Lettis v. U.S. Postal Service, No. CV 95-737 (ADS).

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
Writing for the CourtSpatt
Citation39 F.Supp.2d 181
PartiesJohn M. LETTIS, Plaintiff, v. UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, National Association of Letter Carriers, NALC Branch 6000, and Employees at the Williston Park Post Office so named — Peggy Eng — Postmaster, Fred Otto, Joe Celentano, Andy Kachianos, Don Daly, and Dominic A. Prestano, Defendants.
Decision Date12 August 1998
Docket NumberNo. CV 95-737 (ADS).
39 F.Supp.2d 181
John M. LETTIS, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, National Association of Letter Carriers, NALC Branch 6000, and Employees at the Williston Park Post Office so named — Peggy Eng — Postmaster, Fred Otto, Joe Celentano, Andy Kachianos, Don Daly, and Dominic A. Prestano, Defendants.
No. CV 95-737 (ADS).
United States District Court, E.D. New York.
August 12, 1998.

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Amrod and Ricci, Garden City, NY (John B. Amrod, of counsel), for plaintiff.

Zachary W. Carter, United States Attorney, Eastern District of New York, Brooklyn, NY, by Michael J. Goldberger, Assistant U.S. Attorney, for defendants United States Postal Service, Peggy Eng, Fred Otto, Joe Celentano, and Andy Kachianos.

Cohen, Weiss and Simon, New York City (Richard M. Seltzer, Tamir W. Rosenblum, Peter Zwiebach, of counsel), for defendants National Association of Letter

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Carriers, NALC Branch 6000, Don Daly, and Dominic A. Prestano.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

SPATT, District Judge.


This action arises from the claims of the plaintiff, John M. Lettis ("Lettis" or the "plaintiff"), against the United States Postal Service (the "USPS") and several of its employees (collectively, the "Postal Service Defendants") for the breach of the national collective bargaining agreement (the "CBA") between the USPS and the defendant, the National Association of Letter Carriers ("NALC"), and against the defendants NALC and its local branch, the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 6000 ("Branch 6000" and collectively, the "Union"), for the breach of their duty of fair representation, in violation of the Postal Reorganization Act (the "PRA"), 39 U.S.C. § 1208. The gravamen of the plaintiff's action is that the USPS violated the CBA by suspending and then terminating his employment, and the Union failed to represent him properly in the resulting grievances and arbitrations. Presently before the Court are the defendants' motions for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

I. BACKGROUND

Lettis had been employed as a letter carrier since 1968, for a period of twentysix (26) years. As a letter carrier, he was a member of NALC, which is the postal employees' collective bargaining representative, and its affiliated local labor organization, Branch 6000, for which he was, at one time, a shop steward. Even before the events which culminated in this action, Lettis had a history of disciplinary actions taken against him. On June 27, 1991, Lettis was issued a letter of removal from the USPS (the "June 27, 1991 removal letter"). The June 27, 1991 removal letter listed verbal abuse and threats to employees, as well as the failure to follow instructions, as the reasons for his termination. The letter alleged that: (1) Lettis verbally abused and cursed at two employees and threatened to take them outside; (2) when a supervisor intervened, Lettis screamed obscenities at the supervisor and asked him to go outside to settle it; and (3) Lettis' verbal explosion lasted from approximately 8:15 A.M. until 10:00 A.M., at which time Lettis left work for a doctor appointment. The letter also listed previous actions including harassment of other employees, such as telling an employee that she was "dead meat" while making a throat-slitting gesture and telling another employee that she should watch out for him.

In response to the June 27, 1991 removal letter, Branch 6000 filed a grievance. On August 26, 1991, the grievance was settled. The settlement provided, among other things, that although the removal was just and proper, Lettis would not be terminated but would be placed on probation for one (1) year during which time he would follow all lawful instructions and rules, receive psychological counseling, and conduct himself in a manner that would not be offensive to other people.

On February 21, 1992, before his probationary period ended, Lettis was issued another letter of removal (the "February 21, 1992 removal letter"). The February 21, 1992 removal letter cited the plaintiff's failure to follow instructions and unauthorized extension of street time as the reasons for his removal. Branch 6000 filed a grievance challenging the removal, which ultimately proceeded to arbitration. On May 10, 1992, the arbitrator ruled in Branch 6000's favor, rescinded the removal, and reinstated Lettis to his previous position. However, the arbitrator held that Lettis was not without fault and therefore, refused to award back pay. In addition, Lettis' probationary period was extended to May 10, 1993, one (1) year from the date of the arbitration award.

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A. The Emergency Suspension

On November 16, 1993, approximately six months after Lettis' probation resulting from the February 21, 1992 removal letter ended, while working at the post office in Williston Park, New York branch (the "Williston Park Post Office"), Lettis and a fellow letter carrier, the defendant Andrew Kachianos ("Kachianos"), were involved in an altercation. The plaintiff alleges that Kachianos tripped and kicked him in the knee, and spit in his face. Marion Kang, a fellow postal employee, allegedly witnessed the entire incident. The plaintiff contends that as he went to get the defendant, Joe Celentano ("Celentano"), the acting supervisor, he saw Bob Green ("Green") intervene and restrain Kachianos in a bear hug. Shortly thereafter, the police were summoned to the scene.

After the incident with Kachianos, Lettis maintains that Celentano and the defendant, Postmaster Peggy Eng ("Eng"), attempted to coerce him to make a statement outside the presence of a union delegate or shop steward, in contravention of his rights under the CBA and the law. Thereafter, Celentano and Eng directed Lettis to go home and not to return to the Williston Park Post Office until further notification. Lettis obeyed the order while Kachianos lingered on the scene. When the police arrived, only Kachianos who was with the defendant, Don Daly ("Daly"), Branch 6000's shop steward, was permitted to speak with the police.

On November 17, 1993, Lettis was advised by the defendant Dominic A. Prestano ("Prestano"), Executive Vice-President of Branch 6000, not to report to work until further notification. By letters dated November 18, 1993, Lettis and Kachianos were placed on emergency suspension by the USPS (the "Emergency Suspension"), which advised them that they were placed in an off-duty, without pay status, effective November 16, 1993 because they might be injurious to themselves and others. The letter of suspension addressed to Lettis gave the following sole reason for the USPS' action:

On November 16, 1993 you and letter Carrier Kachianos were involved in an altercation on the workroom floor. In that you may be injurious to yourself or other employees, to retain you in an active duty status would not be in the best interest of the Postal Service.

(Prestano Decl. dated May 29, 1998 ("Prestano Decl."), Ex. 6.)

Branch 6000 filed a grievance on behalf of Lettis, objecting to his suspension. Branch 6000 appointed Don Daly, the only shop steward at that time at the Williston Park Post Office, to represent Lettis in Step One of the grievance procedure. On November 24, 1993, the grievance was denied by the USPS at the Step One meeting with management. Lettis was not present at the Step One meeting.

Branch 6000 pursued the grievance to Step Two. On December 10, 1993, a Step Two hearing was held. Prestano represented Lettis in Step Two; he did not handle any stage of Kachianos' grievance. The USPS denied the grievance.

On December 13, 1993, Branch 6000 sent a grievance summary to William Yates ("Yates"), the National Business Agent for the New York region, to obtain his approval to submit the grievance to final and binding arbitration. On December 16, 1993, Yates filed for arbitration.

On February 25, 1994, the arbitration regarding the Emergency Suspension was held. The plaintiff was represented by Prestano and the USPS was represented by a senior labor relations specialist, a non-attorney. At the arbitration, the USPS offered a settlement that included some back pay and a transfer to a different post office as a regular carrier. However, upon learning that he would only be a substitute carrier and would lose all seniority, Lettis rejected the settlement offer.

NALC and the USPS stipulated that the following issue was to be decided by Arbitrator

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Margaret Leibowitz: "Did the Service violate Article 16, Section 7 of the National Agreement when it placed the Grievant, Mr. John Lettis, on off-duty, non-pay status effective November 16, 1993 at 1405 hours? If so, what shall be the remedy?" On March 11, 1994, Arbitrator Leibowitz issued an Opinion and Award denying NALC's grievance (the "March 11, 1994 Award"). Arbitrator Leibowitz characterized NALC's position as follows:

The Union contended that the Service lacked just cause for the emergency off-duty placement of the Grievant. The Union argued that the Service improperly invoked Article 16, Section 7 with respect to the Grievant because he was the victim of a physical and verbal assault by Mr. Kachianos. The Union further asserted that the Grievant was subjected to disparate treatment because he was not returned to duty three weeks after the incident when Mr. Kachianos was returned to duty. As a remedy, the union demanded that the Grievant be reinstated with full back pay, overtime, benefits and interest.

(Prestano Decl., Ex. 11 at 5.) In rendering an award for the USPS, Arbitrator Leibowitz summarized the testimony as follows:

Based upon the testimony of Mr. Otto, Mr. Celentano and the Grievant, I find that the Grievant participated in an altercation with Mr. Kachianos on the workroom floor which involved yelling and verbal threats, and which required...

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42 practice notes
  • Orellana v. Macy's Retail Holdings, Inc., 17 Civ. 5192 (NRB)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • July 10, 2018
    ...of limitations for assault and battery accrue at the time of the assault and battery, respectively, see Lettis v. U.S. Postal Serv., 39 F. Supp. 2d 181, 204 (E.D.N.Y. 1998), and for false imprisonment when the confinement terminates, see Harris v. Town of Islip Hous. Auth., 825 F. Supp. 2d ......
  • Kamdem-Ouaffo v. Pepsico, Inc., Case No. 14-CV-227 (KMK)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • January 26, 2016
    ...the occurrence of the tortious act and thus, is not appropriate for the continuing violation exception.” Lettis v. U.S. Postal Serv. , 39 F.Supp.2d 181, 205 (E.D.N.Y.1998) ; see also Nussenzweig v. diCorcia , 9 N.Y.3d 184, 848 N.Y.S.2d 7, 878 N.E.2d 589, 590 (2007) (“[T]he single publicatio......
  • HARGROVES v. City of New York, No. 03-CV-1668 (RRM)(ALC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • March 4, 2010
    ...act", the limitations period on these claims began running on the night Allen was arrested. Lettis v. United States Postal Serv., 39 F.Supp.2d 181, 204 (E.D.N.Y. 1998). The statute of limitations for "§ 1983 actions arising in New York . . . is three years." Eagleston v. Guido, 41 F.3d 865,......
  • Beckman v. U.S. Postal Service, No. 96 Civ. 3187(PKL).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • January 12, 2000
    ...`a union must necessarily, and without violating anyone's rights, represent employees who have antagonistic interests.'" Lettis v. USPS, 39 F.Supp.2d 181, 198 (E.D.N.Y.1998) (quoting Johnson v. American Postal Workers Union, 102 L.R.R.M. 3089, 3091, 1979 WL 33357 (D.D.C.1979)); see also Hum......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
42 cases
  • Orellana v. Macy's Retail Holdings, Inc., 17 Civ. 5192 (NRB)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • July 10, 2018
    ...of limitations for assault and battery accrue at the time of the assault and battery, respectively, see Lettis v. U.S. Postal Serv., 39 F. Supp. 2d 181, 204 (E.D.N.Y. 1998), and for false imprisonment when the confinement terminates, see Harris v. Town of Islip Hous. Auth., 825 F. Supp. 2d ......
  • Kamdem-Ouaffo v. Pepsico, Inc., Case No. 14-CV-227 (KMK)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • January 26, 2016
    ...the occurrence of the tortious act and thus, is not appropriate for the continuing violation exception.” Lettis v. U.S. Postal Serv. , 39 F.Supp.2d 181, 205 (E.D.N.Y.1998) ; see also Nussenzweig v. diCorcia , 9 N.Y.3d 184, 848 N.Y.S.2d 7, 878 N.E.2d 589, 590 (2007) (“[T]he single publicatio......
  • HARGROVES v. City of New York, No. 03-CV-1668 (RRM)(ALC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • March 4, 2010
    ...act", the limitations period on these claims began running on the night Allen was arrested. Lettis v. United States Postal Serv., 39 F.Supp.2d 181, 204 (E.D.N.Y. 1998). The statute of limitations for "§ 1983 actions arising in New York . . . is three years." Eagleston v. Guido, 41 F.3d 865,......
  • Beckman v. U.S. Postal Service, No. 96 Civ. 3187(PKL).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • January 12, 2000
    ...`a union must necessarily, and without violating anyone's rights, represent employees who have antagonistic interests.'" Lettis v. USPS, 39 F.Supp.2d 181, 198 (E.D.N.Y.1998) (quoting Johnson v. American Postal Workers Union, 102 L.R.R.M. 3089, 3091, 1979 WL 33357 (D.D.C.1979)); see also Hum......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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