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International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local No. 51, AFL-CIO v. Verizon North

December 3, 2008

INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS, LOCAL NO. 51, AFL-CIO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
VERIZON NORTH, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeanne E. Scott, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

This cause is before the Court on Plaintiff International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local No. 51's (IBEW) Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 13). For the reasons stated below, the Motion for Summary Judgment is allowed to the extent that the Court finds that the dispute at issue is arbitrable. It is denied to the extent that the Court will not order the parties to immediately reschedule the arbitration hearing and will not award attorneys' fees.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

A motion for summary judgment must be granted "'if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Herman v. Nat'l Broad. Co., 744 F.2d 604, 607 (7th Cir. 1984). Once the moving party has produced evidence showing that it is entitled to summary judgment, the non-moving party must present evidence to show that issues of fact remain. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). "Summary judgment is appropriately entered 'against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.'" McKenzie v. Ill. Dept. of Transp., 92 F.3d 473, 479 (7th Cir. 1996) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322). It is not a discretionary remedy; if the plaintiff lacks sufficient evidence, summary judgment must be granted. Jones v. Johnson, 26 F.3d 727, 728 (7th Cir. 1994).

To successfully oppose a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must do more than raise a "metaphysical doubt" as to the material facts. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., 475 U.S. at 586. He must "come forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 587 (emphasis in original) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Id. In determining whether a genuine issue exists, courts should construe all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Moser v. Ind. Dept. of Corr., 406 F.3d 895, 900 (7th Cir. 2005). Courts are "not required to draw every conceivable inference from the record. [They] need draw only reasonable ones." Tyler v. Runyon, 70 F.3d 458, 467 (7th Cir. 1995) (internal quotation marks omitted).

The facts below are taken from the parties' summary judgment briefing and supporting evidence. For purposes of this Motion, where the parties dispute a fact, the Court accepts Verizon's position, because Verizon is the non-moving party. Additionally, in several instances IBEW has not disputed a fact but has argued that it is immaterial. The Court judges materiality, however, and it has accepted some facts IBEW deemed insignificant.

FACTS

Joseph Taylor is a senior cable technician employed by Verizon. As a senior cable technician, Taylor drove commercial motor vehicles for Verizon. He suffered persistent lower back pain, however, and underwent surgery that involved the implantation of a morphine pump. This pump administers morphine daily. On June 2, 2006, Verizon restricted Taylor from driving commercial motor vehicles. Verizon asserts that it did so because his use of multiple narcotic medications could affect his ability to operate such a vehicle.

Taylor is a member of the IBEW. Verizon and IBEW are parties to a Collective Bargaining Agreement (Agreement) that defines certain rights and obligations of the parties after a covered employee becomes sick, injured, or disabled. Specifically, at Section 14, the Agreement states:

Employees shall be allowed regular pay at basic rates on scheduled working days absent from duty when incapacitated by illness or physical injury (not compensable under Worker's Compensation Act) . . . . . . . .

Employees with absence beyond three (3) consecutive scheduled workdays must immediately file for disability benefits with the Short Term Disability Administrator. Failure to do so may result in denial of sickness disability benefits.

Compliance With Court Order (d/e 8), Exhibit 1, Agreement, ¶¶ 14.1, 14.13. At Section 8.3, the Agreement also provides: The Union agrees for its members that individually and collectively they will perform loyal and efficient work and service and that they will use their influence and best efforts to protect the property and interests of the Company, its good name, and its service to the public. The Company agrees that it will not act capriciously or arbitrarily in its treatment of employees, and will apply the terms of this Agreement impartially to all employees.

Compliance With Court Order , Exhibit 1, Agreement, ¶ 8.3; Memorandum in Support of Plaintiff International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local No. 51's Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 14) (Memorandum in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment), at 4, Undisputed Fact 7. Taylor is an Agreement-covered employee.

On June 20, 2006, IBEW filed a grievance with Verizon alleging that Verizon had placed Taylor on short term disability in violation of Sections 8.3 and 14 of the Agreement. The grievance noted that a doctor had approved Taylor to return to work without restrictions, and it demanded that Verizon reinstate Taylor immediately. Verizon denied the grievance, stating that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act (FMCSA) regulations prohibit Taylor from operating a commercial motor vehicle. Verizon asserts that it did not place Taylor on short term disability; rather, ...


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