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Watts v. U.S. Steel Workers Local Union 3115

June 17, 2008

WILLIAM P. WATTS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
U.S. STEEL WORKERS LOCAL UNION 3115, MUELLER COMPANY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Mattice

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Before the Court are: (1) Defendant U.S. Steel Workers Local Union 3115's Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment [Court Doc. 53] and (2) Defendant Mueller Company, Steve Jones, Tim Knapp, and Wayne LaFevor's Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment as to Defense Numbered I, Statute of Limitations [Court Docs. 49, 50]. Plaintiff has also filed three Motions for Summary Judgment [Court Docs. 27, 38, 46].

I. STANDARD

Summary judgment is proper where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the facts contained in the record and all inferences that can be drawn from those facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Nat'l Satellite Sports, Inc. v. Eliadis Inc., 253 F.3d 900, 907 (6th Cir. 2001). The Court cannot weigh the evidence, judge the credibility of witnesses, or determine the truth of any matter in dispute. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).

The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). To refute such a showing, the nonmoving party must present some significant, probative evidence indicating the necessity of a trial for resolving a material factual dispute. Id. at 322. A mere scintilla of evidence is not enough. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; McLean v. Ontario, Ltd., 224 F.3d 797, 800 (6th Cir. 2000). The Court's role is limited to determining whether the case contains sufficient evidence from which a jury could reasonably find for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49; Nat'l Satellite Sports, 253 F.3d at 907. If the nonmoving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of its case with respect to which it has the burden of proof, the moving party is entitled to summary judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. If the Court concludes that a fair-minded jury could not return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party based on the evidence presented, it may enter a summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52; Lansing Dairy, Inc. v. Espy, 39 F.3d 1339, 1347 (6th Cir. 1994).

II. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On December 21, 2007, the Court entered a Memorandum and Order [Court Doc. 28] granting in part and denying in part Defendants' motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment on statute of limitations grounds. The relevant facts are set forth therein and need not be restated here.

In its Memorandum and Order, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's Title VII claims as barred by Title VII's ninety-day statute of limitations. (Court Doc. 28 at 5.) As to Defendants' motions for summary judgment on Plaintiff's hybrid § 301 claim, the Court noted that the timeliness of Plaintiff's § 301 claim depended on when Plaintiff knew or should have known that the Union was no longer pursuing his grievance. (Id. at 7.) The Court found that the record, as of December 21, 2007, was "devoid of evidence relating to Plaintiff's knowledge of the Union's decision to withdraw his grievance." (Id.) The Court held that it was Defendants' burden to show that Plaintiff knew or should have known that the Union withdrew his grievance on or before February 7, 2007. (Id.) Because Defendants had failed to meet their summary judgment burden as to an essential element of their claim, the Court denied Defendants' motions for summary judgment on Plaintiff's § 301 claim. (Id. at 7-8.)

III. ANALYSIS

Since the Court's December 21, 2007 Memorandum and Order, the parties have engaged in discovery, including the taking of Plaintiff's deposition. (Court Doc. 50-4.) Defendants have renewed their motions for summary judgment on statute of limitations grounds, claiming that there is no material fact in dispute as to whether Plaintiff knew or should have known that the Union withdrew his grievance prior to February 7, 2007. (Court Doc. 50-1 at 2; Court Doc. 54 at 4-5.)

In his deposition, Plaintiff repeatedly acknowledged that, as early as August 2005, he understood that the Union was not going to help him get his job back. (Deposition of William P. Watts ("Pl.'s Dep."), Court Doc. 50-4, pp. 33, 34, 39, 41, 53, 58.) Plaintiff described having attended a meeting with Raymond Morton, president of U.S. Steel Workers Local 3115, Ulysses Strawter, vice-president of Local 3115, and members of Mueller Company's management team. (Id. at 29-34.) Plaintiff was unable to recall the exact date of the meeting, but acknowledged that it occurred in "early August of 2005." (Id. at 34.) During that meeting, Morton and Strawter represented Plaintiff and discussed Plaintiff's termination with Mueller Company's management team, but no decision was made as to whether Plaintiff would be reinstated. (Id. at 32-33.) Plaintiff called Morton later the same day and Morton informed him that Mueller Company had decided that it would not rehire him. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that Morton told him, "this is it" and "[w]e can't do nothing else about it." (Id.)

In his deposition, Plaintiff also described having called Strawter in October 2005 to inquire about getting his job back. (Pl.'s Dep. at 38-39.) Plaintiff claims that Strawter told him that there was nothing Strawter could do for him. (Id.) Plaintiff also said that he was told by another Union member that the Union was "not going to represent [him]." (Id. at 39.) Plaintiff acknowledged that, during September, October or November of 2005, he had three different Union representatives tell him that the Union was not going to help him. (Id. at 40.)

The record also contains an affidavit of Raymond Morton in which Morton states that he oversaw the filing and handling of Plaintiff's grievance. (Affidavit of Raymond Morton ("Morton Aff."), Court Doc. 56, ¶ 4.) Morton was present at two meetings held in September 2005 to resolve Plaintiff's grievance. (Id. ¶ 5.) After the second meeting, the Union "decided not to pursue the grievance contesting Mr. Watts' termination. That decision was based on a full review of the facts related to Mr. Watts' discharge and on the Union's determination that it could not prevail in arbitration." (Id. ¶ 6.) Morton states that he "immediately told Mr. Watts of the Union's decision not to pursue the grievance contesting the termination of his employment." (Id.)

The record also shows that Plaintiff filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). (Court Doc. 20-2 at 56-57.) The record is unclear as to when Plaintiff filed his EEOC charge, but he received a right-to-sue letter on October 17, 2006. (Court Doc. 20-2 at 56.) The right-to-sue letter states that Plaintiff filed his EEOC charge more than 180 days before October 17, 2006. (Id.) The Court therefore finds that Plaintiff filed his EEOC charge sometime prior to April 20, 2006. During the EEOC's investigation of his charge, Plaintiff told the EEOC representative that he believed the Union was not going to represent him. (Pl.'s ...


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