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Robeson v. United States Steel Corp.

March 31, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Lawrence P. Zatkoff


AT A SESSION of said Court, held in the United States Courthouse, in the City of Port Huron, State of Michigan, on March 31, 2010.


This matter is before the Court on Defendant's motion to dismiss [dkt 6] and brief in support thereof [dkt 7]. Plaintiff has filed a response brief, and Defendant did not file a reply brief. The Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the parties' papers such that the decision process would not be significantly aided by oral argument. Therefore, pursuant to E.D. Mich. L.R. 7.1(e)(2), it is hereby ORDERED that the motion be resolved on the briefs submitted. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is DENIED.


Plaintiff was employed by Defendant United States Steel Corporation ("Defendant"), and its predecessor, Great Lakes Steel Corporation, for over 30 years. On March 13, 2008, Plaintiff attempted to call a counselor during his lunch hour. The counselor was unavailable. Assuming that the call had been disconnected, Plaintiff, still holding the receiver, made several disparaging remarks regarding the counselor, Defendant, Plaintiff's union, and African-Americans, intending that the comments be heard only by those present in the lunch room. Unbeknownst to Plaintiff, the call had not been disconnected, and the comments were recorded on the counselor's voice-mail system. Defendant terminated Plaintiff's employment following the incident.

Plaintiff alleges that prior to his termination, he had unsuccessfully run for election as part of a slate in opposition to the leadership of Local 1299 United Steel Workers of America ("the Union"). Plaintiff contends that the failed campaign resulted in hostile relations between the Union and himself, which carried over to the Union's representation of him in the grievance procedures following his termination. The Union represented Plaintiff throughout the grievance process, but it withdrew the grievance from arbitration despite Plaintiff's desire to proceed.

Plaintiff filed this lawsuit alleging that Defendant breached the collective-bargaining agreement between Defendant and the Union when it wrongfully terminated him. Plaintiff's complaint also details the various ways that Plaintiff believes the Union breached its duty of fair representation. The Union is not a party to this action. Defendant has moved to dismiss the action pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) and (7).


A. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6)

A motion brought pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted tests the legal sufficiency of Plaintiff's claims. The Court must accept as true all factual allegations in the pleadings, and any ambiguities must be resolved in Plaintiff's favor. See Jackson v. Richards Med. Co., 961 F.2d 575, 577--78 (6th Cir. 1992). While this standard is decidedly liberal, it requires more than the bare assertion of legal conclusions. See Advocacy Org. for Patients & Providers v. Auto Club Ins. Ass'n, 176 F.3d 315, 319 (6th Cir. 1999). Thus, a plaintiff must make "a showing, rather than a blanket assertion of entitlement to relief" and "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level" so that the claim is "plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007). See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1953 (2009) ("Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard for 'all civil actions . . . . '").

In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), this Court may only consider "the facts alleged in the pleadings, documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by reference in the pleadings, and matters of which the [Court] may take judicial notice." 2 James Wm. Moore et al., Moore's Federal Practice ¶ 12.34[2] (3d ed. 2000). If, in deciding the motion, the Court considers matters outside the pleadings, the motion will be treated as one for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b).

B. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(7)

Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(7) provides for dismissal for a "failure to join a party under Rule 19." In turn, Rule 19 requires that a ...

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