not be decided because Rivera's complaint was filed after
the expiration of the six-month statute of limitations for hybrid
suits, time-barring her complaint. Consequently, Rivera's Count
II against the RTHD is dismissed.
Count VI alleges the Union did not arbitrate Rivera's claim
with the RTHD based on her gender giving rise to a claim of
discrimination based on sex. Labor unions may be liable under
under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 2000e-2(c)(1)
if they "discriminate against, any individual because of his
race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Rivera alleges
that a male employee's grievance was arbitrated by the Union in
December 2001 because the grieving employee was a male whereas
her's was not because she is a female. Accepting as true all
well-pleaded factual allegations and drawing all inferences in
Rivera's favor, as this court must, Rivera has stated a claim for
which relief can be granted. The Union's motion to dismiss
plaintiff's Count VI is denied.
Because the continuing force of the CBA remains an issue, the
RTHD's motion to strike the portions of Rivera's complaint that
reference an existing CBA after July 30, 2001 is denied. Also,
the RTHD's motion to exclude evidence under Fed R. Evid. 408 is
premature. The matter is more appropriately considered nearer to
trial. The motion is denied.
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