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Delucca v. National Education Association of Rhode Island

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

May 5, 2015


For Sharon Delucca, Plaintiff: Dante J. Giammarco, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Offices of Dante J. Giammarco, Esq., Inc., Warwick, RI, USA.

National Education Association Rhode Island, Roger Williams University Faculty Association, Inc., Melvyn A. Topf, Defendants: Gerard P. Cobleigh, LEAD ATTORNEY, Cobleigh & Giacobbe, Warwick, RI, USA; Dennis T. Grieco, II, Grieco Law, Warwick, RI, USA.


RONALD R. LAGUEUX, Senior United States District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings brought by all Defendants. Plaintiff Sharon DeLucca is a professor at Roger Williams University and a member of its faculty union, Defendant Roger Williams Faculty Association. Defendant National Education Association of Rhode Island handles all grievances, arbitrations and collective bargaining for the Roger Williams Faculty Association (these entities will be referred to collectively as " the Union" ). Defendant Melvyn Topf is the chair of the Union's grievance committee. In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that the Union breached its duty of fair representation when it decided that it was not going to pursue her grievance to arbitration; and that all Defendants, in participating in that decision, committed the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress. For the reasons explained herein, the Court grants Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings, dismissing Plaintiff's Complaint in its entirety.

Standard of review

Defendants move to dismiss the claims against them based upon the pleadings, pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The standard of review for this type of motion is " the same as that for a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)." Frappier v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 750 F.3d 91, 96 (1st Cir. 2014). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court must accept as true all allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Aulson v. Blanchard, 83 F.3d 1, 3 (1st Cir. 1996). The United States Supreme Court, in abrogating Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957), restated the standard as follows: " [O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 563, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). While detailed factual allegations are not required, " a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" is not sufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009).

Ordinarily, a court may not consider any documents that are outside of the complaint, or not expressly incorporated therein, unless the motion is converted into one for summary judgment. Alternative Energy, Inc. v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 267 F.3d 30, 33 (1st Cir. 2001). Courts, however, make an exception " for documents the authenticity of which are not disputed by the parties; for official public records; for documents central to plaintiffs' claim; or for documents sufficiently referred to in the complaint." Watterson v. Page, 987 F.2d 1, 3 (1st Cir. 1993). When a complaint's factual allegations are linked to and dependent upon a document whose authenticity is not challenged, such a document " merges into the pleadings" and the court may properly consider it under a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Alternative Energy, Inc., 267 F.3d at 33.

In the present case, Defendants have submitted the arbitration award resulting from the arbitration proceeding whose withdrawal and reinstatement are the subject of Plaintiff's claims. Although she does not dispute the authenticity of the arbitration award submitted by Defendants, Plaintiff has objected to its submission, arguing that it is not relevant to her claims. Based on the standard set forth in Watterson v. Page, and the law pertinent to Plaintiff's allegations, the Court has reviewed the arbitration award and, to the extent that it is relevant, considered it.


Plaintiff is a full-time tenured professor who teaches graphic design in Roger Williams University's department of communications and graphic design. According to her Complaint, Plaintiff was assigned by the University, and was performing, additional professional duties, beyond the scope of a professor's duties, in violation of the collective bargaining agreement between the University and the Union (" the Contract" ). Plaintiff filed a grievance, demanding that the area of graphic design be designated as an independent department and that she be named its chair, with appropriate compensation and benefits. Step One of that grievance was heard and denied in December 2010. The grievance was denied again at Step Two in January 2011. The Union agreed to pursue the grievance to arbitration, as provided for by the Contract, and the first session was scheduled for July 2011. No representative from the Union contacted Plaintiff to prepare for the arbitration. However, the July 2011 session was eventually postponed and rescheduled for November 2011, at the request of the University.

On September 30, 2011, Plaintiff met with several representatives from the Union to prepare for the arbitration. During the course of this meeting, Plaintiff and the Union representatives got into an argument. In her Complaint, Plaintiff describes the meeting as " verbal assault" on her,

about the arbitration, the underlying claim and issues not within the scope of or purview of NEARI [the Union], including demanding that Plaintiff settle all her issues with RWU [the University], and still without knowing anything about the substance of the original grievance or the alleged violation of the CBA [the Contract]. The meeting was completely unproductive and resulted in no preparation for the arbitration.

Complaint ¶ 19. The Union followed up with a letter to Plaintiff on October 17, 2011, summarizing its account of the meeting. Plaintiff characterizes the letter as " self-serving and not representative of the truth of what happened at the meeting." Complaint ¶ 16. The arbitration was then postponed again, and rescheduled for April 2012.

In March of 2012, Plaintiff received a letter from Union representative Jeanette Woolley, advising her that the arbitration had again been postponed. According to Plaintiff, the letter also,

asserted that two (2) meetings had been scheduled with and then canceled by the Plaintiff, and gave a summation of what Ms. Woolley knew of the grievance and substance of the arbitration, ignoring the aspect of the grievance whereby Plaintiff was seeking additional compensation for work performed beyond the scope of the CBA for a tenured, full-time faculty member of RWU. Most importantly, Ms. Woolley advised the Plaintiff that if Plaintiff [sic] did not receive supporting evidence by April 16, 2012, that Ms. Woolley was going to recommend that the arbitration be withdrawn.

Complaint ΒΆ 22. Receiving no guidance from the Union as to what supporting evidence was needed, Plaintiff did not provide additional documentation prior to the Union's deadline. On May 3, 2012, Plaintiff received an email from a different Union representative, reminding her to produce additional documentation and notifying her that the arbitration had been rescheduled to June 18, 2012. The same day, Jeanette Woolley contacted Defendant Topf and recommended that the arbitration be withdrawn. Topf, in turn, recommended to the president of the Roger Williams Faculty Association that the arbitration be withdrawn. Plaintiff was not contacted beforehand, nor was there any kind of meeting or vote of the Union's grievance committee or of its general ...

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