968 F.2d 937 (9th Cir. 1992), 91-35075, Jones v. Union Pacific R. Co.

Docket Nº:91-35075.
Citation:968 F.2d 937
Party Name:William Michael JONES, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, United Transportation Union, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:July 01, 1992
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Page 937

968 F.2d 937 (9th Cir. 1992)

William Michael JONES, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, United Transportation Union,

Defendants-Appellees.

No. 91-35075.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

July 1, 1992

Argued and Submitted May 5, 1992.

Page 938

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 939

Michael L. Rosenbaum and E.J. Simmons, Portland, Or., for plaintiff-appellant.

Kathleen J. Ford, Omaha, Neb., Clinton J. Miller, III, and Kevin C. Broder, Asst. General Counsel, United Transp. Union, Cleveland, Ohio, for defendants-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Oregon.

Before: WALLACE, Chief Circuit Judge, GOODWIN, Circuit Judge, and CROCKER [*], District Judge.

GOODWIN, Circuit Judge:

William Michael Jones appeals a summary judgment in favor of United Transportation Union (the "Union") and the Union Pacific Railroad Company (the "Company"). The district court rejected Jones' claims of breach of the duty of fair representation against the Union, breach of contract against the Company, and equitable estoppel against both. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

Jones began working for the Company in 1973, first as a trainman and later as a conductor. Jones is a member of the Union. A collective bargaining agreement (the "CBA"), negotiated by the Union, exists between the Company and its employees.

In 1987, the parties to the CBA added a provision allowing Company employees to take a two-year leave of absence from the Company to work for AmTrak. Employees could return any time within the two years. However, for employees whose leaves of absence extended beyond two years, the provision set out certain conditions for returning to the Company. On April 29, 1987, Jones took a leave of absence from the Company to work for AmTrak.

Jones' leave of absence extended beyond two years. Before the expiration of two years, however, Jones had understood through conversations with officials of the Company that extending his leave of absence would not cause problems.

On June 12, 1989, the Company's dispatching director, C.W. Dent, sent a letter to Company employees who had overstayed their leaves of absence and were still at AmTrak. The Company had been experiencing a manpower shortage and through the letter Dent asked the employees to return and declared that the Company would not enforce the conditions for late return set forth in the CBA. This offer would expire on July 12, 1989. The Union never objected to Dent's letter or indicated that it would challenge the return of Company employees.

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Through Company officials, Jones understood that the Company was not going to enforce the July 12 deadline of Dent's letter. Indeed, when, on July 26, Jones indicated his desire to return to the Company, the Company informed him that he could return if he took a rules test and a physical examination, resigned from AmTrak, and notified the Union that he was returning. On the same day, Jones left a message on the answering machine of Lavonne Nelson, the General Chairman of the Union. In the message, Jones indicated that he was returning to the Company. Jones subsequently took the required tests and on July 31, having heard nothing from the Union, Jones resigned from AmTrak and returned to the Company. The record reveals no Company employees, other than Jones, who returned to the Company after a greater than two-year leave of absence with AmTrak.

Jones worked for the Company until August 9. On that day, Jones reported to work and learned that the Company had prevented him from "marking up" for work. Jones subsequently learned that the Company had taken its action at the request of the Union. On August 10, Jones called General Chairman Nelson. In that conversation, Nelson called Jones a "puke" and informed him that the Union would not represent him. Nelson refused to help Jones obtain a copy of the CBA and advised him to try to return to AmTrak.

At this point, Jones was unable...

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