DUNN v. DUBUQUE GLASS CO., INC. No. 11-CV-1001-LRR.
870 F.Supp.2d 654 (2012)
Charles D. DUNN and Peter M. Hurm, Plaintiffs, v. DUBUQUE GLASS COMPANY, INC. and International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 81, Glaziers Local Union No. 581, Defendants.
United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Eastern Division.
May 1, 2012.
Erik Steven Fisk, Whitfield & Eddy, PLC, Des Moines, IA, for Plaintiffs.
Joseph W. Younker, Nancy A. Wood, Bradley & Riley, PC, Iowa City, IA, Mark T. Hedberg, Hedberg & Boulton, Des Moines, IA, for Defendants.
LINDA R. READE, Chief Judge.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. INTRODUCTION.........................................................659 II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY...................................................659 III. SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION..........................................660 IV. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD............................................660 V. RELEVANT FACTUAL BACKGROUND..........................................660 A. Parties...........................................................660 B. Collective Bargaining Agreement...................................660 C. Wage Concerns.....................................................661 VI. ANALYSIS.............................................................662 A. FLSA and LMRA Distinction.........................................662 B. Union Motion......................................................664 1. Statute of limitations.........................................664 a. Sector wages................................................664 b. Overtime wages..............................................665 2. Merits.........................................................665 C. Dubuque Glass Motion..............................................666 1. Count I........................................................667
a. Sector wages................................................667 b. Overtime wages..............................................667 2. Count II.......................................................668 a. Sector wages................................................668 b. Overtime wages..............................................669 3. Count IV.......................................................670 4. Dubuque Glass Counterclaim.....................................670 VII. CONCLUSION...........................................................671
The matters before the court are Defendant International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 81 and Glaziers Local Union No. 581's ("Union") "Motion for Summary Judgment" ("Union Motion") (docket no. 19) and Defendant Dubuque Glass Company, Inc.'s ("Dubuque Glass") "Motion for Summary Judgment" ("Dubuque Glass Motion") (docket no. 20).
II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On December 21, 2010, Plaintiffs Charles D. Dunn and Peter M. Hurm (collectively, "Plaintiffs") filed a Petition at Law ("Complaint") (docket no. 3) in the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County ("Iowa District Court"), No. LACV056913, against Dubuque Glass and the Union. Count I
On January 19, 2011, Dubuque Glass filed an Answer (docket no. 2-1) in the Iowa District Court, denying Plaintiffs' allegations and asserting affirmative defenses. On January 20, 2011, the Union filed an Answer (docket no. 2-1) in the Iowa District Court, denying Plaintiffs' allegations and asserting affirmative defenses. On January 25, 2011, Dubuque Glass and the Union removed the action to this court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. On August 16, 2011, Dubuque Glass filed an Amended Answer (docket no. 13), asserting additional affirmative defenses and a Counterclaim for unjust enrichment. On October 10, 2011, Plaintiffs filed an Answer (docket no. 14) to Dubuque Glass's Counterclaim.
On February 17, 2012, the Union filed the Union Motion. On February 20, 2012, Dubuque Glass filed the Dubuque Glass Motion. On March 12, 2012, Dubuque Glass filed a Response (docket no. 21) to the Union Motion. On the same date, Plaintiffs filed a Resistance (docket no. 22) to the Union Motion. On March 15, 2012, Plaintiffs filed a Resistance (docket no. 23) to the Dubuque Glass Motion. On March
III. SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION
The court has federal question subject matter jurisdiction over Count I because it arises under the FLSA and Count III because it arises under the LMRA. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States."). The court has supplemental jurisdiction over Counts II and IV because "the federal-law claims and state-law claims in the case derive from a common nucleus of operative fact and are such that [a plaintiff] would ordinarily be expected to try them all in one judicial proceeding." Kan. Pub. Emps. Ret. Sys. v. Reimer & Koger Assocs., Inc.,
IV. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows 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). "A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that it could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party; a fact is material if its resolution affects the outcome of the case." Amini v. City of Minneapolis,
V. RELEVANT FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs and affording them all reasonable inferences, the uncontested material facts are as follows.
Dunn is a citizen of Iowa. He was employed as a journeyman glazier by Dubuque Glass from August 27, 2007, through April 6, 2010, and was a member of the Union. Hurm is a citizen of Iowa. He was employed as a journeyman glazier by Dubuque Glass from August of 2009 through April 13, 2010, and was a member of the Union.
Dubuque Glass is an Iowa corporation with its principal place of business in Dubuque County, Iowa. Union is a local affiliate of a labor organization pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 185(a).
B. Collective Bargaining Agreement
The terms and conditions of Plaintiffs' employment were governed by a collective bargaining agreement ("Agreement") between
Agreement, Union App'x at 82.
C. Wage Concerns
During his employment with Dubuque Glass, Dunn performed work in different geographic sectors, including Wisconsin and Cedar Falls, Iowa. Dunn received paychecks that he believed did not reflect the applicable hourly wage rate for these geographic sectors, and he complained to Ben Steuer, a Dubuque Glass representative. Steuer stated that he would discuss Dunn's concerns with Tim Greenfield, another Dubuque Glass representative. Dunn also called his Union business agent, Larry Grafton, and stated that he thought he was being paid incorrect sector wages. Grafton responded that he would "look into it." Dunn Deposition, Union App'x at 34. Dunn did not hear anything more regarding his sector wage complaint, and he did not pursue the issue further.
Subsequently, in November of 2009, Dunn received a check that he believed did not include earned overtime wages. Dunn discussed his overtime pay concerns with Grafton, and Grafton stated that he would "look into it." Id. at 24. After receiving another check that he believed did not reflect his earned overtime wages, Dunn spoke with Grafton again. Grafton told Dunn, "I'm still looking into it. We'll look
Between 2009 and 2010, Hurm received paychecks that he believed did not reflect all of the overtime he worked. Hurm tried to call Grafton four or five times about his overtime pay concerns, but he was unable to reach Grafton and never left a message. Around the end of 2009, Hurm also believed that he had not been paid the applicable geographic sector wages for jobs he performed in other sectors, including Wisconsin. Hurm contacted Grafton to ask what the hourly rate was for a certain sector, but he did not contact Grafton regarding his sector wage payment concerns. Hurm did not think he needed to contact Grafton because Dunn was contacting Grafton about these concerns. Hurm thought Dunn had filed a grievance and stated that he would have filed a grievance had he known that Dunn did not file one. Hurm never asked the Union to file a grievance on his behalf while he was employed at Dubuque Glass, and the Union did not file a grievance on his behalf. Additionally, Hurm never filed a grievance regarding either his sector pay or overtime pay while he was employed at Dubuque Glass.
The employees' paychecks showed the hourly rate and amount earned, and employees were aware of different sector rates and overtime rates. Therefore, employees would be aware of any underpayment with each paycheck.
After he was laid off in April of 2010, Dunn called Dubuque Glass to obtain a copy of his employment record. Dubuque Glass told Dunn it could not provide him with the information. In May of 2010, Plaintiffs contacted Grafton to discuss the request for records that Dubuque Glass denied. Dunn subsequently asked Grafton if he needed to hire a lawyer, and Grafton told Dunn that it would be in his best interest to do so. On July 7, 2010, attorney Jason Lehman contacted Grafton on Dunn's behalf and requested wage and benefit breakdowns for different geographic sectors. Grafton provided Lehman with the requested information.
On September 2, 2010, Plaintiffs' attorney, Erik Fisk, called Grafton to discuss whether the Union would aid Plaintiffs in their claims against Dubuque Glass. On September 3, 2010, Grafton told Fisk that the Union could not assist Plaintiffs because their grievance was not timely. On the same date, Fisk sent Grafton a letter asking him to reconsider his decision not to assist Plaintiffs with their claims. Fisk also sent Greenfield a letter on the same date stating Plaintiffs' claims for overtime and sector pay and requesting personnel records pursuant to Iowa Code section 92B.1. Dubuque Glass did not provide Plaintiffs with their employment records until discovery in the instant action.
A. FLSA and LMRA Distinction
As an initial matter, Plaintiffs claim in Count I that Dubuque Glass's failure to pay the appropriate sector rate was a violation of the FLSA. While a claim for unpaid overtime is an appropriate cause of action under 29 U.S.C. § 207, a
Plaintiffs' sector wage claims are based upon provisions of the Agreement, however, and can be brought under LMRA § 301, 29 U.S.C. § 185, for breach of the Agreement's hourly wage terms. The LMRA provides a federal cause of action for "violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce." 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). Plaintiffs already claim that the Union breached its duty of fair representation under the LMRA. Based on the nature of Plaintiffs' sector wage claims, the court finds it appropriate to characterize Plaintiffs' sector wage claims as § 301 claims for breach of the Agreement. See Vadino v. A. Valey Eng'rs,
B. Union Motion
In the Union Motion, the Union argues that it did not breach its duty of fair representation and that any claim for a breach of that duty is barred by the statute of limitations for a hybrid action against an employer and a union.
In their Resistance to the Union Motion, Plaintiffs argue that they proved sufficient facts to demonstrate that they exhausted the Union grievance procedure to the best of their abilities. Plaintiffs further argue that further action under the grievance procedure would have been futile and that their failure to exhaust is excused. Plaintiffs did not respond to the Union's statute of limitations argument.
1. Statute of limitations
The statute of limitations for bringing a hybrid claim against an employer for a violation of LMRA § 301 and against a union for breach of the duty of fair representation is six months. See DelCostello v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters,
a. Sector wages
As discussed above, Plaintiffs' sector wages claims are properly characterized as LMRA § 301 claims for breach of the Agreement.
Dunn first complained about the wage amounts in his paychecks in November of 2009. Dunn further admitted that, by the end of 2009, he was aware that Grafton would no longer help him with a grievance against Dubuque Glass. Cf. Alcorn, 878 F.2d at 1108 (finding that the plaintiffs' "knowledge of the [union's] refusal to pursue their complaints ... constitutes knowledge of the alleged violation of the duty to initiate a grievance/arbitration procedure, and that knowledge triggered the beginning of the limitations period"). Dunn's employment with Dubuque Glass ended on April 6, 2010. Hurm first became aware of problems with his paycheck in late 2009. Hurm's employment with Dubuque Glass ended on April 13, 2010. At that point, approximately three months had passed since Hurm had any contact with the Union.
Plaintiffs filed the Complaint on December 21, 2010. Therefore, Plaintiffs' cause of action must have accrued after June 21, 2010, to come within the statute of limitations. Both Dunn and Hurm knew of the acts constituting the alleged violation by late 2009 because their paychecks showed whether they received the correct wages. Furthermore, Dunn knew that the Union would no longer pursue the grievance by the end of 2009, and Hurm knew or should have known by the time he left his employment with Dubuque Glass that the Union was no longer pursuing his complaint. Thus, both parties knew or should have known that the Union was no longer pursuing the grievance well before June 21, 2010. Therefore, the court finds that Plaintiffs' claims against the Union for breach of the duty of fair representation regarding sector wages are time-barred by the six-month statute of limitations.
b. Overtime wages
As discussed below, because Plaintiffs' overtime wages claims are based on statutory rights independent from the rights outlined in the Agreement, Plaintiffs' claims against the Union regarding overtime wages are not subject to the six-month statute of limitations. Instead, the court will apply the two-year FLSA statute of limitations to Plaintiffs' overtime wages claims. Plaintiffs filed the Complaint on December 21, 2010. At the earliest, Plaintiffs' claims accrued in late 2009. Accordingly, Plaintiffs' claims against the Union for breach of the duty of fair representation regarding overtime wages are timely.
Despite the timeliness of Plaintiffs' claims against the Union regarding overtime wages, none of Plaintiffs' claims against the Union for breach of the duty of fair representation succeed on the merits.
"A union has exclusive bargaining rights under a [collective bargaining agreement], and federal law places a duty on it to represent fairly all the workers covered by such an agreement." Gaston v. Teamsters Local 600, Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen & Helpers of Am.,
The undisputed facts show that the Union business agent, Grafton, told Dunn he would look into Dunn's concerns regarding his overtime and sector wages pay. Hurm did not speak to Grafton regarding his concerns and did not leave any messages for Grafton. Neither Dunn nor Hurm asked Grafton to file a grievance regarding their wage concerns. When Plaintiffs' attorney sent Grafton a letter on September 3, 2010, requesting that the Union assist Plaintiffs with their claims against Dubuque Glass, Grafton stated that the Union could not assist because the Agreement requires a grievance to be filed within ten days of the oral discussion regarding the problem.
There is no evidence that Grafton engaged in fraud, deceitful action or dishonest conduct. See id. Additionally, the record does not show that Grafton's actions were so unreasonable as to be irrational. See id. The evidence shows that Plaintiffs did not ask Grafton to pursue a grievance on their behalf until well after the time period for filing a grievance under the Agreement had passed and that Grafton declined to pursue the written grievance because it was untimely. Cf. Vaca v. Sipes,
C. Dubuque Glass Motion
In the Dubuque Glass Motion, Dubuque Glass argues that the court should grant it summary judgment because: (1) Plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative or contractual remedies; (2) Plaintiffs' state law claims are preempted by federal law; (3) even if state law applies, Plaintiffs cannot prove any violation or harm; and (4) Plaintiffs cannot show any violation of the FLSA or the LMRA. Dubuque Glass also asks the court to grant it all amounts requested under its Counterclaim against Plaintiffs.
1. Count I
In Count 1, Plaintiffs claim that Dubuque Glass failed to pay appropriate sector wages and overtime wages in violation of the FLSA. Dubuque Glass argues that the grievance procedure in the Agreement governed Plaintiffs' claims, and a grievance by Plaintiffs under the Agreement is now untimely.
a. Sector wages
As discussed above, the court treats Plaintiffs' sector wages claims as LMRA claims for breach of the Agreement. Thus, Plaintiffs' LMRA claims against Dubuque Glass are barred by the six-month statute of limitations for hybrid LMRA § 301/duty of fair representation claims. See DelCostello, 462 U.S. at 155, 103 S.Ct. 2281 (holding that the six-month statute of limitations applies to the hybrid claims against the union and the employer). Thus, the court shall grant the Dubuque Glass Motion to the extent that it seeks dismissal of Plaintiffs' federal unpaid sector wages claims. The court shall dismiss Count I to the extent it addresses Plaintiffs' sector wages claims.
b. Overtime wages
Plaintiffs' claims for overtime wages are properly brought under the FLSA. The FLSA states that "no employer shall employ any of his employees ... for a workweek longer than forty hours unless such employee receives compensation for his employment in excess of the hours above specified at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed." 29 U.S.C. § 207. "While courts should defer to an arbitral decision where the employee's claim is based on rights arising out of the collective-bargaining agreement, different considerations apply where the employee's claim is based on rights arising out of a statute designed to provide minimum substantive guarantees to individual workers." Barrentine, 450 U.S. at 737, 101 S.Ct. 1437. "FLSA rights cannot be abridged by contract or otherwise waived because this would `nullify the purposes' of the statute and thwart the legislative policies it was designed to effectuate." Id. at 740, 101 S.Ct. 1437 (quoting Brooklyn Sav. Bank v. O'Neil,
Plaintiffs have a statutory right to overtime wages under the FLSA independent of their rights under the Agreement. Plaintiffs and Dubuque Glass genuinely dispute whether Plaintiffs received proper overtime payments for work performed in addition to their regular forty-hour work week. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, Plaintiffs have established that there is a genuine issue of material fact regarding their overtime pay. Specifically, Plaintiffs aver that Dubuque Glass did not pay overtime wages for hours worked in excess of forty hours during certain weeks and rely on Dubuque Glass time sheets to demonstrate their overtime hours worked. See Dunn and Hurm's Combined Response to Dubuque
2. Count II
In Count II, Plaintiffs claim that Dubuque Glass violated the IWPCL by failing to pay overtime and sector wages. Dubuque Glass argues that Plaintiffs' state law claims are preempted by federal law and Plaintiffs cannot prove any violation or harm. Plaintiffs argue that their claims under the IWPCL are not preempted because their claims are based on rights independent of those in the Agreement and do not require interpretation of the Agreement. Plaintiffs also argue that, if their IWPCL claims are preempted, any grievance would have been futile or the failure to comply with the grievance procedure would have been excused.
a. Sector wages
The IWPCL states that "[a]n employer shall pay all wages due its employees." Iowa Code section 91A.3. Section 301 of the LMRA "expresses a congressional policy that federal labor law should govern § 301 disputes." Vacca v. Viacom Broad. of Mo., Inc.,
Plaintiffs cite Dyke v. Hormel Foods Corp., No. 3:11-cv-03029-JAJ, 2012 WL 113738 (N.D.Iowa Jan. 13, 2012), in support of their argument that the Plaintiffs' rights under the IWPCL are independent of the Agreement, and that their sector wages claims are not preempted by federal law because the court need only consult the Agreement to determine damages. In Dyke, the plaintiffs alleged that their employer had not paid them for all the hours they had worked. Id. at *5. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa concluded that the IWPCL claims for unpaid wages were
Dubuque Glass argues that the Agreement creates Plaintiffs' right to sector wages and, therefore, Plaintiffs' IWPCL claims fall under the first prong of the preemption test. Dubuque Glass further argues that Plaintiffs' IWPCL claims require interpretation of the sector wages provisions of the Agreement, and, therefore, the second prong of the preemption test is also satisfied.
The court agrees with Dubuque Glass's arguments. The instant action regarding sector wages differs from Dyke because the plaintiffs in Dyke claimed that their employer failed to pay them for all the hours they worked. Id. at *5. In their claim regarding sector pay, however, Plaintiffs do not argue that Dubuque Glass failed to pay them for all the hours they worked. Rather, they argue that Dubuque Glass did not pay them the proper geographic sector amounts pursuant to the Agreement. Plaintiffs' right to a particular hourly sector wage is set forth in the Agreement. See Williams, 582 F.3d at 874 (a state law claim is preempted if the collective bargaining agreement "actually sets forth the right upon which the claim is based"). Thus, Plaintiffs' IWPCL sector wages claims fulfill the first prong of the preemption test.
Additionally, Plaintiffs' IWPCL claims regarding sector wages would require the court to interpret the sector wages provisions of the Agreement to determine whether Plaintiffs were entitled to particular hourly sector wages. Cf. Martin v. Lake Cnty. Sewer Co., Inc.,
Because Plaintiffs' IWPCL claims regarding sector wages satisfy both prongs of the preemption test, these claims are preempted by the LMRA. Accordingly, the court shall grant the Dubuque Glass Motion to the extent that it requests dismissal of Plaintiffs' IWPCL claims regarding sector wages. The court shall dismiss Count II to the extent that it addresses Plaintiffs' sector wages claims.
b. Overtime wages
As discussed above, Plaintiffs' FLSA rights regarding overtime wages are independent from the rights created by the Agreement. Additionally, Plaintiffs' IWPCL claims regarding overtime wages do not require interpretation of any provisions of the Agreement. As in Dyke, the provisions in the Agreement are only relevant to the issue of damages. See Dyke, 2012 WL 113738, at *5. Reference to the Agreement for this limited purpose does not support preemption. See id. Therefore, LMRA § 301 preemption does not apply to Plaintiffs' overtime wages claims.
As discussed above, Plaintiffs have demonstrated a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether they received overtime wages for the overtime hours that they worked. Thus, the court shall deny the Dubuque Glass Motion to the extent that it requests dismissal of Plaintiffs' IWPCL
3. Count IV
Plaintiffs argue that Dubuque Glass violated Iowa Code sections 91A.6 and 91B.1 by failing to comply with Plaintiffs' requests for their personnel files. Plaintiffs argue that the duty to provide personnel records extends beyond an employee's termination date. Defendants rely on the definition of the term "employee" under the Iowa Code and argue that Plaintiffs were no longer employees under the Iowa Code definition when they requested their employment records, and, therefore, Dubuque Glass did not have a duty to provide the records under Iowa law.
Iowa Code section 91B.1 states that "[a]n employee, as defined in section 91A.2, shall have access to and shall be permitted to obtain a copy of the employee's personnel file ... including but not limited to performance evaluations, disciplinary records, and other information concerning employer-employee relations." Iowa Code § 91B.1(1). Section 91A.2 defines an employee as "a natural person who is employed in this state for wages by an employer." Id. § 91A.2(3). Iowa Code section 91A.6 provides:
Id. § 91A.6(3).
In support of their argument, Plaintiffs point to Iowa Code section 91A.14, which states: "The rights and obligations outlined in this chapter continue until they are fulfilled, even though the employer-employee relationship has been severed." Id. § 91A.14. Plaintiffs maintain that, because section 91B.1 adopts the definition of "employee" from section 91A.2, section 91A.14 applies by reference to section 91B.1.
In Muller v. Hotsy Corp.,
The court agrees with the reasoning in Muller. Because Plaintiffs were not employees under the statute at the time they requested records under section 91B.1, the statute's provisions did not apply to them. See id. Therefore, Dubuque Glass did not have a duty to provide records to Plaintiffs. Because Plaintiffs were not employees within the meaning of the statute, relief under section 91A.6 is also not warranted. Furthermore, Dubuque Glass provided the employment files to Plaintiffs through discovery, and there is no evidence that Dubuque Glass's initial refusal to produce the records damaged Plaintiffs. Therefore, the issue is moot. See id. Thus, the court shall grant the Dubuque Glass Motion to the extent that it requests dismissal of Count IV.
4. Dubuque Glass Counterclaim
In the Dubuque Glass Motion, Dubuque Glass asks the court to grant all relief that
For the foregoing reasons,
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