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Jackson v. Taylor

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

February 7, 2018

JOE M. JACKSON, JR. Plaintiff,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT DERRICK M. TAYLOR, ET AL, Defendants.

          ORDER CONSOLIDATING CASES, MODIFYING THE DOCKET, DISMISSING FEDERAL CLAIMS WITH PREJUDICE, DISMISSING STATE LAW CLAIMS WITHOUT PREJUDICE, CERTIFYING APPEAL WOULD NOT BE TAKEN IN GOOD FAITH, AND NOTIFYING PLAINTIFF OF APPELLATE FILING FEE

          S. THOMAS ANDERSON, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On May 31, 2016, Plaintiff Joe M. Jackson, Jr., an inmate at the South Central Correctional Facility in Clifton, Tennessee, filed two pro se complaints alleging various federal and state law claims.[1] Both complaints were accompanied by a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Jackson's first complaint was docketed as 16-2375, this instant matter, and his second complaint was docketed as case number 16-2376. In both cases, the Court granted Jackson leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assessed the civil filing fee pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b).

         Although Jackson adds additional defendants in the second complaint, both complaints contain the same factual allegations. Accordingly, because both complaints involve common questions of law or fact, the Court ORDERS the two cases to be consolidated for all purposes, pursuant to Rule 42(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, under the earlier docket number. The Clerk shall close file number 16-2376 after placing a copy of this order in the file. Thereafter, the Clerk shall place copies of all documents in case number 16-2375.

         Jackson's complaint seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985(3), and 1988; 29 U.S.C. §§ 1132(a)(1)(B), 1132(a)(3), and 185; and T.C.A. § 28-3-109(a)(3). The Clerk shall MODIFY the docket and record the defendants as Superintendent Derrick M. Taylor, Secretary Connie W. Wacaster, Assistant Superintendent W.B. McDaniel, Trainmaster Jeremy T. Brown, General Superintendent Andrew Martin, Trainmaster L.G. Jenkins, Engineer Theodore Elliott, Medical Services Senior Manager Hallie Burhoe, Dale McPherson, Canadian National/Illinois Central Gulf Railroad (“Railroad”), [2] United Transportation Union (“UTU”), Local Chairman William A. St. John, and Local Chairman Jeff W. Callahan. Defendants are sued in their individual and official capacity.

         BACKGROUND

         This action arises out of Jackson's termination from his position with the Railroad. He alleges that he was terminated without due process and without appropriate representation from his union and that he was subjected to discriminatory conduct by Defendants. On March 3, 2007, Jackson, an African-American male, was a member of the UTU and was employed as a conductor with the Railroad. (Compl. at 6, ECF No. 1.) On March 7, 2007, Jackson received a letter notifying him of a formal investigation by Assistant Superintendent T.D. Corzine, who is not a party to this suit, to determine if Jackson had any responsibility regarding how hazardous equipment was placed on a train on March 3, 2007. (Id.) The complaint alleges that, on April 11, 2007, Jackson signed a resolution admitting guilt to the above described infraction without any UTU representation and over his protestations of unfairness which were disregarded by Railroad officials. (Id. at 7-8.)

         On April 21, 2007, Jackson was working alongside a trainmaster as a brakeman. (Id. at 8.) Jackson was allegedly told by the Caucasian trainmaster that he needed to have a urinalysis and breathalyzer test because “that's how we treat blacks around here.” (Id.) After taking the tests and getting results of .038 and .031 on the breathalyzer, Jackson was removed from service and taken home by a Railroad official. (Id. at 9.) On May 3, 2007, Jackson received a letter stating that he had violated the Railroad's Substance and Alcohol Free Environment Policy and was required to get a referral for a substance abuse professional. (Id.) Ten days after requesting a referral, Jackson contacted Superintendent Taylor about returning to work but was told by his secretary that Superintendent Taylor had fired him. (Id.) On June 15, 2007, after receiving a letter officially terminating him, Jackson contacted his union representative, Chairman St. John, regarding his dismissal without a hearing and was told by St. John that an appeal would be filed.

         Jackson contends that his unemployment during the appeal process was in violation of UTU's Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”). (Id. at 9-13.) Despite frequent calls from Jackson, St. John did not meet with Jackson until June 2009, twenty-four months after the appeal was processed. (Id. at 13.) At that time, St. John informed Jackson that Superintendent Taylor did not want to do business with St. John and that Jackson would not be able to return to work while Superintendent Taylor was in his position; however, it might be possible for Jackson to get his back pay for being fired without a hearing. (Id.) On June 10, 2010, Jackson learned from St. John that there was a new Superintendent, Andrew Martin, and that he was willing to allow Jackson to come back to work, but without receiving back pay. (Id.)

         After Jackson expressed reluctance at going back to work without receiving back pay, he received two “harassing” and “coercive” phone calls from St. John to “take the deal” while it was still available. (Id. at 13-14) On July 1, 2010, Jackson was persuaded by the “discriminatory and dishonest” representations of St. John to sign a Last Chance Agreement (“Agreement”) without reading; Jackson was assured by St. John that it was a good agreement. (Id. at 14.) After signing the agreement, Jackson met with Superintendent Martin who told him that he did not need a referral to a substance abuse professional, but he had to get a physical and drug test so that he could get back to work and “start making some money.” (Id.) On July 7, 2010, Jackson went back to work, 1, 190 days after being terminated. (Id. at 15.)

         When Jackson returned to work and was told by other employees that he did not get a fair deal, he spoke to Martin. (Id.) Martin told Jackson that the only portion of the Agreement that would be enforced was the denial of back pay and to speak with St. John regarding any issues concerning the Agreement. (Id.) Jackson confronted St. John, telling him that the Agreement did not contain a provision for Jackson to receive back pay although the Railroad had given retroactive pay previously to terminated Caucasian employees who were not held out of service as long as Jackson. (Id.) Jackson alleges that St. John colluded with Martin and Taylor with no intention to be bound by the CBA, instead, creating an Agreement that was breached from the day it was signed. (Id.)

         In another instance of alleged failed representation, Jackson signed a resolution on September 2, 2010, in which he was given a twenty-day suspension for not “marking off of work properly.” (Id. at 16.) Jackson signed the resolution without any union representation because the alternative was being fired. (Id.) In a separate incident, on September 25, 2010, Jackson missed a call for a work assignment, resulting in an investigation which was postponed on October 18, 2010, at the request of UTU Chairman Callahan. (Id.)

         The last incident described in the complaint began on October 29, 2010, when Jackson was called to work as a conductor on a grain train. (Id.) While preparing the trains, Jackson was accused by the African-American engineer, T.L. Elliott, of calling him a “nigger.” (Id. at 17.) As a result of the accusation, Trainmasters Jenkins and Brown boarded the train, told Jackson and Elliot to tie down the train, got all the parties in a truck, and asked Elliot to write down everything that happened. (Id.)

         That evening, Jenkins terminated Jackson based on Elliott's accusations and did not pay him for that day or for the days Jackson had been scheduled to work prior to termination. (Id. at 18.) On December 3, 2010, after several postponements of the investigation at the request of Chairman Callahan, Jackson was dismissed effective immediately based solely on the testimony of Elliott. (Id. at 19.) Jackson contends that his equal rights were violated because he was subjected to harsher discipline than Caucasian employees who committed comparable acts.

         In a state court criminal trial on January 21, 2014, that resulted in Jackson's present incarceration, state investigators were told by Railroad employees that Jackson was terminated for calling another employee a “nigger.” This “evidence” was used, in part, to convict Jackson. (Id. at 20.)[3]

         Jackson seeks to have the Court void the Agreement and to order the Railroad to pay him back pay from April 21, 2007, through July 1, 2010, in the amount of $585, 000 and to order payment of other employee benefits as compensatory damages. He also seeks punitive damages and attorney fees. (Id. at 25-27.)

         SCREENING STANDARD

         The Court is required to screen prisoner complaints and to dismiss any complaint, or any portion thereof, if the complaint-

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from ...

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