United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
BERNICE B. GRIFFIN, Plaintiff,
COMPASS GROUP USA, INC. Defendant.
A. Gibney, Jr. United States District Judge.
se plaintiff, Bernice B. Griffin, brings this breach of
contract case against the defendant, Compass Group USA, Inc.
("Compass Group"). Griffin brings three breach of
contract claims alleging entitlement to vacation and sick
pay. Compass Group moved to dismiss Griffin's claims
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The Court grants the
motion to dismiss. Federal law preempts Griffin's state
law breach of contract claim, and her failure to exhaust the
grievance procedures as required by the Labor Management
Relations Act (the "LMRA") bars her second claim.
Griffin's third claim under 41 U.S.C. § 6503 does
not apply to the employment contract in dispute, so it also
worked for Compass Group as a cashier from 1977 until 2015.
In November 2015, Griffin underwent surgery for carpel tunnel
in both hands. She remained absent from work until June 1,
2016, when she retired. A collectively-bargained Labor
Agreement (the "CBA") between Compass Group and
Griffin's union governed the terms of her employment.
(Dk. No. 8-1.) Griffin says Compass Group should have
paid for her accumulated 45 vacation days and 55 sick days.
In response, Compass Group says she should have brought her
claim under the CBA's mandatory grievance procedure-a
four-step process culminating in binding arbitration if
necessary. Griffin does not claim to have followed this
procedure in her complaint, and she ultimately concedes that
she did not do so in her opposition to the motion to dismiss.
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require a plaintiffs
complaint to contain "a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In cases where the plaintiff appears
pro se, courts do not expect the pro se plaintiff to frame
legal issues with the clarity and precision expected from
lawyers. Accordingly, courts construe pro se complaints
liberally. Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 11S F.2d
1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). This principle of liberal
construction, however, has its limits. Id. Courts do
not need to discern the unexpressed intent of the plaintiff
or to conjure up issues on the plaintiffs behalf. See
Later v. Harvey, 438 F.3d 404, 413 n.3 (4th Cir. 2006);
Beaudett, 775 F.2d at 1276.
Group has moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. A Rule 12(b)(6) motion gauges the
sufficiency of a complaint. Goines v. Valley Cmty. Servs.
Bd, 822 F.3d 159, 165 (4th Cir. 2016). When considering
the complaint itself, courts must accept all allegations as
true and must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the
plaintiff. Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com,
Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 253 (4th Cir. 2009) (citing
Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th
Cir. 1999)). The principle that a court must accept all
allegations as true, however, does not apply to legal
conclusions. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
the facts in light of these principles, to survive a Rule
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint must contain
sufficient facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible
on its face. Id. "A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 565 (2007)).
brings three counts, all of which fail to survive the motion
to dismiss. Count one, a breach of contract claim brought
under state law, is preempted by the LMRA and thus fails. The
second count, brought under § 301 of the LMRA, fails
because Griffin does not plead exhaustion of the grievance
procedures required by the CBA governing her employment.
Count three, brought under 41 U.S.C. § 6503, concerns
public contracts made with a United States agency and does
not apply to this case.
Federal pre-emption precludes Griffin's state law
state law breach of contract claim fails because it is
preempted by § 301 of the LMRA. "[W]hen resolution
of a state-law claim is substantially dependent upon analysis
of the terms of an agreement made between the parties in a
labor contract, that claim must ... be treated as a §
301 claim." Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471
U.S. 202, 220 (1985). Further, "the preemptive force of
§ 301 is so powerful as to displace entirely any state
cause of action for violation of contracts between an
employer and a labor organization." McCormick v.
AT&T Techs. Inc., 934 F.2d 531, 534 (4th Cir. 1991)
(citing Franchise Tax Bd. of the State of Cal. v. Constr.
Laborers Vacation Tr. for S. Cal., 463 U.S. 1 (1983)).
Griffin claims that Compass Group owes her for vacation and
sick time under the terms of the CBA. Deciding the merits of
this claim would require the Court to interpret the language
of the CBA to determine her eligibility. Nat'l
Metalcrafters, Div. of Keystone Consol Indus, v. McNeil,
784 F.2d 817, 824 (7th Cir. 1986) (finding
state law claims preempted where the "only basis of the
state-law claim . . . [was] that the company broke its
contract to grant vacation pay of a certain amount").
Griffin's state law claim is therefore preempted, and
Count one fails.
The LMRA requires a good faith exhaustion of grievance
procedures before bringing a claim
LMRA claim fails because she did not exhaust the grievance
procedures required by the CBA. Before filing suit under
§ 301, an employee "must exhaust any exclusive
grievance and arbitration" procedures contained within
the governing CBA. Clayton v. International Union,
451 U.S. 679, 681 (1981). The complaint must allege facts to
demonstrate the exhaustion of such remedies in order to
survive a motion to dismiss. Kelly v. Philip Morris,
Inc., No. 1:02CV00959, 2003 WL 168425, at *3 (M.D. N.C.
Jan. 22, 2003) ("Plaintiffs fail to allege any facts
showing that they have exhausted or even sought the grievance