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United Steel, Paper, and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union, Afl-Cio-Clc v. Jackson Hospital Corporation

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

June 11, 2014

UNITED STEEL, PAPER, AND FORESTRY, RUBBER, MANUFACTURING, ENERGY, ALLIED INDUSTRIAL AND SERVICE WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION, AFL-CIO-CLC, Plaintiff,
v.
JACKSON HOSPITAL CORPORATION, d/b/a KENTUCKY RIVER MEDICAL CENTER, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DANNY C. REEVES, District Judge.

This matter is pending for consideration of Defendant Jackson Hospital Corporation's ("Jackson Hospital") motion to dismiss. [Record No. 20] Jackson Hospital argues that this action seeking to compel arbitration filed by Plaintiff United Steel, Paper, and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union, AFL-CIO-CLC, (hereafter "the Union") should be dismissed because the parties settled the dispute in a prior agreement. Alternatively, it argues that the Complaint should be dismissed because the Union failed to exhaust its remedies under the collective bargaining agreement. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be denied.

I.

This action arises under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185. The Union alleges that Jackson Hospital breached the parties' collective bargaining agreement by refusing to process the Union's grievance relating to seniority. [Record No. 1-2 (Grievance Record)] It seeks to compel arbitration of the grievance regarding seniority under the collective bargaining agreement. [Record No. 1]

The collective bargaining agreement contains a broad and detailed grievance procedure, as well as an arbitration procedure. [Record No. 1, pp. 3, 4; Record No. 21, p. 1] Under the agreement, an arbitrable grievance is defined as "a claim of an employee covered by the Agreement, the Union, or the Hospital, during the term of the Agreement, which involves the interpretation of, administration of, or compliance with a specific written provision of this Agreement." [Record No. 1-1, p. 9 (Article 7 - Grievance Procedure)] Grievances must be filed by completing a specified form, and any grievance involving ten or more employees - like the grievance here - involving precisely the same issues and circumstances must commence at the second step of the grievance procedure. [ Id., p. 11]

The grievance procedure has a maximum of three steps, not including arbitration. Upon receipt of a step-two grievance, the department head is directed to: "(i) confer with the Union, the supervisor and any other members of management considered appropriate, (ii) investigate the issues, and (iii) provide a proposed written resolution to the Union within five calendar days of the department head's receipt of the appeal or the grievance." [ Id., p. 12] If the Union is not satisfied with the resolution at step two, the Union may appeal to step three, where Jackson Hospital's CEO is directed to undertake the same three obligations of conferring, investigating, and providing a proposed resolution. [ Id. ] "If no mutually satisfactory conclusion is reached at the conclusion of Step 3 of the Grievance Procedure, the Union shall give notice of its desire to arbitrate" to the American Arbitration Association and to the Employer. [ Id., p. 13 (Article 8 - Arbitration)]

On March 18, 2013, the Union filed grievance number XXXXX-XX-XX-XX, alleging that Jackson Hospital had violated the collective bargaining agreement by unilaterally changing covered employees' seniority dates in violation of Article 10 of the agreement. [Record No. 1, p. 4 ¶11] Jackson Hospital responded that the grievance would not be considered because it did not meet all of requirements of a properly-filed grievance under the agreement. [ Id., ¶12] Thereafter, the Union filed this action to compel Jackson Hospital to arbitrate the grievance, which Jackson Hospital has moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

II.

When evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must determine whether the complaint alleges "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The plausibility standard is met "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Although the complaint need not contain "detailed factual allegations" to survive a motion to dismiss, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotation marks and alteration omitted).

In considering a 12(b)(6) motion, the Court is required to "accept all of plaintiff's factual allegations as true and determine whether any set of facts consistent with the allegations would entitle the plaintiff to relief." G.M. Eng'rs & Assoc., Inc. v. West Bloomfield Twp., 922 F.2d 328, 330 (6th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). Rule 12(b)(6) essentially "allows the Court to dismiss, on the basis of a dispositive issue of law, meritless cases which would otherwise waste judicial resources and result in unnecessary discovery." Glassman, Edwards, Wade & Wyatt, P.C. v. Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz, LLP, 601 F.Supp.2d 991, 997 (W.D. Tenn. Mar. 10, 2009).

III.

A. Settlement

Jackson Hospital first argues that this matter should be dismissed because the parties previously settled the dispute and the Union agreed to withdraw its claims in a separate agreement. [Record No. 21, p. 6] But this under-developed argument is not supported by ...


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