Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

L.R. Smith and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen v. Union Pacific Railroad Company

April 4, 2011

L.R. SMITH AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF LOCOMOTIVE ENGINEERS AND TRAINMEN, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Edmond E. Chang

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff L.R. Smith was a locomotive engineer for Defendant Union Pacific Railroad. After Smith failed a random alcohol test while on the job, he and the railroad entered into a 'last chance' agreement providing for, among other things, Smith's entry into an alcohol treatment program. But the program counselor reported that Smith did not comply with the program, and Union Pacific fired him. To dispute the dismissal, Smith filed a claim with the National Railroad Adjustment Board. The Board ruled that the railroad permissibly fired Smith without a disciplinary hearing because he had agreed to waive that hearing in the last chance agreement. Plaintiff then filed this suit, alleging violations of the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. § 153, and of his constitutional right to due process. Union Pacific moves to dismiss [R. 12] for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. As explained below, subject matter jurisdiction is secure under the Railway Labor Act, but the Court agrees that Smith has failed to state a claim as a matter of law, and thus the motion to dismiss is granted.

I.

Smith began working for Union Pacific in 1995. R. 1, Exh. A at 1.*fn1 In January 2005, when he was a locomotive engineer, Smith was given a random drug and alcohol test while on the job. Id.; R. 1, Exh. D at 2. He tested positive for alcohol, in violation of Union Pacific's drug and alcohol policy. R. 1, Exh. A at 1, Exh. D at 2. Union Pacific offered, and Smith accepted, a 'last chance' agreement wherein he waived a formal investigation and hearing and accepted dismissal, but in exchange he would get a second chance: he would be reinstated to a 12-month probationary period after participating in a treatment program, and he would be required to participate in ongoing treatment during the probation. R. 1, Exh. A at 1-2. Under the agreement, Smith made a number of promises, including to become alcohol and drug free; participate in counseling, treatment, and follow-up; and to adhere to agreements in a "personal plan" designed by an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Manager. R.1, Exh. C. If Smith failed to fully comply with the conditions of the agreement, Union Pacific would return him to dismissed status. R. 1, Exh. A at 2.

Smith also agreed that his return to work would be governed by a "Companion Agreement," which stated in relevant part:

2. Participation in the Rule G R/E [Rehabilitation/Education] Program shall continue for a period of 12 months unless the employee elects to withdraw from the Program o[r] fails to follow the course of treatment established by the Employee Assistance Counselor.

If, at any time during the 12-month period referred to in paragraph 2 above, the employee fails to follow the course of treatment established by the Counselor, the Carrier shall remove the employee from the Program. If the employee has been returned to service, the Carrier shall, without the necessity of further disciplinary proceedings, also remove the employee from service and the employee shall revert to the status of a dismissed employee.

R. 1, Exh. A at 2-3 (emphasis added). As a pre-cursor to the Companion Agreement, the last chance agreement also spelled out the consequences of failing to comply with the treatment program during the Companion Agreement's duration: "When subject to the conditions of a Companion Agreement, failure to comply with these instructions during the 12 month probationary period may result in your immediate return to dismissed status without benefit of a Company Disciplinary Hearing." Id. at 2 (emphasis added).

With these agreements in place, Smith returned to service on October 17, 2005. R. 1, Exh. A at 3. But on February 6, 2006 -- around four months into the probationary period -- the EAP Manager informed Union Pacific that Smith had violated the terms of the agreement. Id. at 3. The next day, Union Pacific sent a letter to Smith stating that he was being returned to "dismissed" status, that is, he was fired. Id. Neither Union Pacific nor the EAP Manager provided Smith with the details of the violation. Id. at 4-5. Smith and his union (and now co-plaintiff), the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, filed a claim with the National Railroad Adjustment Board.

R. 1, Exh. E. After considering written and oral arguments, the Board upheld the dismissal. R. 1, Exh. A at 6.

In May 2010, Smith filed this suit, seeking to overturn the Board's ruling. Plaintiff alleges that the Board violated the Railway Labor Act and his right to due process. Union Pacific filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) and for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1).

II.

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a complaint generally need only include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). This short and plain statement must "give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The Seventh Circuit has explained that the rule "reflects a liberal notice pleading regime, which is intended to 'focus litigation on the merits of a claim' rather than on technicalities that might keep plaintiffs out of court." Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002)).

"A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009). "[W]hen ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); McGowan v. Hulick, 612 F.3d 636 (7th Cir. 2010) (courts accept factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.