United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
CHRISTOPHER A. SCHREINER, MICHAEL A. SCHREINER, and MARK CORTINO, Plaintiffs,
U.S. SMOKELESS TOBACCO CO., ALTRIA GROUP, INC., and LESLIE WARD, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
L. ELLIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. (“USST”) terminated
Plaintiffs Christopher A. Schreiner, Michael A. Schreiner,
and Mark Cortino from their jobs at USST's factory,
Plaintiffs filed this case against USST, Altria Group, Inc.
(“Altria”), and Leslie Ward. They bring claims
for breach of contract, defamation, and intentional
infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”).
Defendants USST and Ward (collectively,
“Defendants”) have moved to dismiss the complaint
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). Because all of Plaintiffs' claims
require interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement
between USST and Plaintiffs' union, § 301 of the
Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”) preempts
Plaintiffs' claims, warranting dismissal of the
produces and markets tobacco, cigarettes, and other related
products. It acquired USST, a smokeless tobacco manufacturer,
in January 2009. On October 27, 2016, Altria announced that
it would close two of its manufacturing facilities by 2018.
The closings included USST's factory in Franklin Park,
Illinois, which employed approximately 300 individuals.
Although Altria did not specify how many employees would lose
their jobs, it indicated that employees would be offered the
opportunity to relocate to other facilities. Following the
announcement of the Franklin Park factory closure, USST
installed additional security cameras in the factory.
all worked at USST's Franklin Park factory. The
Schreiners had worked there since May 24, 2013 as production
mechanics. Cortino worked there since January 7, 2015.
Plaintiffs worked the third shift, with the option to work
four hours early or stay four hours late. They are parties to
a collective bargaining agreement between SEIU Local #1 (the
“Union”) and USST (the
“CBA”). The CBA sets forth certain rights and
responsibilities of USST and its employees, provides USST
with management rights, and requires the parties to pursue a
specified process for any grievances that arise between them.
January 27, 2017, a production supervisor informed employees
at the Franklin Park factory that something had gone wrong
with the video jets. The following day, around 11:00 p.m.,
Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”)
representatives called Plaintiffs for individual questioning.
Ward, USST's manager of employee relations at the
Franklin Park factory, Ed M., the head of maintenance, and
Charles B., a union steward, also attended the questioning,
which focused on Plaintiffs' whereabouts on December 21,
2016. Plaintiffs learned that the investigation extended
beyond the video jets, but they did not receive additional
January 30, 2017 at approximately 6:30 a.m., Michelle Allen
called a plantwide meeting to discuss non-product related
material (“NPRM”) found in product produced at
the Franklin Park plant. Several days later, on February 2,
2017, Eddy, a supervisor, told Plaintiffs to sit in the
public cafeteria between 7:00 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. to await
further questioning. While Plaintiffs waited, other employees
gave Plaintiffs looks of disgust and teased them. One
employee referred to the table where Plaintiffs sat as the
“criminal table.” Doc. 1-2 ¶ 37. Eventually,
Plaintiffs moved to a smaller cafeteria to await questioning.
During individual questioning, Plaintiffs learned they each
were accused of criminal activity regarding the NPRM. That
same day, Allen held another plantwide meeting, announcing
that USST was placing previously promised severance payments
on hold until it resolved the NPRM issue. Allen also asked
employees to come forward with information about any
suspicious activity. Later that day, Ward and Dave Rogan
individually advised Plaintiffs they were among four people
of interest in the NPRM matter and that USST was suspending
them without pay until further notice. Plaintiffs also
received letters from USST, which Ward signed, to the same
then escorted Plaintiffs out of the building without letting
them gather their personal belongings.
February 13, Ward called Plaintiffs and told them to appear
for a meeting on February 14 at 11:00 a.m. to answer
questions. She indicated the questions would be voluntary and
that they could gather their belongings afterwards.
Plaintiffs then contacted their Union and requested the
presence of a union representative at the meeting, to which
the Union agreed. But the union representatives were not
allowed to attend the questioning, with USST taking the
position that the matter had become a criminal one. During
these meetings, Plaintiffs learned that USST drilled out the
locks from Plaintiffs' toolboxes and searched their
contents without having a union representative present. The
Schreiners also received subpoenas for fingerprints from
federal agents, complying on February 16.
February 28, at approximately 7:30 a.m., a SWAT team forced
entry into Cortino's house, zip-tying Mark and his four
children's hands behind their backs for approximately
forty-five minutes. Eventually, Mark and his family left the
house. The SWAT team searched the house for five hours. On
March 1, a representative of the FDA, Mike Bush, went to the
Schreiners' mother's house and advised her to talk
sense into her children because he would “hate for
‘something terrible to happen if this was not
resolved.'” Id. ¶ 77.
15, 2017, Plaintiffs received letters from USST indicating
that USST had terminated their employment effective
immediately. The letters also stated that Plaintiffs were
ineligible for severance benefits and back wages for the
period of their suspension. While suspended, Christopher
sought but did not receive a job at Peacock Foods Greencore
USA. USST told the hiring manager at Peacock Foods that
Christopher was a primary suspect in the NPRM situation.
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the
sufficiency of the complaint, not its merits. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6); Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510,
1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion
to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts
in the plaintiff's complaint and draws all reasonable
inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor.
AnchorBank, FSB v. Hofer, 649 F.3d 610, 614 (7th
Cir. 2011). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint
must not only provide the defendant with fair notice of a
claim's basis but must also be facially plausible.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct.
1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009); see also Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d
929 (2007). “A ...