United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS AND
DISMISSING COUNTS FIVE AND SIX OF PLAINTIFF'S
L. LUDINGTON United States District Judge.
September 16, 2016 Plaintiff Eric Eggelston initiated the
above-captioned action by filing his complaint against his
former employer, Defendant Nexteer Automotive Corporation,
and his former local union, United Automobile Aerospace and
Agricultural Implement Workers of America, Local 699
(“Local 699” or “the Union”). In his
complaint Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Nexteer wrongfully
terminated him from his A-bucket position in retaliation for
his exercise of his rights under the Family Medical Leave Act
(“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq,
because of his race in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e-2(a)(1), the Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil
Rights Act (“ELCRA”), M.C.L. 37.2202, and in
retaliation for opposing a violation of ELCRA in violation of
MCL 37.201(a). Plaintiff also alleges that, in failing to
properly represent him because of his race, Defendant Local
699 violated ELCRA's prohibitions of race discrimination
and retaliation for opposing a violation of the act.
November 3, 2016 Defendant Local 699 filed a motion to
dismiss Plaintiff's claims against it pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Mot. Dismiss,
ECF No. 6. Defendant Local 699 argues that Plaintiff's
ELCRA claims are completely preempted by Section 301 of the
Labor Management Relations Act, or, in the alternative,
completely preempted by federal labor law requiring a union
to fairly represent its members. Defendant Local 699 further
argues that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative
remedies, and that his preempted claims therefore must be
dismissed. For the reasons stated below, Defendant Local
699's motion will be granted.
Eric Eggelston is a resident of Saginaw County, Michigan.
See Compl. ¶ 1. On or about July 1, 2010,
Plaintiff was hired as an assemblyman by Defendant Nexteer, a
corporation domiciled in Delaware and operating a facility in
Saginaw, Michigan. Id. at ¶¶ 2, 6. As a
result of his employment with Nexteer, Plaintiff became a
member of Local 699, a labor organization domiciled in the
state of Michigan. Id. at ¶¶ 3, 7. Local
699 is a local chapter of the International United Automobile
Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America
(“UAW”). He was therefore party to a Collective
Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) between Defendant
Nexteer and Defendant Local 699.
into his employment, Plaintiff observed that Local 699
officials were not adequately representing African-American
members in filing grievances. Id. at ¶ 8.
Plaintiff therefore began assisting African-American
employees in filing appeals. Id. at ¶ 9. On one
occasion spanning from late 2010 to early 2011, Plaintiff
successfully assisted a man named Larease Williamson in
appealing a wrongful discharge. Id. at ¶¶
Mr. Williamson's return to work, on March 30, 2011
Plaintiff alleges that he was assaulted by a Local 699
elected Committeeman named Joe Laurn, who allegedly
threatened to retaliate against Plaintiff for providing
assistance to union members with their appeals. Id.
at ¶ 13. Despite Plaintiff's complaints to
Nexteer's Human Resources department, no action was
taken. Id. at ¶ 14. Plaintiff's attempt to
obtain a personal protection order against Mr. Laurn from the
court was also unsuccessful. Id. at ¶ 15.
Finally, on January 6, 2012 Plaintiff wrote a letter to the
International President of UAW regarding the March 30, 2011
assault incident and alleging that Defendant Nexteer had a
practice of discriminating against Plaintiff and others on
the basis of race. Id. at ¶ 15.
than two weeks after Plaintiff sent the letter, on January
18, 2012, Defendant Nexteer suspended Plaintiff for the
balance of his shift and for two weeks based on an accusation
that Plaintiff had stopped the assembly line. Id. at
¶ 17. That same day Plaintiff grieved the discipline
through the Union, alleging that Defendant had not followed
the progressive disciplinary provisions of the CBA.
Id. at ¶ 18. On March 27, 2012 Plaintiff's
grievance was settled, his discipline was reduced, and he was
paid for time missed. Id. at ¶ 21.
issues with Defendants continued through the 2012 calendar
year. On or about April 2, 2012 Plaintiff's supervisor,
Shannon Decker, issued Plaintiff a discipline of a suspension
for the balance of his shift and 30 days. Id. at
¶ 26. However, after serving only two days of
the suspension Plaintiff was returned to work and provided
pay for the two days served. Id. at ¶ 27. Then,
on May 23, 2012 Ms. Decker issued Plaintiff a notice of
discipline for unexcused absences from May 16 to May 18,
2012. Id. at ¶ 22. Plaintiff alleges that in
March of 2012 he had requested vacation time from May 14 to
May 18, 2012, which had been approved by Ms. Decker.
Plaintiff further alleges that Ms. Decker had altered his
request, changing the “8” of May 18 to a
“5”, and then writing “2-days” next
to the request. Id. at ¶ 24. In response
Plaintiff filed two grievances. In the first, filed on May
24, 2012, Plaintiff demanded the removal of the attendance
points assessed against him. Id. at ¶ 27. In
the second, filed on May 25, 2012, Plaintiff alleged that by
altering his time off request Ms. Decker had harassed him.
Id. at ¶ 29.
of 2012, Plaintiff was promoted from an assemblyman to an
“A-bucket position.” Id. at ¶ 30.
He therefore began reporting to Sean Higgins. Id.
two years later, on or about March 14, 2014 Plaintiff
requested time off pursuant to the FMLA for sleep apnea.
Compl. ¶ 31. Plaintiff was provided with forms on March
17, 2014, which he completed and returned to Defendant
Nexteer on March 27, 2014. Id. at ¶¶
32-33. On April 7, 2014 Plaintiff was notified by Denny
Getgood, a human resources representative, that his request
was not approved. Id. at ¶ 34. That same day,
Plaintiff's Union representative, Robert Essennacher,
sent Mr. Getgood an email informing him that Plaintiff did
not receive sufficient notice as to why his FMLA request was
being denied. Id. at ¶ 37. Mr. Getgood
responded that Plaintiff's request was being denied
because Plaintiff's condition had not required any
hospital visits or overnight stays. Plaintiff alleges that Mr.
Getgood was incorrect because he had spent two overnights at
a hospital in order to undergo sleep studies. Id. at
response to the denial, on April 10, 2014 Plaintiff requested
that his Local 699 representative call the Civil & Human
Rights committee to file a racial discrimination complaint
against Mr. Getgood. Id. at ¶ 40. Plaintiff
also informed Mr. Getgood of his desire to file a racial
discrimination complaint against him. Id. at ¶
41. Plaintiff followed up with Local 699 on January 27, 2015
again requesting that his representative file a civil rights
complaint on his behalf, but the representative did not do
so. Id. at ¶ 43.
September 4, 2015 Mr. Goodwin terminated Plaintiff's
employment, claiming that Plaintiff had taken a sandwich from
Nexteer's food market without paying for it. Id.
at ¶ 45. Plaintiff contended that he did not steal
anything, but instead had simply substituted an expired
sandwich with an unexpired sandwich in accordance with market
procedures. Id. at ¶ 46-49. Despite the fact
that Defendant Nexteer and Defendant Local 699 had previously
agreed to return two Caucasian employees to work after
stealing from the market, Defendants did not reach an
agreement to return Plaintiff to work. Id. at ¶
obtained a right to sue letter from the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission on June 21, 2016. See Compl.
Ex. A. Plaintiff then initiated the present action against
Defendants on September 16, 2016, asserting the following six
counts: (1) Race discrimination in violation of Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by Defendant Nexteer; (2)
Retaliation in violation of the FMLA by Defendant Nexteer;
(3) Race discrimination in violation of ELCRA by Defendant
Nexteer; (4) Retaliation in violation of ELCRA by Defendant