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Serna v. National American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division

October 28, 2019

RICHARD SERNA, Plaintiff.
v.
NATIONAL AMERICAN POSTAL WORKERS UNION, AFL-CIO, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JASON PULLIAM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter came before the Court on October 28, 2019, for hearing upon Defendant American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO's (“APWU National”) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (ECF No. 73) and Defendant American Postal Workers Union San Antonio Alamo Area Local 0195's (“Local 0195”) Partial Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 76). Joni S. Jacobs and Matthew Gerald Holder appeared on behalf of Defendants. Plaintiff failed to appear. Having considered Defendants' motions and Plaintiff's responses, the record, and the applicable law, the Court GRANTS Defendant APWU National's Motion and DENIES Local 0195's Motion as MOOT.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Richard Serna's (“Serna” or “Plaintiff”) original Complaint, filed December 11, 2017, specifically alleged causes of action against Defendants under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) and for breach of duty to fairly represent Serna. (ECF No. 3).[1] The Complaint also appeared to assert a discrimination claim based on an alleged disability and a claim for breach of APWU National's Constitution. Id. On February 23, 2018, Defendants filed two motions to dismiss Serna's Complaint. See ECF Nos. 9, 10.

         APWU National and the National Officers' Motion sought dismissal on the following grounds: (i) the Court's jurisdiction is limited to Serna's duty of fair representation (“DFR”) claims, (ii) the union officers and/or board members cannot be individually liable on a DFR claim, (iii) Serna's DFR claim cannot go forward against APWU National because APWU National did not “ratify” misconduct by Local 0195, and (iv) Serna's DFR claims are barred by the statute of limitations. ECF No. 9. Local 0195 and the Local Board Members' Motion raised some of the same arguments and also asserted that the Court lacked jurisdiction over Serna's claims for breach of APWU National's Constitution. ECF No. 10. Serna responded in opposition, incorporating his responses to both motions in a single pleading. ECF No. 11.

         On August 29, 2018, the Court dismissed Serna's claims against APWU National's Officers and Local 0195's Executive Board Members; claims asserted under sections 7 and 8 of the National Labor Relations Act; and Serna's “stand alone” or “independent” claims alleging breach of APWU National's Constitution. ECF No. 47. In dismissing Serna's claims, the Court noted that a federal district court does not have jurisdiction over claims asserted under the NLRA, nor can a district court hear independent claims under a union's constitution because “such claims do not involve allegations concerning the violation of a contract between an employer and a union.” Id. (citing Martin v. Local 556, Transp. Workers Union of Am. AFL-CIO, 201 L.RRM. 3036, 2014 WL 4358480, at *3 (N.D. Tex. 2014) (granting 12(b)(1) dismissal when “only conceivable contract” that had been alleged by plaintiff was the union's constitution). The Court's Order also noted Serna's withdrawal of his discrimination claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Id. The Court's Order afforded Serna an opportunity to amend his complaint to clarify any “potentially viable” duty of fair representation (“DFR”) claims “against Defendant Local 0195, and -only if Plaintiff can provide factual allegations demonstrating ‘ratification' by APWU National-a DFR claim against APWU National.” Id.

         Serna filed his Second Amended Complaint on March 1, 2019. ECF No. 72. APWU National filed its Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Second Amended Complaint on March 15, 2019. (ECF No. 73). APWU National argues the action should be dismissed because Serna has failed to plausibly allege any DFR claim. Local 0195 filed its Partial Motion to Dismiss on March 15, 2019. (ECF No. 76). Local 0195's motion seeks to dismiss with prejudice the NLRA and ADA claims alleged in Plaintiffs Second Amended Complaint.

         II. Standard of Review

         To withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). While “detailed factual allegations” are not required, a plaintiff must state “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The contents of the pleading must provide enough detail to “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Id.

         When presented with a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court generally “must assess whether the complaint contains sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face[.]” United States v. Bollinger Shipyards Inc., 775 F.3d 255, 257 (5th Cir. 2014) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although a plaintiffs factual allegations need not establish that the defendant is probably liable, they must establish more than a “sheer possibility” a defendant has acted unlawfully. Id. Determining plausibility is a “context-specific task, ” and must be performed in light of a court's “judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679.

         In assessing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court's review is generally limited to the complaint and any documents attached to the motion to dismiss that are referred to in the complaint and are central to the plaintiff's claims. Tellabs Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007); In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation, 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007). When reviewing the complaint, the “court accepts all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Martin K. Eby Constr. Co. v. Dallas Area Rapid Transit, 369 F.3d 464, 467 (5th Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Jones v. Greninger, 188 F.3d 322, 324 (5th Cir. 1999)). While well-pleaded facts of a complaint are to be accepted as true, legal conclusions are not “entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950 (citation omitted). Further, a court is not to strain to find inferences favorable to the plaintiff and is not to accept conclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions, or legal conclusions. R2 Invs. LDC v. Phillips, 401 F.3d 638, 642 (5th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted). A court does not evaluate the plaintiff's likelihood of success; instead, it only determines whether the plaintiff has pleaded a legally cognizable claim. United States ex rel. Riley v. St. Luke's Episcopal Hosp., 355 F.3d 370, 376 (5th Cir. 2004).

         III. Discussion

         A. Local 0195's Partial Motion to Dismiss addresses claims previously dismissed

         Serna's Second Amended Complaint realleges NLRA and ADA claims. ECF No. 72 at 14-16. The Court's August 28, 2018 Order found Local 0195's motion to dismiss Serna's ADA claim was moot because it was clear that Serna had “withdrawn his ADA claims against Defendants regarding his separation from employment in February 2017.” ECF No. 47 at 8-9. The Order also ...


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