United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville
CHARLES R. SIMPSON III, SENIOR JUDGE
case is before the Court on the motion for summary judgment
of Defendants Local 155 of the United Steel, Paper and
Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial
and Service Workers International Union, AFL-CIO-CLC
(“Local 155”) and Rick Rigney, the current
president and business agent of Local 155. DN 46. Plaintiff
Michael Monroe responded. DN 50. Defendants replied. DN 55.
Therefore, this matter is ripe for review. Finding that
Monroe was required to exhaust contractually agreed upon
remedies—including arbitration-prior to filing suit,
the Court will grant the motion for summary judgment.
moving for summary judgment must show that “there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a). “[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual
dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise
properly supported motion for summary judgment; the
requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material
fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). A genuine issue for trial exists
when “there is sufficient evidence favoring the
nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that
party.” Ibid. In undertaking this analysis,
the Court must view the evidence in a light most favorable to
the non-moving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372,
party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of
establishing the nonexistence of any issue of material fact.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
They can meet this burden by “citing to particular
parts of materials in the record” or “showing
that the materials cited do not establish the . . . presence
of a genuine dispute.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). This
burden can also be met by demonstrating that the nonmoving
party “fail[ed] to make a showing sufficient to
establish the existence of an element essential to that
party's case, and on which that party will bear the
burden of proof at trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S.
began working as an operator at Reynolds Consumer Products,
LLC in Louisville in April 2002. DN 49-1 at 2. He was
elevated to the position of shafter and then, in January
2006, to lead shafter. Ibid. In those positions, his
job duties included transporting metal with forklifts.
Ibid. In March 2006, while playing softball at a
non-work event, Monroe was injured and lost sight in his left
eye. Id. at 3. Monroe returned to work six months
after the accident and continued working at Reynolds as lead
shafter. Ibid. He remained in that position until
his removal (at issue in this case) in August 2014 and
ultimately remained at Reynolds until June 2017. Id.
at Reynolds are covered by Local 155, a local union chartered
by the United Steelworkers international trade union. Local
155 covers approximately 420 employees at Reynolds and
approximately thirty employees at each of two other plants in
Louisville. DN 49-2 at 7. Rigney has been the president and
business agent for Local 155 since 2012. Id. at 6.
Before that, he worked at Reynolds but has been on a leave of
absence as he fulfills his duties as president of Local 155.
Id. at 5.
and Local 155 have a collective bargaining agreement (CBA),
which includes a mandatory grievance procedure. The grievance
procedure is initiated by the filing of a grievance within
ten working days of a grievable incident. DN 50-14 at 2.
Next, a three-step process requires meetings in an attempt to
reach a settlement. Id. at 2-3. Step 3 meetings are
held more rarely because they require individuals from
Reynolds who do not work at the plant to travel here,
including Reynolds's Human Resources Manager from
Richmond, Virginia. DN 49-5 at 34. As a result, scheduling
those meetings can take up to seven months or a year.
Ibid. In a good year, there are four or less Step 3
meetings held. DN 49-3 at 25. Ultimately, if the grievance is
not resolved satisfactorily, it is referred for arbitration.
DN 50-14 at 4.
25, 2014, Monroe hit a wall with his forklift. DN 49-1 at 8.
He was given a written warning and a one-day administrative
detention but permitted to return to work as lead shafter. DN
50-3; DN 49-1 at 8. However, two weeks later, Monroe was
removed from his position for Reynolds to investigate whether
his monocular vision affected his ability to perform the job.
DN 49-1 at 8. On August 21, 2014, Monroe was sent to
Reynolds's optometrist, Dr. Hayley Woodruff, who
concluded that Monroe lacked normal depth perception and
could not safely operate mobile equipment. Ibid.; DN
50-15; DN 50-16. On August 27, 2014, Monroe was informed he
would not be permitted to return to his job using mobile
equipment. DN 50-4.
September 12, 2014, Monroe, with assistance from officers of
Local 155, filed a grievance related to the removal from his
job. DN 50-19. This was not Monroe's first encounter with
the grievance process. However, Monroe alleges that this time he
had difficulty reaching his union representatives, even
reaching out to the Human Resources department at Reynolds,
who forwarded the message to Rigney. DN 50-10; DN 49-2 at 45.
While technically untimely filed (more than 10 days after his
removal), Reynolds did not reject the grievance and it was
prepare for the grievance process, Monroe sought out Dr.
Joern Soltau, an ophthalmologist, for a second opinion. Dr.
Soltau opined in a letter dated September 23, 2014, that
Monroe had sufficient vision to continue operating mobile
equipment. DN 50-21. That letter was not provided to the
union representatives in time for the Step 1 grievance
meeting on October 10, 2014. DN 49-1 at 12; DN 49-2 at 23.
With no new evidence, Reynolds declined to change its
position. DN 50-20. At some point afterward, Dr. Soltau's
letter was provided to the union representatives, who
provided it to Reynolds on October 30, 2014. DN 50-5 at 3. On
November 18, 2014, Rigney waived the Step 2 hearing, saying
they had no new facts to present. DN 50-22. Reynolds
considered Dr. Soltau's opinion but determined that it
was “not as detailed as the analysis given by Dr.
Woodruff and denied the grievance at Step 2. DN 50-5 at 3.
Step 3 meeting was scheduled for April 15, 2015. However,
Reynolds requested that the Step 3 meeting be held in
abeyance pending the resolution of a charge of discrimination
filed by Monroe with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC). DN 49-2 at 27. This was the first the
union representatives had heard of the EEOC charge, despite
the fact that it had been filed on September 23,
2014—the same day of Dr. Soltau's opinion letter.
DN 50-28. According to the union representatives, holding a
grievance in abeyance while there are ongoing administrative
proceedings is commonplace. DN 49-2 at 27; DN 49-3 at 53.