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Brotherhood of Maint. of Way Emples. Div. of Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters v. Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

May 6, 2014

BROTHERHOOD OF MAINTENANCE OF WAY EMPLOYEES DIVISION OF THE INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, Plaintiff,
v.
INDIANA HARBOR BELT RAILROAD COMPANY, Defendant

Page 687

For Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, Division of The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Plaintiff: Joel A D'Alba PHV, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Asher Gittler & D'Alba Ltd, Chicago, IL; Ryan A Hagerty, LEAD ATTORNEY, Asher Gittler & D'Alba Ltd, Chicago, IL.

For Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad, Defendant: Christopher J DeGroff, Jennifer A Riley, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Seyfarth Shaw LLP - Chi/IL, Chicago, IL; Gerald L Maatman PHV, Jr, Reema Kapur PHV, PRO HAC VICE, Seyfarth Shaw LLP - Chi/IL, Chicago, IL.

For Lamont Williams, Movant: Deidre L Monroe, LEAD ATTORNEY, Gary, IN.

Page 688

OPINION AND ORDER

PHILIP P. SIMON, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Plaintiff Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters accuses Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad Company of racial discrimination and harassment in the work place. The Union seeks both monetary and injunctive relief. Indiana Harbor Belt moves to dismiss all claims claiming that the Union does not have standing to pursue these claims on behalf of its members. For the reasons below, I now GRANT IN PART and DENY IN PART Indiana Harbor Belt's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint [DE 35]. I GRANT the motion with respect to the Union's request for economic and punitive damages, but DENY the motion with respect to its request for injunctive relief.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

As usual, I'll start with the grim facts as alleged in the complaint, which I accept as true at this point in the case. The plaintiff union is a railway labor organization who works on behalf of its members in the areas of " grievances, labor disputes, rates of pay, hours of employment or conditions of work, and [] negotiating collective bargaining agreements." [DE 34 at ¶ 2.] Indiana Harbor Belt is a railroad company based in Hammond, Indiana, that employees the Union's members. [ Id. at ¶ 2, 6.]

The Union claims that Indiana Harbor Belt has subjected its African-American employees to " a hostile work environment of such intensity as to result in their constructive discharge." [ Id. at ¶ 13.] According to the complaint, Indiana Harbor

Page 689

Belt has engaged in the following practices: preventing its African American employees from training for higher-rated (and higher-paying) positions, instead giving those opportunities to its non-African-American employees [i d. at ¶ 14]; applying a disparate disciplinary policy against African-American employees [ id. at ¶ 20]; treating African-American employees more harshly than white employees, resulting in the " systematic elimination of African-American new hires" and causing the makeup of Indiana Harbor Belt's workforce to be disproportionate to the racial composition of the relevant labor market [ id. at ¶ 21]; failing to recall African-American employees after workforce reductions [ id. at ¶ 25]; and allowing white employees to arrive late to work while not allowing African-American employees to do the same [ id. at ¶ 26]. And although Indiana Harbor Belt has an anti-discrimination policy in place, the Union alleges that Indiana Harbor Belt has failed to advise its employees of this policy and to correct discriminatory actions. [ Id. at ¶ 15.]

The Union further alleges that Indiana Harbor Belt's agents and supervisors have engaged in the following disturbing behavior including systematically referring to African-American employees as " N " [ id. at ¶ 17]; displaying a Swastika tattoo [ id. at ¶ 18]; referring to mixed-race children of African-American employees as " half-breeds" [ id. at ¶ 19]; referring to white employees who associate with African Americans as " N lovers" [ id. at ¶ 28]; asking white employees who drink " particular-flavored soft drinks" why they drink " N juice" [ id.]; and displaying a noose in a company vehicle [ id. at ¶ 29].

The Union initially filed its Section 1981 and Title VII lawsuit against Indiana Harbor Belt in January 2013, seeking class action certification [DE 1]. Indiana Harbor Belt filed a Motion to Dismiss and/or Strike Plaintiff's Class Allegations [DE 15], and in response, the Union sought to consolidate the matter with other two other cases pending in this district [DE 21; DE 22]. Both of those cases were brought by individual employees against Indiana Harbor Belt and they make similar allegations to those made in the present case. The motion to consolidate was ruled on by Judge Van Bokkelen who denied the request [DE 25]. I then denied the pending motion to dismiss the class allegations in this case as moot and permitted Indiana Harbor Belt to re-file its motion [DE 29].

Indiana Harbor Belt did so [DE 30], and in lieu of responding to the motion, the Union requested leave to file an amended complaint removing the Rule 23 class allegations [DE 32]. I granted this request, granted the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and/or Strike Plaintiff's Class Allegations, and ordered the Clerk to enter the proposed First Amended Complaint attached to the Union's request. [DE 33] Indiana Harbor Belt has now moved to ...


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