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Bailey v. U.S.F. Holland, Inc.

United States District Court, Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville Division

May 6, 2015

BOBBY BAILEY, JR. AND ROBERT O. SMITH, Plaintiffs,
v.
U.S.F. HOLLAND, INC. & TEAMSTERS LOCAL UNION 480, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

ALETA A. TRAUGER United States District Judge

On December 12, 2013, the plaintiffs filed this action in Davidson County Circuit Court, alleging claims under Tennessee law. On January 9, 2015, after the plaintiffs amended their Complaint to add a Title VII claim, the defendants removed the case to this court. The plaintiffs seek to return to state court. To that end, they have filed two motions now pending before the court. First, they have filed a Motion for Leave to Amend under Rule 15(a) to “delete” the Title VII claim (Docket No. 7), to which the defendants have filed Responses (Docket Nos. 11 and 13) stating that they do not oppose the motion, provided that the Title VII claims are dismissed with prejudice. Second, the plaintiffs have also filed a Motion to Remand to State Court (Docket No. 9), to which the defendants have filed Responses in opposition (Docket Nos. 12 and 14). The plaintiffs have filed a combined Reply as to both motions (Docket No. 19), and defendant Teamsters Local Union 840 has filed a Sur-Reply with respect to the Motion to Remand (Docket No. 22).

For the reasons stated herein, the Motion to Amend will be granted, the Title VII claim will be dismissed with prejudice, and, once the plaintiffs file a Second Amended Complaint, the Motion to Remand will be granted.

BACKGROUND

The plaintiffs, Bobby Bailey, Jr. and Robert O. Smith, are two employees of defendant U.S.F. Holland, Inc. (“Holland”), a Michigan trucking company with a terminal in Nashville, Tennessee. Defendant Teamsters Local Union 480 (the “Union”) represents hourly workers at the Nashville terminal and has a principal place of business in Nashville.[1] This case is the second case brought by Bailey and Smith related to discrimination at the Nashville terminal.

I. Bailey I

In June 2005, Bailey and Smith brought a lawsuit against Holland, alleging hostile work environment and race discrimination claims under the Tennessee Human Rights Act (“THRA”) and Title VII. See Bailey, et al., v. USF Holland, et al., 3:05-cv-435 (M.D. Tenn. filed June 3, 2005). Following a bench trial, this court granted judgment to Bailey and Smith, holding that they had been subjected to a racially hostile work environment (including repeated derogatory references to them as “boy” by white employees, racist graffiti, nooses, and racially motivated acts of vandalism) and that Holland had failed address these issues. (See Bailey I Docket Nos. 163 and 164 (2007 WL 470439 (M.D. Tenn. Feb. 8, 2007)). In a published opinion, the Sixth Circuit affirmed. See Bailey v. Holland, 526 F.3d 880 (6th Cir. 2008).

II. Alleged Events Leading to Bailey II

In their Amended Complaint in this case, the plaintiffs allege that Holland permitted the racially hostile work environment to persist following the Bailey I judgment. The plaintiffs allege that multiple co-workers, including one co-worker named “Hassell, ” continued to harass them by using “boy” in various ways and by whistling at them like one would whistle to a dog, as if to say “here boy.” The plaintiffs allegedly complained to management several times, but no action was taken. Finally, after Bailey had an altercation with Hassell about the issue and reported Hassell to a black supervisor, Holland investigated the matter. During an investigatory meeting with Hassell and several management officials, Hassell made racist statements, including referring to Bailey as a “black bastard.” On an unspecified date after this incident, Holland terminated Hassell.

On May 6, 2012, the Union filed a grievance on behalf of Hassell to protest his termination. According to the plaintiffs, Holland and the Union entered into a corrupt bargain of sorts: as part of an agreement with the Union to “get this thing put away as soon as possible, ”[2]Holland put up only nominal opposition to Hassell’s discharge at a grievance hearing before a Joint Area Grievance Committee. Presumably in light of Holland’s token opposition, the grievance committee reinstated Hassell. Upon being reinstated, Hassell resumed harassing the plaintiffs by whistling at them like dogs, while other employees “smirked” at this behavior.

On an unspecified date, the plaintiffs filed EEOC charges against Holland relating to the post-Bailey I harassment. After receiving the charges, Holland conducted some type of investigation through a retained attorney. At an unspecified point after initiating that investigation, Holland terminated Hassell again. The plaintiffs allege that “[i]t is believed that Defendant Union filed a grievance once again to reinstate Hassell.” According to the plaintiffs, Holland has refused to respond to the grievance unless both the plaintiffs and the Union agree that Holland’s attorney-client privilege would not be waived by disclosing its attorney’s investigative report. The plaintiffs allege that Holland’s justification for conditionally refusing to participate is not genuine and, in fact, is merely a pretext to avoid opposing Hassell’s grievance.

III. Bailey II (This Lawsuit)

On December 12, 2013 (one year from the date of Hassell’s reinstatement), the plaintiffs filed this lawsuit against the Union and Holland in Davidson County Circuit Court, asserting claims for discrimination and retaliation under the THRA.

Holland filed an Answer to the Complaint, which, among other things, stated as an affirmative defense that the plaintiffs’ claims are preempted by the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”). The Union filed a motion to dismiss under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02, which the Circuit Court denied in a summary order. In addition to ruling on that motion, the Circuit Court oversaw discovery-related conferences, issued a scheduling order, and ruled on the plaintiffs’ request for leave to amend their complaint.

On December 12, 2014, the plaintiffs received leave to file an Amended Complaint, which added claims against both defendants under Title VII for discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment. The Amended Complaint also added one substantive paragraph, in which the plaintiffs allege that the Union created a hostile work environment by “filing a grievance and pursuing a grievance” on behalf of Hassell, thereby causing or attempting to cause Holland to violate the THRA and Title VII.[3] The plaintiffs appear to base their THRA claims against the Union on Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-21-402, which makes it unlawful for a labor organization to “[c]ause or attempt to cause an employer to violate [the THRA].” Tenn. Code. Ann. § 4-21-402(3).[4] The plaintiffs appear to base their Title VII claims against the Union on 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(c), which similarly makes it unlawful for a labor organization “to cause or attempt to cause an employer to discriminate against an individual in violation of this section.”[5]

Holland, with the Union’s consent, removed the case to this court on January 9, 2015 under 28 U.S.C. § 1441. (Docket No. 1.) The removal petition states that removal is proper under § 1441 because this court (1) has original jurisdiction over the Title VII claims (under 28 U.S.C. § 1331) and (2) supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims (under 28 U.S.C. § 1367). It makes no reference to the LMRA as a basis for original jurisdiction or removal.

Following removal, the Union filed an Answer to the Amended Complaint. (Docket No. 5.) The Union’s Answer does not plead any affirmative defense relating to pre-emption or otherwise state that the plaintiffs’ THRA claims against the Union are pre-empted by the LMRA. Holland also filed a post-removal Answer to the Amended Complaint (Docket No. 6), in which Holland states (as it did in its Answer to the original Complaint) that the plaintiffs’ claims are preempted by the LMRA.

IV. The Plaintiffs’ Motions

The plaintiffs, in an apparent effort to avoid litigating in federal court, now seek to reverse course and proceed in Tennessee state court. First, they have filed a Motion for Leave to Amend under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). In the motion, they ask the court’s permission to “delete” their Title VII claims by submitting a new pleading that does not include those claims. Second, they have filed a concurrent Motion to Remand, which contends that (a) removal of the Title VII claim would deprive the court of subject matter jurisdiction or demonstrate a defect in removal, and (b) because it lacks subject matter jurisdiction or because removal was defective, the court must remand the case under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).

The defendants do not oppose the Motion for Leave to Amend, provided that the court dismisses the Title VII claims with prejudice as a condition of granting the Rule 15(a) motion.

With respect to the Motion to Remand, Holland argues that “deleting” the Title VII claim after removal does not deprive this court of subject matter jurisdiction over the remaining claims, but rather leaves it to the court’s discretion whether to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over those state law claims. Holland argues that the court should retain the case, so as not to reward the plaintiffs for forum-shopping. The Union also contends that, even if the plaintiffs ...


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