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Stevens v. Csx Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland

September 28, 2018

LARRY BRANDON STEVENS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., DEFENDANT.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          HENRY R. WLLHOIT JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court upon the parties' cross motions for summary judgment. [Docket No. 16 and 17]. The issues have been fully briefed by the parties. [Docket Nos. 16-1, 17-1, 20, 20-1 and 21]. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court finds that the Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         I.

         This case arises from the termination of Larry Brandon Stevens' employment at CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSXT") and the subsequent arbitration proceeding. Stevens seeks to overturn the arbitration award which affirmed his termination.

         A.

         Stevens was hired by CSXT in 2006. He began as a Conductor and rose through the ranks to become Yardmaster, then, Train Dispatcher, and, eventually, Manager of Community Affairs and Safety. [Docket No. 14, Stipulated Arbitration Record, 209].

         Throughout his employment at CSX, Stevens was a member of the American Train Dispatchers Association ("ATDA") union. During the relevant time, CSXT and ATDA were party to a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") which governs the rates of pay, rules, and working conditions of the employees ATDA represents. SAR181-340.

         On June 24, 2014, the Kentucky State Police received a report that Stevens had engaged in illegal sexual communications with a 17-year-old girl. SAR024, SAR053-55.

         On August 20, 2014, Stevens was charged with one count of prohibited use of an electronic communication system to procure a minor, a sex offense, two counts of the use of a minor under 18 in a sexual performance and five counts of possession of matter portraying sexual performance by a minor. SAR 024-26, SAR053-55.

         The same day, CSXT terminated Stevens from his management position. However, at that time, Stevens had seniority rights as a Train Dispatcher. Therefore, he continued his employment with CSXT in that role. SAR 178.

         Pursuant to the CBA, on August 29, 2014, CSX charged Stevens with violation of CSXT Operating Rule 104.4 which prohibits "[c]riminal conduct that may damage CSX's reputation or that endangers CSXT property, employees, customers or the public." SAR 052. Stevens was held out of service pending the investigation. Id.

         B.

         The CBA required CSXT to hold an on-property investigative hearing within ten days of issuing its charges. SAR220. Pursuant to the CBA, in the event an employee is charged with an offense by CSX he or she shall not be disciplined without cause and only after a fair and impartial investigation. SAR 220, Article 12(a). In the event an employee is charged for any offense, CSX retains the exclusive right to hold the employee out of service pending an investigation. SAR 220, Article 12(c). Furthermore, in the event the employee is subject to a state court action, CSX retains the exclusive right to delay the charge and investigation until the state court has entered a final determination. Id. Upon the completion of a fair and impartial investigation of a rule violation an employee is entitled to a written decision regarding the administered discipline. SAR 220, Article 12(e). Should the employee not agree with the investigation decision he or she may appeal the decision to CSX's highest designated officer.2 SAR 221, Article 12(g). Following a decision by the highest designated officer, either party may appeal the decision to the National Railroad Adjustment Board ("NRAB"). SAR 223, Article 12(c). Further review is authorized under the Railway Labor Act. Id. If any final determination exonerates the employee he or she shall be restored to clear employment record, reinstated with all rights unimpaired, and compensated for all time lost less earning made in other employment while out of service. SAR 221, Article 12(1).

         However, if an employee is "subject to trial in the courts," the CBA gives CSXT the authority to delay the investigative hearing until after the employee's trial. SAR220. At the request of Stevens' representative, CSXT agreed to delay the investigative hearing until after the criminal court resolved his case. SAR045.

         It is here that the parties' accounts diverge. Stevens states that CSX later elected to move forward with the investigation prior to a determination by the state court. SAR 045-048. Stevens contends that he agreed to proceed with the investigation due to financial hardship resulting from being held out of service. SAR 039. According to CSXT, however, it ...


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