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Robinson v. Schnuck Markets, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 9, 2019




         This matter is before the Court[1] on a motion to dismiss filed by Defendant United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 655 (“the Union”) [ECF No. 11].[2] Minor Robinson (“Plaintiff”) opposes the motion and requests leave to amend the complaint [ECF No. 24].


         Plaintiff, who is African American, was a grocery store clerk for Defendant Schnuck Markets, Inc. [“Employer”] from November 1996 until March 28, 2016. Pl.'s compl. ¶¶ 6-8 [ECF No. 5]. After the Union arbitrated Plaintiff's challenge to his termination and an adverse arbitration award was entered, Plaintiff filed this two-count lawsuit against Defendants. See id. ¶ 30. In each count, Plaintiff requests an award of “actual and compensatory damages, ” punitive damages, a reasonable attorney's fee, and reinstatement with back pay and benefits or, alternatively, an award of front pay.

         In Count I, Plaintiff alleges Employer is liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 for its alleged race discrimination in discharging him. In Count II, Plaintiff alleges both Defendants are liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(2) for conspiring to “imped[e], hinder[], obstruct[], or defeat[], the due course of justice in the State of Missouri (the state in which the arbitration occurred) with the intent to deny Plaintiff” equal protection. Pl.'s compl. ¶ 36 [ECF No. 5].

         With respect to the claim in Count II, Plaintiff alleges that he had asked a “fellow employee, ” identified as “Rose, ” to “attend the arbitration and testify for him, ” because she “would have provided material evidence in support of Plaintiff's claim that he was fired without cause.” Id. ¶¶ 31 and 33. “[A]t the behest of the” Employer, Plaintiff's “Union representative and union attorney” allegedly asked Plaintiff to request Rose to leave. Id. ¶¶ 32 and 35. “Plaintiff did what his lawyer and union representative requested and asked Rose to leave.” Id. ¶ 32. As a result of Rose's departure, Plaintiff alleges he “did not have any witnesses other than himself to support his position.” Id. ¶ 32.

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Union moves to dismiss the Section 1985(2) claim for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. In particular, the Union argues Plaintiff's claim appears to fall within the second clause of Section 1985(2), the clause which prohibits interference with the administration of justice in state courts and does not mention arbitrations.[3] Plaintiff counters that: (1) the arbitration was conducted pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, (2) Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. § 185, governs and completely preempts “any lawsuit that requires interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement to reach a decision, ”[4] (3) “it has long been held that arbitration of claims under a collective bargaining agreement is an acceptable substitute for a federal court['s] involvement, ”[5] and (4) “[t]herefore, interference with an arbitration conducted pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement is interference with the federal courts.”[6]See Pl.'s opp'n Def. Union's mot. dismiss at 2 [ECF No. 24].

         Plaintiff further asserts that, based on his “analysis it appears that this case arises under the first prong of section 1985(2) [proscribing] conspiracies to interfere with the administration of justice in the federal courts.” Id. Because “the facts . . . support a different legal theory, ” Plaintiff urges dismissal due to an incorrect legal theory is not warranted and seeks leave to file an amended complaint alleging interference “with the federal courts.” Id. In its reply, the Union (1) opposes Plaintiff's argument that he can state a claim for relief under either clause of Section 1985(2), and (2) opposes Plaintiff's request to file an amended complaint because the proposed amendment would be futile. Specifically, the Union contends “even under the first portion of Section 1985(2), . . . the plaintiff still cannot make out an actionable claim due to the fact that there was no federal court action involving the underlying private arbitration.” Def. Union's reply at 6 [ECF No. 26].

         Legal Standard

         A. Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6)

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). When a defendant moves to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, a court must regard as true the facts alleged in the complaint and determine whether they are sufficient to raise more than a speculative right to relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007); accord Stanley v. Finnegan, 899 F.3d 623, 635 (8th Cir. 2018) (under Rule 12(b)(6), a court accepts as true the factual allegations in the complaint and views them “most favorably to the” plaintiff). The court does not, however, accept as true any allegation that is a legal conclusion. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); accord Kulkay v. Roy, 847 F.3d 637, 641 (8th Cir. 2017) (a court does “not . . . presume the truth of legal conclusions couched as factual allegations”).

         The pleading must set forth “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; accord Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Park Irmat Drug Corp. v. Express Scripts Holding Co., 911 F.3d 505, 512 (8th Cir. 2018) “Although a plaintiff need not allege facts in painstaking detail, the facts alleged ‘must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.' Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.” Kulkay, 847 F.3d at 642. “[T]he complaint should be read as a whole, not parsed piece by piece to determine whether each allegation, in isolation, is plausible.” Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir. 2009).

         “The plausibility standard requires a [pleader] to show at the pleading stage that success on the merits is more than a ‘sheer possibility.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). More specifically, for a civil rights complaint, a plaintiff “must assert facts that affirmatively and plausibly suggest that the pleader has the right he claims . . ., rather than facts that are merely consistent with such a right.” Gregory v. Dillard's, Inc., 565 F.3d 464, 473 (8th Cir. 2009) (en banc) (quotation marks and citations omitted). “[T]he complaint must include sufficient factual allegations to provide the grounds on which the [civil rights] claim rests.” Id. If a claim is only conceivable, not plausible, the court must dismiss the pleading under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; accord Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         B. Amendmen ...

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