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Exelon Generation Company, LLC v. Local 15

September 29, 2008

EXELON GENERATION COMPANY, LLC PLAINTIFF/COUNTER-DEFENDANT,
v.
LOCAL 15, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS, AFL-CIO, DEFENDANT/COUNTER-PLAINTIFF.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan H. Lefkow

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff/counter-defendant Exelon Generation Company, LLC ("Exelon") filed a single-count declaratory judgment complaint against Local 15, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO ("Local 15") seeking a declaration that Exelon's decision to deny unescorted access authorization to Terrence McMahon ("McMahon") is not arbitrable under the parties' collective bargaining agreement ("CBA"). Local 15 counterclaimed to compel arbitration of the grievances which it filed on his behalf concerning Exelon's decision to deny McMahon site access and terminate his employment. Presently before the court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, as well as Local 15's motion to stay proceedings and compel arbitration. For the following reasons, Local 15's motion for summary judgment [#39] is granted, Exelon's motion for summary judgment [#44] is denied, and Local 15's motion to stay proceedings and compel arbitration [#38] is granted.

JURISDICTION

The court has jurisdiction to hear this case pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 185 (Labor Management Relations Act) and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 2201.

STANDARDS

Summary judgment obviates the need for a trial where there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed. 2d 202 (1986). The dispute in this case primarily concerns statutory and regulatory construction and contract interpretation, matters of law particularly suited to summary adjudication. See Automation by Design, Inc. v. Raybestos Prods. Co., 463 F.3d 749, 753 (7th Cir. 2006); APS Sports Collectibles, Inc. v. Sports Time, Inc., 299 F.3d 624, 628 (7th Cir. 2002).

BACKGROUND

Exelon is a company engaged in the business of nuclear power generation and supply via several nuclear generating units in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and New Jersey. Exelon is licensed to conduct nuclear power generation by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ("NRC") and is subject to the agency's regulations. Local 15 is a labor union that represents approximately 1,600 hourly employees at Exelon's nuclear generating units in Illinois. Exelon and Local 15 are parties to a CBA and have engaged in collective bargaining for over fifty years. The arbitration clause in the parties' current CBA provides:

Should any dispute or difference arise between the Company and the Union or its members as to the interpretation or application of any of the provisions of this Agreement or with respect to job working conditions, the term working conditions being limited to those elements concerned with the hours when an employee is at work and the acts required of the employee during such hours, the dispute or difference shall be settled through the grievance procedure.

The grievance procedure defined in the CBA includes four steps: (1) "local investigation" involving union stewards and Exelon's department-level supervisory personnel; (2) consideration by a "business unit joint grievance committee" consisting of union business representatives and Exelon managerial personnel; (3) review of the grievances by a committee consisting of the union's and Exelon's senior managers; and (4) arbitration.

McMahon was an Exelon employee and is a member of the Nuclear Physical, Commercial Physical, and Clerical Workers bargaining unit defined in the CBA. Local 15 is his exclusive bargaining representative. Exelon hired McMahon as a station laborer at the now decommissioned Zion Generating Station in 1980. McMahon was promoted to nuclear mechanic in 1982 and maintained that position at the Braidwood Generating Facility, where he began working in 1998. McMahon was laid off from his mechanic's position at Braidwood in 2001, but, pursuant to an ensuing arbitration award which determined that his layoff was improper, he was offered the opportunity to be recalled into a lower-paying station laborer position at Exelon's Byron Generating Station. McMahon never began working at Byron, however, because Exelon's Nuclear Security Department denied him the unescorted access authorization required to perform his job there, based on a psychological screening test and subsequent clinical interview.*fn1

On February 28, 2008, McMahon was informed that his application for unescorted access was denied, and on March 1, 2005, his employment was terminated. The following day, Local 15 filed two of the three grievances at issue in this case: No. 2005-386-NUP-BYR, which states, "Management denied employee unescorted access to plant. Union demands employee be made whole," and No. 2005-385-NUP-BYR, which states: "Management unjustly terminated employee, Union demands employee be made whole." After filing these grievances, McMahon appealed, via Exelon's internal procedures, the decision to deny him unescorted access rights. On April 15, 2005, McMahon was informed that Exelon's appeal reviewer upheld the denial. Local 15 then filed its third grievance, No. 2005-788-NUP-BYR, which states, "Employee appeal for access to plant unjustly denied." Local 15 and Exelon agreed to consolidate the three grievances. The consolidated grievances progressed through the CBA's grievance procedure without successful resolution and an arbitration hearing was scheduled. The arbitration was not held, however, because Exelon commenced the instant declaratory judgment action on December 15, 2006 seeking a declaration that its decision to deny McMahon unescorted access rights is not arbitrable. Local 15 counterclaimed to compel arbitration of the grievances it filed on behalf of McMahon.

DISCUSSION

The dispositive issue in this case is whether Exelon's decision to deny McMahon unescorted site access is arbitrable.*fn2 Exelon argues that its decisions regarding unescorted access are not arbitrable because (1) the NRC mandates that its licensees make the final decision regarding denials of unescorted access and does not permit review of access denials to be arbitrated; and (2) alternatively, even if the NRC permitted arbitral review of its licensees' decisions to deny unescorted site access, arbitration is still precluded in this instance because the CBA does not explicitly provide that disputes involving such decisions are arbitrable. Local 15, on the other hand, argues (1) that NRC regulations do not prohibit arbitration of disputes involving its licensees' decisions to deny unescorted access, and (2) that arbitration must be compelled pursuant to the provisions of the parties' CBA and the federal policy favoring arbitration of labor disputes.*fn3

I. WHETHER THE NRC PROHIBITS ARBITRATION REGARDING EXELON'S DECISION TO DENY MCMAHON UNESCORTED SITE ACCESS

The first issue is whether the NRC's regulations and requirements prohibit arbitration of denial of site access authorization. Exelon argues that such arbitration is prohibited by NRC regulations, industry guidelines that have been endorsed by the NRC, and Exelon's own access ...


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