Chapple v. Fairmont General Hosp., Inc., No. 18841

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtWORKMAN
Citation181 W.Va. 755,384 S.E.2d 366
Docket NumberNo. 18841
Decision Date27 July 1989
Parties, 134 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2946, 113 Lab.Cas. P 11,775 Roberta P. CHAPPLE v. FAIRMONT GENERAL HOSPITAL, INC., et al.

Page 366

384 S.E.2d 366
181 W.Va. 755, 134 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2946,
113 Lab.Cas. P 11,775
Roberta P. CHAPPLE
v.
FAIRMONT GENERAL HOSPITAL, INC., et al.
No. 18841.
Supreme Court of Appeals of
West Virginia.
July 27, 1989.

Page 367

[181 W.Va. 756] Syllabus by the Court

1. Although state and federal courts have concurrent jurisdiction in actions involving an alleged breach of a collective bargaining agreement, the substantive law to be applied in suits under § 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act is federal law.

2. Failure to exhaust the remedies outlined in a collective bargaining agreement's grievance procedure will preclude an aggrieved employee from bringing a civil action, unless the employee falls within an identified exception.

3. If an aggrieved employee can demonstrate that the union breached its duty to adequately or fairly represent his grievance, he may be excused from the failure to exhaust his remedies under a collective bargaining contract.

Robert M. Amos, Fairmont, for Roberta P. Chapple.

Stephen R. Brooks, Furbee, Amos, Webb & Critchfield, Fairmont, for Fairmont Gen.

Philip C. Petty, Fairmont, for ServiceMaster.

Page 368

[181 W.Va. 757] WORKMAN, Justice:

Appellant Roberta Chapple instituted action on May 2, 1988, in the Marion County Circuit Court against her employer, appellee Fairmont General Hospital ("Hospital"), alleging it had breached its employment contract with her. She also claimed that the other appellee, ServiceMaster Company, a management firm which advised Fairmont General Hospital, had by its participation in the Hospital's decision to terminate her, tortiously interfered with her employment contract. Appellant made no allegation of unfair or inadequate union representation. The Hospital and ServiceMaster each moved to dismiss the action on the ground that the appellant had failed to exhaust her remedies under the collective bargaining agreement governing her employment. The circuit court granted the motions without making findings of fact or conclusions of law.

Appellant makes the following assignments of error:

1. The Lower Court erred in granting appellee's Motion for Summary Judgment of dismissal, particularly where diametrically opposed to the law and the provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement/Contract.

2. The Lower Court erred in failing to make any Findings of Fact or Conclusions of Law, as required.

3. The Lower Court erred in failing to state the grounds relied upon in denying Appellant's Motion to Reconsider, and disregarding basic contract law.

Although the assignments of error are rather inartfully stated, the appellant's brief makes clear her contentions that (1) the words "may demand that the grievance be submitted to arbitration" (emphasis added) in the collective bargaining agreement grievance procedure render arbitration optional, not mandatory; and (2) when the grievance was not advanced to arbitration, the appellant was entitled to file action in the circuit court.

Appellees contend that (1) the grievance procedure set forth in the collective bargaining agreement between the Hospital and the Union established the mechanism for the resolution of all disputes as to the application of any provision of the agreement; (2) the appellant and the Union failed to exhaust the remedies available under the agreement by not having her grievance submitted to arbitration; and (3) the appellant did not allege nor prove that the Union breached its duty of fair representation, thus failing to bring her case within the parameters of this narrow exception to the mandatory exhaustion of remedies rule. Appellees further contend that in exercising their concurrent jurisdiction with federal courts in an action involving an alleged breach of a collective bargaining agreement, state courts must apply federal substantive law. This Court concludes the appellees' contentions are correct and affirms the judgment of the circuit court.

The facts pertinent to the issues here are undisputed. The Hospital hired appellant as housekeeper in February 1986. After she was hired she joined the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, AFL-CIO ("Union"). On June 30, 1986, the Hospital executed a collective bargaining agreement with the Union. Section XV of this Agreement provides "the Hospital shall have the right to ... discharge or otherwise discipline an employee for just cause." The collective bargaining agreement included a four-step grievance procedure 1 which defined a grievance and outlined appropriate steps for resolution.

Page 369

[181 W.Va. 758] On December 7, 1987, appellant was fired for alleged insubordination. 2 Appellant filed a grievance and her Union advanced this grievance through the first three steps, but it was not submitted to the fourth step, arbitration. The grievance procedure in pertinent part provides:

If a grievance is not resolved under the provisions of this Article [setting forth the grievance procedure], the Union may demand that the grievance be submitted to arbitration.... No grievance shall be submitted to arbitration without the consent of an International Representative of the Union.

....

[A]ny grievance not advanced by the Union will be considered dropped.... (emphasis added)

The Hospital and ServiceMaster contend that because the claim was not advanced to arbitration, it must be considered dropped pursuant to Section D of the grievance procedure.

I. APPLICABLE LAW

The federal Labor Management Relations Act was enacted in 1947. Its stated purpose in part is

to prescribe the legitimate rights of both employees and employers in their relations affecting commerce, to provide orderly and peaceful procedures for preventing the interference by either with the legitimate rights of the other, to protect the rights of individual employees in their relations with labor organizations whose activities affect commerce ... [and] to define and proscribe practices on the part of labor and management which affect commerce ....

29 U.S.C. § 141(b) (1947).

Congress recognized the unequal bargaining power between individual employees and management, and the benefits to employees to organize and to collectively bargain with their employer. 29 U.S.C. § 151 (1947). The Labor Management Relations Act was designed to encourage "the practice and procedure of collective bargaining [181 W.Va. 759]

Page 370

... for the purpose of negotiating the terms and conditions of [workers'] employment...." Id. Although state and federal courts have concurrent jurisdiction in actions involving an alleged breach of a collective bargaining agreement, the substantive law to be applied in suits under § 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act is federal law. Textile Workers Union of Am. v. Lincoln Mills of Ala., 353 U.S. 448, 456, 77 S.Ct. 912, 917-18, 1 L.Ed.2d 972 (1957); Charles Dowd Box Co. v. Courtney, 368 U.S. 502, 507-12, 82 S.Ct. 519, 522-25, 7 L.Ed.2d 483 (1962); See also William E. Arnold Co. v. Carpenters Dist. Council, 417 U.S. 12, 16, 94 S.Ct. 2069, 2072, 40 L.Ed.2d 620 (1974). In Lincoln Mills, the federal courts were directed to fashion a body of federal law for the enforcement of collective bargaining agreements, including specific laws to enforce arbitration agreements. Lincoln Mills, 353 U.S. at 451, 77 S.Ct. at 915 (citing Textile Workers Union of Am. v. Am. Thread Co., 113 F.Supp. 137, 141 (1953)).

This position was further clarified in Local 174, Teamsters v. Lucas Flour Co., 369 U.S. 95, 82 S.Ct. 571, 7 L.Ed.2d 593 (1962), when the Supreme Court held "substantial principles of federal labor law must be paramount in the area covered by [§ 301]", and that "incompatible doctrines of local law must give way to principles of federal labor law." Id. at 102, 82 S.Ct. at 576. The Court reached this holding because of the need for uniform labor laws which would promote union's and management's willingness to negotiate collective bargaining agreements. Id. at 103-04, 82 S.Ct. at 577. "A state rule that purports to define the meaning or scope of a term in a [labor] contract suit therefore is pre-empted by federal labor law." Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 210, 105 S.Ct. 1904, 1911, 85 L.Ed.2d 206 (1985). Obviously "[t]he Supreme Court long ago recognized that collective bargaining agreements were not to be interpreted under traditional rules of contract but under a federal common law of collective bargaining." Dist. 17, Dist. 29, Local Teamsters 7113 v. Allied Corp., 765 F.2d 412, 418 (4th Cir.1985) (citing Lincoln Mills, 353 U.S. at 448, 77 S.Ct. at 913). Clearly, "interpretive uniformity and predictability" require "labor-contract disputes to be resolved by reference to federal law" and "also require that the meaning given a contract phrase or term be subject to uniform federal interpretation." Allis-Chalmers, 471 U.S. at 211, 105 S.Ct. at 1911.

The collective bargaining agreement in the instant case defines a grievance as "a dispute raised by an employee or the Union involving interpretation or application of any provision of this Agreement, including any discipline or discharge of an employee in the bargaining unit." Obviously this dispute between appellant and the Hospital involving her discharge is clearly covered by the collective bargaining agreement. Federal labor law must be applied and state contract law is preempted.

II. EXHAUSTION OF REMEDIES

Next it is necessary to examine whether federal labor law requires appellant to exhaust the remedies provided in the collective bargaining agreement's grievance procedure before she can file a claim in state court. The United States Supreme Court spoke to this issue in Republic Steel Corp. v. Maddox, 379 U.S. 650, 85 S.Ct. 614, 13 L.Ed.2d 580 (1965) holding "[a]s a general rule in cases to which federal law applies, federal labor policy requires that individual employees wishing to assert contract grievances must attempt use of the contract grievance procedure agreed...

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8 practice notes
  • Fayette County Nat. Bank v. Lilly, No. 23360
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • March 14, 1997
    ...order before addressing the Lillys' defense. A. Adequacy Of The Circuit Court's Order In Chapple v. Fairmont General Hosp., Inc., 181 W.Va. 755, 762, 384 S.E.2d 366, 373 [199 W.Va. 353] Page 236 (1989) we indicated that "it would be totally improper for the trial court to make findings of f......
  • Tolliver v. Kroger Co., No. 23940.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 21, 1997
    ...may bring suits on these contracts [in federal court] under Sec. 301." See Syl. Pt. 1, Chapple v. Fairmont General Hosp., Inc., 181 W.Va. 755, 384 S.E.2d 366 (1989) ("Although state and federal courts have concurrent jurisdiction in actions involving an alleged breach of a collective bargai......
  • Bailey v. Norfolk and Western Ry. Co., No. 26004.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 15, 1999
    ...regard to the citizenship of the parties. 29 U.S.C. 185(a) (1947) (1994 ed.). 10. See Syl. Pt. 1, Chapple v. Fairmont Gen. Hosp., Inc., 181 W.Va. 755, 384 S.E.2d 366 (1989) ("Although state and federal courts have concurrent jurisdiction in actions involving an alleged breach of a collectiv......
  • General Motors Corp. v. Smith, No. 31425.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 25, 2004
    ...concluded, however, that Kroger waived § 301 preemption by failing to raise it. Likewise, in Chapple v. Fairmont General Hospital, Inc., 181 W.Va. 755, 384 S.E.2d 366 (1989), this Court found that § 301 preemption applied. There, after the plaintiff was fired for insubordination, she sued h......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
8 cases
  • Fayette County Nat. Bank v. Lilly, No. 23360
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • March 14, 1997
    ...order before addressing the Lillys' defense. A. Adequacy Of The Circuit Court's Order In Chapple v. Fairmont General Hosp., Inc., 181 W.Va. 755, 762, 384 S.E.2d 366, 373 [199 W.Va. 353] Page 236 (1989) we indicated that "it would be totally improper for the trial court to make findings of f......
  • Tolliver v. Kroger Co., No. 23940.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 21, 1997
    ...may bring suits on these contracts [in federal court] under Sec. 301." See Syl. Pt. 1, Chapple v. Fairmont General Hosp., Inc., 181 W.Va. 755, 384 S.E.2d 366 (1989) ("Although state and federal courts have concurrent jurisdiction in actions involving an alleged breach of a collective bargai......
  • Bailey v. Norfolk and Western Ry. Co., No. 26004.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 15, 1999
    ...regard to the citizenship of the parties. 29 U.S.C. 185(a) (1947) (1994 ed.). 10. See Syl. Pt. 1, Chapple v. Fairmont Gen. Hosp., Inc., 181 W.Va. 755, 384 S.E.2d 366 (1989) ("Although state and federal courts have concurrent jurisdiction in actions involving an alleged breach of a collectiv......
  • General Motors Corp. v. Smith, No. 31425.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 25, 2004
    ...concluded, however, that Kroger waived § 301 preemption by failing to raise it. Likewise, in Chapple v. Fairmont General Hospital, Inc., 181 W.Va. 755, 384 S.E.2d 366 (1989), this Court found that § 301 preemption applied. There, after the plaintiff was fired for insubordination, she sued h......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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