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Carter v. Spirit Aerosystems, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

November 3, 2017

MARK ANTHONY CARTER, Plaintiff,
v.
SPIRIT AEROSYSTEMS, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ERIC F. MELGREN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This case arises from plaintiff Mark Carter's employment with defendant Spirit Aerosystems, Inc. (“Spirit”). Spirit fired Carter on July 21, 2017 after Carter repeatedly violated the company's call-in policy for employees missing work. In turn, Carter alleges Spirit discriminated against him for taking leave pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), and Spirit only fired him because he filed a complaint about his mistreatment. In addition to filing suit against Spirit, Carter is concurrently bringing a claim against his labor union- International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (“IAM”)-for breaching its duty to fairly represent Carter throughout the grievance process against Spirit. Presently before the Court is IAM's motion to dismiss Carter's fair representation claim. For the following reasons, IAM's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 42) is granted.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background [1]

         Carter, a former underwing mechanic for Spirit, was frequently absent from work because of his own work-related injuries and his wife's health condition. Although Carter's absences were excused under the FMLA, Carter alleges that his supervisors withheld the opportunity to work overtime and threatened to transfer him to a more physically demanding job as punishment for missing work.

         Carter filed a formal complaint with Spirit's Equal Employment Opportunity Department regarding his mistreatment. After filing the complaint, Carter's mistreatment worsened. Carter alleges his supervisors began retaliating against him by repeatedly harassing him in person and by text message, threatening to discipline him, changing some of his absences in Spirit's system from “excused” to “unexcused, ” and placing stricter work restrictions on Carter in comparison to Carter's fellow employees.

         During this time, Spirit repeatedly disciplined Carter for failing to notify his supervisors that he would be absent on days he was unable to work. Spirit gave Carter multiple warnings and two suspensions for violating the company's call-in policy. On July 21, 2015, Spirit fired Carter for the same conduct.

         Between December 14, 2014 and July 27, 2015, Carter filed five grievances with his labor union, IAM.[2] Each grievance was made after Carter was disciplined for missing work without calling his supervisor. Carter's final grievance was in response to Spirit terminating his employment. On November 17, 2015, IAM and Spirit sent a joint letter to Carter that said: “After a thorough investigation by the Union and the Company, it is agreed that these grievances will not be moved to the next level and are considered closed.”

         Carter, proceeding pro se, initiated this lawsuit on September 9, 2016. Carter's original complaint only alleged a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) against Spirit. On June 21, 2017, Carter filed an amended complaint adding three defendants: IAM, Foulston Siefkin LLP, and the U.S. Department of Labor. Carter also added claims under the FMLA, the Kansas Workers' Compensation Act, K.S.A. § 60-1009, common law defamation, and breach of contract.

         In July 2017, Spirit moved to dismiss several of Carter's claims, including the “breach of contract” claim. On October 27, 2017, the Court granted Spirit's partial motion to dismiss. In doing so, the Court recognized that Carter's “breach of contract” claim was a hybrid § 301 breach of contract/fair representation claim against Spirit and IAM.[3] The Court held the six-month statute of limitations applicable to such claims began to run on November 17, 2015 when Carter received a letter from IAM and Spirit notifying him that his grievances would not be moved to arbitration and were considered closed. Carter's breach of contract claim was brought outside the statute of limitations and the Court accordingly dismissed the claim.[4] IAM has filed its own motion to dismiss, arguing that Carter's fair representation claim is also barred by the statute of limitations.

         II. Legal Standard

         “A pro se litigant's pleadings are to be construed liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.”[5] However, the Court cannot “assume the role of advocate for the pro se litigant.”[6] The Court will not “supply additional factual allegations to round out a plaintiff's complaint or construct a legal theory on a plaintiff's behalf.”[7] The Court need only accept as true a plaintiff's “well-pleaded factual contentions, not his conclusory allegations.”[8]

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must present factual allegations, assumed to be true, to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level” and must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”[9] The statute of limitations is generally considered an affirmative defense, but there are times it may be appropriate to resolve a statute of limitations issue at the motion to dismiss stage, especially “when the dates given in the complaint make clear that the right sued upon has been extinguished” and there is no basis for tolling the statute.[10]

         III. Analysis

         Carter brings a hybrid § 301 breach of contract/fair representation claim against Spirit and IAM.[11] On October 27, 2017, the Court dismissed Carter's breach of contract claim against Spirit because it was brought outside the statute of limitations.[12] Here, the Court dismisses ...


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