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Harris v. Gardner Denver Thomas Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

October 16, 2017

MICHAEL HARRIS
v.
GARDNER DENVER THOMAS, INC., ET AL.

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE KAREN L. HAYES

          RULING

          ROBERT G. JAMES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 13');">3] filed by Defendants Gardner Denver Thomas, Inc. (“Gardner Denver”) and Erick Stoor. Plaintiff Michael Harris does not oppose the motion. For reasons assigned below, the motion is GRANTED.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Gardner Denver hired Harris as an employee on April 26, 2010. While employed, Harris was a member of a collective bargaining unit, which operated under a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between Gardner Denver and Communications Workers of America (“the Union”).

         On July 6, 2016, Harris was accused of peeping under the men&#3');">39;s restroom stall at a coworker. Gardner Denver investigated and verified the accusation. Having verified the allegation and having warned Harris twice before about similar conduct, Gardner Denver found just cause to, and did, discharge Harris on July 8, 2016.

         Recording the findings of the investigation on a Disciplinary Action Notice form, Kayce Creighton, Human Resources Generalist, wrote: “Mr. Harris was in the restroom attempting to look under the stall at another employee. This immoral and sexual deviant behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Gardner Denver makes every effort for a safe work environment and this behavior is a direct violation.” [Doc. No. 13');">3-4].

         Under Articles 3');">3 and 8 of the CBA, Gardner Denver may discharge an employee for “just cause.” [Doc. No. 13');">3-3');">3, pp. 6, 9]. Article 8 provides, “The question of whether ‘just cause&#3');">39; exists for the discipline shall be subject to the grievance and arbitration procedure provided herein.” Id. at 9. Under Article 21, “an employee who is discharged must process his/her grievance” through the first three tiers. Id. at 24. Following that, a discharged employee must submit his grievance to arbitration. Id. at 23');">3.

         Harris processed his grievances-which he described as “false accusations of sexual harassment” and “discrimination”-through the third tier of the grievance process. [Doc. No. 13');">3-5]. On July 14, 2016, Debra Priebe, Gardner Denver&#3');">39;s Manager of Human Resources, denied Harris&#3');">39;s grievance at the third tier, noting, “Termination will stand . . . .” Id.

         There is no evidence, however, that Plaintiff asked the Union to submit his grievances to arbitration within the requisite time period. Article 22 of the CBA provides: “The Union, after properly utilizing all steps of the Grievance Procedure and desiring to submit a matter to arbitration, shall notify the Company in writing within the aforementioned thirty (3');">30) calendar days.” [Doc. No. 13');">3-3');">3, p. 23');">3]. The “aforementioned thirty (3');">30) calendar days” refers to Article 21, which provides that a tier-three decision is final unless the Union notifies “the Company in writing within thirty (3');">30) days that it desires to submit the matter to arbitration.” Id. at 24. As Harris did not ask the Union to submit his grievances to arbitration, the grievances were deemed waived under the terms of the CBA. Id. at 23');">3.

         On June 3');">30, 2017, Harris filed suit in the Fourth Judicial District Court, Parish of Ouachita, State of Louisiana, and alleged, under state law, that Defendants wrongfully terminated him, defamed him, and subjected him to emotional distress. [Doc. No. 1-2]. On July 20, 2017, Defendants removed the proceeding to this Court, grounding federal question jurisdiction on the contention that Harris&#3');">39;s claims are preempted under the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”). [Doc. No. 1].

         On September 13');">3, 2017, Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that Harris&#3');">39;s claims are preempted under Section 3');">301 of the LMRA, that Harris “cannot bring tort claims under Section 3');">301[, ]” that Harris failed to exhaust all remedies under the CBA before filing suit, and that Harris&#3');">39;s claims are time barred. Harris did not respond to Defendants&#3');">39; motion or otherwise controvert Defendants&#3');">39; properly supported statement of material facts [Doc. No. 13');">3-1]. Consequently, all material facts that Defendants proffer are deemed admitted. LR 56.2.

         II. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         A. Stand ...


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