United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
L. Miller, Jr. Judge, United States District Court
Amos Croom's motion to dismiss Elkhart Products
Corporation's counterclaim for declaratory judgment, as
amended, pends before the court. For the following reasons,
the court grants the motion.
Croom filed a complaint against his former employer, Elkhart
Products, under Title VII, the Family Medical Leave Act, and
42 U.S.C. § 1981 alleging that Elkhart Products had
retaliated against him for requesting and/or taking FMLA
leave, subjected him to disparate treatment, and terminated
his employment because of his race. Elkhart Product
counterclaimed, alleging that Mr. Croom's claims were
subject to binding arbitration under the company's
collective bargaining agreement and asking the court to
declare as a matter of law that the arbitrator's decision
upholding the discharge precludes Mr. Croom's
discrimination and retaliation claims.
Croom moved to dismiss the counterclaim under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). He contends that Elkhart Product hasn't
identified any provision of the CBA that required him to
submit his FMLA or Title VII claims to arbitration, and so
failed to plead any set of facts under which it may be
entitled to relief, citing in support 14 Penn Plaza LLC
v. Pyett, 556 U.S. 247 (2009); Alexander v.
Gardner-Denver Co., 415 U.S. 36 (1974); Coleman v.
Donahue, 667 F.3d 835 (7th Cir. 2011); St. Aubin v.
Unilever HPC NA, 2009 WL 1871679 (N.D. Ill. 2009).
response, Elkhart Products submitted an amended counterclaim
that added specific language from the CBA [Doc. No. 11-1].
The counterclaim, as amended, alleges that:
• Mr. Croom was a member of the International
Association of Machinists, Local 1315, and was subject to a
CBA, that provided in Article V as follows:
If a grievance is not settled through the full use of the
foregoing Grievance Procedure, the union may request that it
be submitted to final and binding arbitration in accordance
with the following:
A. Only grievances having to do with the interpretation and
application of Sections of this Agreement, including
discharges and disciplinary actions may be arbitrated, it
being specifically agreed that in no case and under no
circumstances, may grievances of disputes concerning
Management (Article III) be arbitrated....
• Under the CBA's terms, the arbitrator had
authority to “interpret and apply” the sections
of the CBA prohibiting discrimination “in violation of
applicable Federal legislation”, including: (1) Article
II, Section 2.4, prohibiting “discrimination on account
of race, color, creed, sex, national origin or age, handicap,
Vietnam Veteran; or in violation of applicable Federal
legislation”, and (2) “a section under Article
IX, Section 9.1, addressing the use of leave pursuant to the
FMLA.” • Mr. Croom grieved his discharge
unsuccessfully, and the Union requested binding arbitration.
• At the arbitration hearing, Mr. Croom argued that he
had been discharged without just cause and retaliated against
because he was an African American, had filed an EEOC charge,
and had used FMLA leave.
• The arbitrator heard testimony on those issues, and
“upheld the discharge”.
• The arbitrator's decision is final and binding on
all parties under Article V, Section 5.5 of the CBA, which
The decision of the arbitrator shall be final and binding on
all parties. The arbitrator shall have no power to change,
alter, detract from or add to the provisions of the
agreement, but shall have the power only to interpret and