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Jensen v. National Association of Letter Carriers, Afl-Cio

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 8, 2015

PAUL C. JENSEN
v.
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF LETTER CARRIERS, AFL-CIO, ET AL

ORDER AND REASONS

MICHAEL B. NORTH, Magistrate Judge.

This is an action under the Postal Reorganization Act ("PRA"), 39 U.S.C. §1208(b), the statutory analogue to Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185(a), which applies to private litigants only. Plaintiff in this case, Paul C. Jensen ("Jensen"), a former letter carrier, brings claims against: (1) Patrick Donahoe, Postmaster General, United States Postal Service ("USPS") for breach of the collective bargaining agreement ("CBA" or "National Agreement") between the USPS and co-Defendant, the National Association of Letter Carriers, AFL-CIO ("NALC" or "Union"); and (2) the NALC for breach of its duty of fair representation. (Rec. doc. 44-1). This type of action is known as a "hybrid Section 301" action." (Id. at pp. 12-14).

Before the Court are the following motions:

1. Motion for summary judgment filed by Jensen. (Rec. doc. 44). Both Defendants filed opposition memoranda. (Rec. docs. 54, 56). Jensen filed reply memoranda to each opposition. (Rec. docs. 63, 65);
2. motion for summary judgment filed by NALC. (Rec. doc. 42). Jensen opposed this motion. (Rec. doc. 57); and
3. motion to dismiss and/or for summary judgment filed by USPS. (Rec. doc. 43). Jensen opposed this motion as well. (Rec. doc. 58).

All told, the parties have expended almost 1, 000 pages in arguing and supporting their positions for and against summary disposition of this case. In addition to reviewing those many pages of pleadings and exhibits, the Court heard oral argument on the motions on April 8, 2015. (Rec. doc. 66). Based upon all of the foregoing, and for the following reasons, the Court finds that Jensen's lawsuit against both USPS and NALC is time-barred and should therefore be dismissed. Accordingly, USPS' motion for summary judgment is hereby GRANTED. Because the effect of this decision is that Jensen is foreclosed from pursuing any claims against either Defendant, both his motion for summary judgment and NALC's motion for summary judgment are DISMISSED as moot.[1]

I. BACKGROUND

The background facts as recited herein are taken primarily from Jensen's own motion for summary judgment. For present purposes, the Court accepts them as true.

Jensen was hired as a part-time letter carrier on September 12, 1987 by USPS. (Rec. doc. 44-1 at p. 3). He was based out of the Elmwood Station and his designation was Part-Time Flexible ("PTF"). (Id. ). After two years, Jensen became a full-time City Carrier. (Id. ). He worked as a full-time City Carrier from 7:30 am to 4:00 p.m., five days a week for the next 10 years. (Id. ). On April 5, 1999, Jensen injured his knee on the job and, as a result, had a compensable claim with the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Workers' Compensation ("OWCP"). (Id. ). After recovering from knee surgery, Jensen returned to work in a limited-duty status on November 18, 2000. (Id. ). He resumed his prior schedule but was designated as a Modified Carrier, rather than a City Carrier. (Id. ).

On January 13, 2001, Jensen's manager presented him with a Limited Duty Job Offer ("LDJO") for work at his regular Elmwood Branch location with his regular weekly schedule and regular work hours. (Id. ). The listed duties included "writing 2nd notices, returning UAA mail, answering the phone, endorsing carrier mark-ups, and distributing mail in the box section." (Id. ). Jensen "gladly accepted the offer." (Id. ). He claims to have adjusted to his new daily tasks, reaching maximum medical improvement shortly thereafter. (Id. ).

On February 1, 2001, Jensen's physician, Dr. Julio Bravo, informed the USPS that Jensen had reached maximum medical improvement and submitted Jensen's Form CA-17 (which described Jensen's medical restrictions at that time) to the USPS. (Id. ). Jensen continued to work in accordance with this LDJO for the next 11 months, until November 26, 2001, when Manager Alvin Every ("Every") and Supervisor Earl Pelitere, Jr. ("Pelitere") presented him with a new LDJO that was identical in all respects to the former one, but with different work hours. (Id. ). This LDJO listed daily work hours of 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., as opposed to Jensen's usual 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. schedule. (Id. ). Every apparently explained to Jensen that he was being assigned to different work hours because of new medical restrictions that the USPS had recently received from Jensen's physician. (Id. ). When Jensen later learned from Dr. Bravo that he had not adjusted Jensen's medical restrictions as suggested by Every, he submitted a FOIA request for a copy of the alleged new medical restrictions. (Id. at p. 4).

Jensen claims that the USPS' response to the FOIA request acknowledged that it did not have a copy of the "new medical restrictions" that supposedly had necessitated the schedule change. (Id. ). Jensen believed that the changes in his work hours violated the obligations outlined under Section 546.142 of the Employee and Labor Relations Manual ("ELM"). (Id. ). Accordingly, he completed a "PS Form 2564-a" claiming discrimination and sent it to the EEO Office in New Orleans. (Id. at p. 5). The EEO ultimately facilitated a settlement agreement between Jensen and management, in which the USPS acknowledged the fact that the 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. job offer did not comply with the ELM. (Id. ). The agreement stated that the parties mutually agreed that the 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. work schedule of the new LDJO would be changed "in accordance with Chapter 5 of the Employee and Labor Relations Manual" (Id. ). For the next six years, Jensen worked as a full-time Modified City Carrier at the Elmwood Station with those work hours. (Id. ).

Fast forward to the spring of 2010, when Jensen claims the USPS suddenly began to withhold his duties from him. (Id. at p. 6). Beginning in April 2010, Jensen claims he was instructed to sit in the break room all day and do no work. (Id. ). On the day he was given this instruction, Jensen accepted it "under protest" and signed out on Leave Without Pay ("LWOP"), citing headaches and stress. (Id. ). For two months, Jensen reported for work every day according to his regular schedule but sat idly in the break room. (Id. ). He filed a grievance claiming that management had violated the National Agreement when they instructed him to sit in the break room without working. (Id. ). On August 24, 2010, Manager Brent Royal ("Royal") released Jensen from duty under "the National Reassessment Program's (NRP) Phase 2 designation no work available'" (Id. ).

On March 7, 2011, a hearing was held before Arbitrator Louise Wolitz ("Wolitz") on Jensen's grievance. The issue presented to Wolitz was: "Did management violate the National Agreement when the grievant Paul Jensen sat in the break room while in pay status under code 604? If so, what is the remedy?" (Id. ). The NALC, on Jensen's behalf, argued that the USPS had violated the ELM by assigning Jensen to sit idle in the break room and that this assignment was made to purposefully set Jensen up for being removed from his position because there was no work available for him. (Id. ). Wolitz issued an ...


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