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United Transportation Union v. Illinois Central Railroad Co.

March 16, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-Yeghiayan United States District Court Judge



This matter is before the court on Petitioners' motion for summary judgment and Respondent's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, we grant in part and deny in part the motions for summary judgment.


Petitioner William C. Miller (Miller) was employed by Respondent Illinois Central Railroad Co. (ICR). On November 29, 2005, Miller pled guilty to embezzling funds from his former union. Miller contends that on that same day, at 7:50 p.m., he faxed a letter to his supervisor (Notification Letter) notifying his supervisor of the conviction. On December 8, 2005, ICR issued Miller a notice of investigation, claiming that Miller failed to notify ICR of his conviction within one day of receiving notice of the conviction as required by ICR rule H (Rule H). On December 14, 2005, the investigation proceeded, and Miller produced the Notification Letter and a fax log showing that the Notification Letter had been received by his supervisor's fax machine. Despite such evidence, Miller's supervisor denied that he ever received the Notification Letter. On December 22, 2005, Miller was issued a notice of discipline by ICR, and his employment was terminated.

On February 23, 2006, Miller was sentenced to two years in prison. While Miller was serving his sentence, Petitioner United Transportation Union (Union), Miller's union, brought a claim on behalf of Miller seeking reinstatement and back pay. The claim progressed to arbitration before the Public Law Board (Board). The Board was composed of one partisan member of the Union, Kim Thompson (Thompson), one partisan member of ICR, Roger MacDougall (MacDougall), and one neutral member, Lewis L. Ellsworth (Ellsworth). Miller contends that the award of the Board could not become final until at least two members of the Board signed the award. On July 27, 2007, Ellsworth signed a draft of Award No. 31 of the Public Law Board No. 6985 (Draft). The contents of the Draft included language indicating that Miller did not violate Rule H and ordering that Miller be returned to service with seniority rights unimpaired and that he receive back pay, if any, reduced by any outside earnings and unemployment compensation.

At this point, the Draft had only the signature of Board member Ellsworth and neither of the other two members of the Board had signed it. On August 3, 2007, Thompson allegedly did not agree with the Draft's deduction of outside earnings, and the parties sought an executive session to address the situation. On August 10, 2007, despite the fact that the Draft lacked the required signatures of two Board members, ICR construed it as a final award and sent a letter (August 2007 Letter) to Miller demanding that he return to work within 15 days. Miller was still in prison at that time and he claims he informed ICR that he could not return to work until November 7, 2007.

On October 11, 2007, Board member Ellsworth issued an interpretation (October Interpretation) indicating that outside earnings were properly deducted from the back pay award. According to Petitioners, as of October 12, 2007, Board member McDougall was still not willing to sign the Draft and instead desired another executive session to further clarify the Draft. On November 6, 2007, Miller was released from prison. Board member Thompson was allegedly frustrated by the unwillingness of MacDougall to agree with the Draft, and Board member Thompson decided to sign the Draft on November 30, 2007, in order to move things along.

Petitioners contend that the Draft became a final award (Award 31) at that juncture because it had the approval of two members of the Board, Ellsworth and Thompson, as required by statute. The executive session sought by Board member MacDougall was subsequently held on December 12, 2007, and on December 13, 2007, MacDougall also joined the other two members of the Board by signing Award 31, even though at that point Award 31 already was final as of November 30, 2007, having the required signatures of two Board members.

Miller contends that in a December 27, 2007, letter, ICR informed Miller that he was no longer employed by ICR since he failed to report to work within 15 days of August 10, 2007, as demanded by ICR in the August 2007 Letter. Miller also contends that ICR sent Miller a check for $9,449, contending that it was the amount owed for back pay. Petitioners contend that ICR has failed to honor Award 31 by failing to reinstate Miller and by failing to award Miller proper back pay from the date of his improper dismissal on December 22, 2005. Petitioners, Miller and the Union, brought the instant action pursuant to 45 U.S.C. § 153 of the Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq., to enforce Award 31. Petitioners and ICR have each filed motions for summary judgment.


Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, reveals that 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). In seeking a grant of summary judgment, the moving party must identify "those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)(quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). This initial burden may be satisfied by presenting specific evidence on a particular issue or by pointing out "an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Id. at 325. Once the movant has met this burden, the non-moving party cannot simply rest on the allegations in the pleadings, but, "by affidavits or as otherwise provided for in [Rule 56], must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). A "genuine issue" in the context of a motion for summary judgment is not simply a "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Insolia v. Philip Morris, Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000). The court must consider the record as a whole, in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, and draw all reasonable inferences that favor the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Bay v. Cassens Transport Co., 212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir. 2000). When there are cross-motions for summary judgment the court must draw inferences "in favor of the party against whom the motion under consideration was made." McKinney v. Cadleway Properties, Inc., 548 F.3d 496, 500 (7th Cir. 2008).


Petitioners contend that ICR failed to comply with Award 31 by failing to reinstate Miller's employment and by failing to properly compensate Miller for his back pay. The RLA provides for arbitration "of minor disputes." Union Pacific R. Co. v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen General Committee of Adjustment, Cent. Region, 130 S.Ct. 584, 591-2 (2009). Pursuant to 45 U.S.C. § 153 First (p) of the RLA, if a carrier does not comply with the award of a public law board (PLB), the aggrieved employee can file a petition to enforce the award in federal district court. Id. In any review in federal court of a PLB award, "the findings and order of the [PLB] shall be conclusive on the parties, except that the order of the [PLB] may be set aside, in whole or in part, or remanded to the division, for failure of the division to comply with the requirements of [45 U.S.C. § 153 of the RLA], for failure of the order to conform, or confine itself, to matters within the scope of the division's jurisdiction, or for fraud or corruption by a member of the division making the order." 45 U.S.C. § 153 First (q); see also ...

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