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Stahly v. Amalgamated Transit Union

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

March 3, 2014

SANDY STAHLY, Plaintiff,
v.
AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION, LOCAL 996, AND AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION, AFL-CIO, Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Sandy J Stahly, Plaintiff: Richard J LaSalvia, LEAD ATTORNEY, South Bend, IN.

For Amalgamated Transit Union AFL CIO, Defendant: David G Huffman-Gottschling, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jacobs Burns Orlove & Hernandez, Chicago, IL; Thomas J Angell, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jacobs Burns Orlove Stanton & Hernandez, Chicago, IL.

For Local 996 Amalgamated Transit Union, Defendant: David G Huffman-Gottschling, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jacobs Burns Orlove & Hernandez, Chicago, IL.

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OPINION AND ORDER

PHILIP P. SIMON, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Sandy Stahly claims that she was the victim of race and sex discrimination while she was a bus driver for the South Bend Public Transportation Corporation (" TRANSPO" ) and a member of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 996. Only Stahly's claims against the union for violations of Title VII and Section 1981 remain. Stahly claims she was fired because she is white and because she is a woman and that the Union participated in the discrimination by failing to assist her in the grievance process against TRANSPO. She also claims a hostile work environment. The Union has moved for summary judgment on all claims [DE 45]. For the reasons discussed below, the motion is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

Sandy Stahly is a white female who worked as a bus driver for TRANSPO from June 8, 1998 until August 25, 2009 [DE 45-5 at ¶ 9; DE 45-3 at 85]. Stahly was a member of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 996, the labor union that represented TRANSPO workers [DE 45-1 at ¶ ¶ 3-4].

TRANSPO and the Union are the signatories to a Collective Bargaining Agreement, and the CBA sets forth the grievance procedures for Union members. To file a grievance, an employee contacts a Union representative who conducts an investigation [DE 45-1 at ¶ 7]. If the representative determines that the complaint is meritorious, he or she submits the written grievance to TRANSPO [ Id.]. TRANSPO and the Union then resolve the grievance [DE 45-2 at 10] or, if they are unable to do so, the Union may submit the grievance to binding arbitration [DE 45-1 at ¶ 7; DE 45-2 at 10-11]. The Union votes internally on whether to send a particular grievance to arbitration [DE 45-1 at ¶ 8].

Ms. Stahly's earliest complaint about her Union representation stretches back to 2006: she claims that Union secretary Karen Foulks told her that TRANSPO did not like her or trust her, and that she would have been fired for accidents had supervisors not covered up the incidents for her [DE 45-3 at 31]. Stahly claims that she also spoke with others in the Union who insinuated that Freda Braylock, the Union President, was responsible for the accusations [DE 45-3 at 33]. According to Stahly, in 2008 or 2009, outside of Stahly's presence but in a break room with other Union officials, Foulks said " Let's get one more [write-up] so we can get her fired" [DE 45-3 at 33].

Ms. Stahly's disciplinary problems with TRANSPO began in earnest in March 2008, when she asked the Union to file a grievance on her behalf alleging disparate treatment in discipline [DE 45-11; DE 45-3 at 47-51]. The Union filed the grievance for her -- denoted as Grievance 530. In it Stahly argued that the discipline she received was " inconsistent from event to event as well as more severe in comparison to other employees. I am being retaliated against for past complaints as well" [DE 45-11]. According to the official who handled the grievance, Stahly complained that she was being disciplined more harshly than other drivers, including an African-American woman named Lois Boyd, that supervisors were looking at Stahly more closely than other bus drivers, and that Stahly could do no right in the supervisors' eyes while other drivers were " getting

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away with infractions" [DE 52-3 at 4-5]. To support her claim, Stahly gave the official a list of names with infractions that she claimed had not been charged, but the Union was unable to substantiate those events [ Id. at 5]. Stahly requested that write-ups she received on March 7, 2008 be removed from her record, that she receive a day's pay, and that she receive a day of overtime pay [DE 45-11]. Stahly and TRANSPO settled the grievance with a compromise: some of the write-ups were removed, and Stahly didn't argue for any money -- in fact, at her deposition, she testified that " I should've argued for the pay. But I just thought to hell with them; they can keep their money" [DE 45-3 at 48].

Stahly now claims that there were a number of problems with the way that the Union handled her grievance, and that the Union tried to " interfere" with the filing of the grievance. According to Stahly, Union President Freda Braylock tried to persuade Stahly's Union representative, Dan Warmoth, who is the executive Vice President of the Union, not to file the grievance [DE 45-3 at 48-49; DE 45-1 at ¶ 1; DE 52-3 at 3].[1] She also claims that during the grievance meeting, Braylock called and tried to interrupt the meeting, but the meeting proceeded and Stahly ended up with the settlement removing write-ups [DE 45-3 at 49].

In August 2008, at Stahly's request, the Union filed another grievance on her behalf, alleging disparate treatment in discipline [DE 45-12]. In this grievance, denoted as Grievance 533, Stahly claimed that " Discipline that I receive is inconsistent from event to event as well as more severe in comparison to other employees. I feel that this is retaliation for past complaints, as well as being singled out for dismissal" [DE 45-12]. Stahly and her union representative attended a meeting at which the grievance was discussed, and it was denied by TRANSPO [DE 45-3 at 52].

Again, Stahly claims a number of deficiencies in the way that Grievance 533 was handled. For starters, she alleges that the Union made it " difficult" for her to file Grievance 533 [DE 51 at 3; DE 53-3 at 54]. Specifically, she argues that Braylock " tried to stop me from using Dan [Warmoth] or Jim Ford by saying that I had to use the stewards that were in my own department" [DE 45-3 at 52]. Stahly initially had to file the grievance with union representative Henry Widelski as her union steward, and when he asked her for examples to support her grievance, she contested the request because Warmoth was familiar with her past grievances [DE 45-3 at 53]. Braylock then consented to allowing Warmoth to represent her [ Id.]. Stahly claims that this was " just more harassment basically from Freda" [DE 45-3 at 54].

Grievances 530 and 533, however, were precursors to the main event in this litigation: Stahly's Last Chance Agreement and subsequent termination. TRANSPO and the Union use a Last Chance Agreement which provides that when TRANSPO has charged an employee with an offense that would qualify an employee for discharge under the disciplinary code, the Union, TRANSPO, and the employee may enter into an agreement by which in exchange for TRANSPO not firing the employee, the employee and the Union agree not to file a grievance challenging the discipline and to a probation period for the employee [DE 45-1 at ¶ 10]. In the probationary period, if the employee doesn't meet the agreed-upon

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performance standards, TRANSPO can fire the employee and the employee cannot avail herself of the grievance provisions of the CBA [ Id.]. The accused employee also has the option of rejecting the Last Chance Agreement, being discharged and then filing a grievance challenging the discharge [DE 45-1 at ¶ 10].

On April 9, 2009, TRANSPO issued Stahly a disciplinary notice charging her with driving her bus " off-route." This was her third violation thus subjecting her to discharge [DE 45-1 at ¶ 13; DE 45-7]. According to the Discipline Report, TRANSPO was notified on April 7, 2009 that Stahly had driven an incorrect route on April 1, 2009 [DE 45-7]. These dates are important because according to the CBA, TRANSPO has five days after being made aware of a violation to issue discipline [DE 45-2 at 7].

On April 14, 2009, Stahly, a TRANSPO representative, and Warmoth and Braylock met to discuss the discipline [DE 45-6; DE 45-1 at ¶ 13]. Stahly had been suspended pending termination [DE 45-3 at 55]. Braylock informed Stahly that the Union would not argue that the discipline had been untimely -- as it had, after all, been issued within five days of when TRANSPO was notified of the infraction -- because the Union wanted to increase the chance that Stahly would be able to obtain a Last Chance Agreement [ Id.]. And in fact, at the meeting, the parties negotiated a Last Chance Agreement that provided that Stahly could avoid termination and return to work in exchange for not filing a grievance related to the April 1 incident, going on probation, and foregoing the Union's grievance process and protections for any further discipline if TRANSPO found that she violated the terms of her probation [DE 45-6]. The two-year probation period allowed TRANSPO to discharge Stahly if she failed to report being off-route or failed to follow her " paddle," which was the prescribed route for the bus driver for a particular day, among other infractions [DE 45-6; DE 45-3 at 98]. Stahly could have accepted her termination and pressed a grievance through the process outlined in the CBA [DE 45-1 at ¶ 13; DE 45-2 at 9]. But she chose the Last Chance Agreement option instead.

Stahly signed the agreement, acknowledging that " [b]y affixing her signature to this Agreement, Mrs. Stahly states that she has reached this agreement voluntarily after seeking Union representation and counsel, and that she considers the Agreement to be in her best interest" [DE 45-6]. Further, in exchange for the last chance agreement, Stahly understood that " the Union will not be able to pursue a grievance on her behalf should the company determine that a violation of this Agreement has occurred" [DE 45-6]. At the meeting, Stahly did not raise the issue of her race or sex as the reason she was being targeted for discipline [DE 45-3 at 88-89].

Stahly now claims that the dates in the April disciplinary notice were " fabricated" because " passengers don't call in six days later and say that somebody did something . . . that is just bogus," that the informant was in fact another bus driver who " tattletaled" on her, and that therefore, the Union should have pressed untimeliness ...


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