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International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers v. JDD, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maine

November 14, 2018

INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MACHINISTS AND AEROSPACE WORKERS, DISTRICT LODGE 4, LOCAL LODGE S25, Plaintiff
v.
JDD, INC., Defendant

          RECOMMENDED DECISION ON PLAINTIFF'S REQUEST TO VACATE ARBITRATION AWARD

          JOHN C. NIVISON, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, District Lodge 4, Local Lodge S25 (Plaintiff or the Union), requests judicial review of an arbitration determination that Defendant JDD, Inc. terminated William Mattis's employment and his insurance benefits in accordance with the governing collective bargaining agreement. Plaintiff asks the Court to vacate the arbitration decision.

         Following a review of the record, and after consideration of the parties' arguments, I recommend the Court deny Plaintiff's request.[1]

         Background [2]

         Plaintiff and Defendant are parties to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The CBA governs matters related to “wages, hours of work, and conditions of employment, ” and “provide[s] procedures for prompt, equitable adjustments of alleged grievances.” (CBA, Article 1, ECF No. 19-1.) Under the CBA, Plaintiff may prosecute grievances on behalf of employees “concerning the effect, interpretation, application, claim of breach or violation of this Agreement, or any other dispute pertaining to wages, hours or working conditions.” (Id., Article 8, § 1.) If a grievance cannot be resolved through the grievance process, the matter can be submitted to arbitration. (Id., Article 8, § 4.) According to the CBA, the parties agreed that “[t]he award of the Arbitrator shall be final and binding.” (Id., Article 8, § 4(b).)

         Article 11 of the CBA addresses the availability of a leave of absence for union members. The types of available leave include union representative leave, armed forces leave, bereavement leave, and leave on account of injury. (See id., Article 11, § 7 (“Injury, Hardship or Sickness Leaves of Absence”).) A leave of absence is limited to 90 days, but the leave can be extended by mutual agreement.

         Mr. Mattis worked for Defendant and for Defendant's predecessor at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for more than 20 years. On June 10, 2016, Mr. Mattis fell at work and sustained an injury. He drove himself to the hospital, where he received one or more diagnostic radiology examinations. He was discharged and instructed to follow-up with a neurosurgeon. (Arbitration Award at 3, ECF No. 19-24; Discharge Summary, ECF No. 19-7.)

         On June 21, 2016, in a note provided to Defendant, a physician wrote that Mr. Mattis must be excused from work until further notice. (Ex. 8, ECF No. 19-8.) Although Mr. Mattis filed and pursued a claim for workers' compensation benefits, neither he nor Plaintiff directly asked for a leave of absence under Article 11 of the CBA. The arbitrator found that for a six-month period following the incident, Mr. Mattis and Plaintiff did not provide Defendant with an anticipated return to work date. (Arbitration Award at 3.)

         Mr. Mattis's membership in the Union and his full-time employment status with Defendant entitled him to certain health and welfare benefits. (Id., Participation Agreement Addendum, PageID # 122.) The benefits included coverage for a period for medical leave of absence, with a maximum duration of six months. (Id., PageID # 123.)

         On December 31, 2016, Defendant discontinued Mr. Mattis's medical coverage pursuant to the six-month limitation. (Arbitration Award at 3.) On February 7, 2017, Plaintiff filed a grievance to challenge this action. Plaintiff asserted in the grievance that Mr. Mattis was “out of work on a work related injury.” (Ex. 3, ECF No. 19-3.)

         In January 2017, Defendant contacted its workers' compensation insurer to obtain an update on Mr. Mattis's condition. The insurer provided a medical report by a consultative examining physician, Peter Esponnette, M.D., who advised that Mr. Mattis had a 50% chance to return to regular duty by mid-June. (Arbitration Award at 4; Ex. 10, ECF No. 19-10.)

         On March 7, 2017, Defendant notified Mr. Mattis that his employment was tentatively terminated subject to his ability to provide updated medical confirmation of an earlier and definitive return to work date. (Arbitration Award at 4 - 5; Termination Letter, Ex. 12, ECF No. 19-12.) Neither Plaintiff nor Mr. Mattis provided a response to Defendant's notification. (Arbitration Award at 5.) On March 24, 2017, Plaintiff filed a related grievance asserting that Mr. Mattis was “out of work on workman's comp for an injury at work, ” and that Mr. Mattis was “not on a leave of absence.” (Ex. 2, ECF No. 19-2.)

         Following the parties' failure to resolve the grievances, on May 22, 2017, Plaintiff requested arbitration pursuant to Article 8 of the CBA. (Ex. 4, ECF No. 19-4.) An arbitration hearing was conducted on October 27, 2017. (Arbitration Award at 1.) At the hearing, Defendant maintained that following his injury, Mr. Mattis was on a leave of absence, and that the extended length of the leave (nine months) permitted Defendant to terminate Mr. Mattis's medical coverage and employment, particularly given the report of an indefinite time for his return to work. (Ex. 19, ECF No. 19-19.) Plaintiff argued that Mr. Mattis's ...


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