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AP&S Attorneys Win Victory in Failure to Represent Case

Robert Brooks and Julie Sacks recently won summary judgment on behalf of Public Employees’ Local Union 1033 of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, AFL-CIO. In a claim brought by a former union member and former employee of the City of Providence, for breach of the union’s duty of fair representation, Judge Brian Van Couyghen of the Rhode Island Superior Court held that the Local 1033 had not breached its duty of fair representation and breach of contract when it refused to arbitrate its employees supervisor and eventual termination of employment. The plaintiff, a former member of Local 1033 and former employee of the City of Providence, had filed a grievance contesting his paid suspension from work after he was arrested for off-duty criminal conduct, which included firing shots at a fleeing automobile. The union did not pursue its employee’s suspension to arbitration, but agreed with the City to hold the grievance in abeyance pending the outcome of the criminal charges. After the employee was convicted and incarcerated for his off-duty criminal conduct, the City discharged the employee for his unexcused absence resulting from his incarceration. The employee filed a second grievance to contest his discharge. Local 1033 did not pursue either the employee’s grievance of his suspension or his discharge to arbitration. The employee subsequently filed suit in the Rhode Island Superior Court, alleging that Local 1033 had breached its duty of fair representation by not pursuing arbitration of his grievances, and that the employer had breached the collective bargaining agreement when it discharged him.  Both Local 1033 and the City of Providence filed motions for summary judgment. The Court agreed with Local 1033 that the plaintiff could not prevail on his hybrid claim against Local 1033 and the City of Providence because a union has no duty to arbitrate a meritless grievance.

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