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Smith v. Westlake Vinyls, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

November 14, 2019

KEMBLE SMITH, PLAINTIFF
v.
WESTLAKE VINYLS, INC., DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge United States District Court.

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Kemble Smith's Motion to Alter, Amend or Vacate Judgment. [DN 22]. Defendant Westlake Vinyls, Inc. responded. [DN 23]. Plaintiff did not reply and the deadline to do so has passed. This matter is ripe for adjudication. For the reasons stated herein, Plaintiff's Motion to Alter, Amend or Vacate Judgment, [DN 22], is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was employed as a chemical operator/bulk handler for Westlake Vinyls in Calvert City, Kentucky. [DN 1]. In October 2017, Plaintiff was terminated from his position and brought the instant lawsuit against Defendant claiming wrongful termination in violation of KRS §336.130, violation of a collective bargaining agreement, and punitive damages. Id. On July 24, 2019, the Court granted Defendant's Motion to Dismiss each claim. [DN 18]. Specifically, the Court found that Plaintiff's wrongful termination claim was preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”); Plaintiff failed to a state a claim for violation of the collective bargaining agreement; and Plaintiff's punitive damages claim could not survive as a standalone claim. Id. Subsequently, Plaintiff filed the Motion to Alter, Amend or Vacate Judgment currently before the Court. [DN 22].

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) allows the Court to alter or amend its prior judgment on timely motion. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). Generally speaking, a Rule 59(e) motion must be based on “(1) a clear error of law; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) an intervening change in controlling law; or (4) a need to prevent manifest injustice.” Schlaud v. Snyder, 785 F.3d 1119, 1124 (6th Cir. 2015) (quoting Intera Corp. v. Henderson, 428 F.3d 605, 620 (6th Cir. 2005)) (internal quotation marks omitted). “The purpose of Rule 59(e) is ‘to allow the [Court] to correct its own errors, '” Howard v. United States, 533 F.3d 472, 475 (6th Cir. 2008) (quoting York v. Tate, 858 F.2d 322, 326 (6th Cir. 1988)), not to rehash old arguments, see Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians v. Engler, 146 F.3d 367, 374 (6th Cir. 1998), or to present new ones, see Leisure Caviar, LLC v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv., 616 F.3d 612, 616 (6th Cir. 2010).

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff moves the Court to alter its Memorandum Opinion and Order dismissing Count I of the Complaint on the basis of a clear error of law and manifest injustice. [DN 22-1]. In Count I, Plaintiff alleged he was wrongfully terminated in violation of KRS § 336.130. [DN 1]. Specifically, the Complaint stated:

21. During Plaintiff's term of employment with Defendant, and in particular during the term of the CBA referenced herein, Defendant, by and through its employees, agents, and representatives, created a hostile, intimidating, and threatening work environment for Plaintiff and subjected Plaintiff to continuous and repeated threats of termination despite Plaintiff's 27-year work history with no reprimands, suspensions, or prior terminations.
22. That Defendant, by and through its employees, agents, and representatives, terminated Plaintiff's employment based on personal grievances stemming from the hostile and intimidating work environment created by Defendant's employees, agent, and representatives, and such actions of Defendant were wrongful, intentional, willful, deliberate, knowing, and malicious, and are contrary to the fundamental and well-defined public policy as evidenced in KRS § 336.130.

Id. at 6 (emphasis added).

         In its Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court interpreted Plaintiff's claim as wrongful termination for filing personal grievances in violation of KRS § 336.130. [DN 18 at 79]. It found that Plaintiff's claim was within the scope of KRS § 336.130 because the Kentucky statute parallels Sections 7 and 8 of the NLRA. Id. at 81. Under the NLRA, it is well-settled law that engaging in the grievance process constitutes concerted union activity that is safe-guarded by Section 7's and 8's respective protections and prohibitions. Id. at 82. However, because Plaintiff's wrongful termination claim fell within the protections of the NLRA, the Court determined it did not have jurisdiction over the claim. Id. at 85.

         In his Motion to Alter, Amend or Vacate Judgment, Plaintiff claims the Court misinterpreted the phrase “personal grievances” in his wrongful termination claim. [DN 22-1 at 92]. Plaintiff states: “Although not specifically delineated in the verified complaint, plaintiff's use of the phrase ‘personal grievances' referred specifically to the plaintiff's reasonable belief that certain of defendant's employees supervising plaintiff had personal animosity, resentment, criticisms, and/or ill-feelings toward him unrelated to his work performance, thus giving rise to the hostile, intimidating, and threatening work environment as alleged in the verified complaint.” Id. at 93. Contrary to the Court's Memorandum Opinion and Order, Plaintiff claims he never filed any personal grievances while employed by Defendant. Id. at 94. Thus, Plaintiff argues, “while this Court is correct that § 8 of the NLRA would apply and thus preempt plaintiff's complaint as to a violation of KRS § 336.130 if he had been terminated for filing grievances, such was not the case here.” Id. at 95. Plaintiff requests the Court alter its previous Order considering this clarification. Id. In response, Defendant argues the Court should not alter the Memorandum Opinion and Order given that “personal animosity” is not protected by KRS § 336.130. [DN 23 at 101]. Therefore, Defendant asserts that Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and Count I should not be reinstated. Id.

         Judging the Complaint in light of Plaintiff's clarification of the phrase “personal grievances, ” the Court finds that Plaintiff failed to a state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Plaintiff claims that Defendant wrongfully terminated his employment based on personal ...


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