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Frontier Communications of Carolinas, LLC v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

United States District Court, District of South Carolina

March 26, 2015

Frontier Communications of the Carolinas, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1431, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

BRUCE HOWE HENDRICKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This matter is before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment (ECF No. 37, 38), both filed pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Frontier Communications of the Carolinas LLC filed a complaint against International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1431 on February 10, 2014, asking the Court to vacate an arbitration award issued under a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between Frontier Carolinas and Local 1431, which mandates that disputes concerning the interpretation and application of the CBA be resolved by final and binding arbitration.

BACKGROUND

The plaintiff and defendant are party to a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”), effective from March 27, 2011 through March 29, 2014. (ECF No. 1-2.) The CBA contains a procedure for adjusting “grievances.” The CBA defines a “grievance” to include “any alleged action by the plaintiff or its representatives which causes an employee to lose his/her job or any benefits arising out of his/her job.” (CBA § 6.1.) The CBA further provides for “final and binding” arbitration of any such disputes not settled through the grievance process. Id. §7.4.

On December 13, 2012, the defendant filed a grievance alleging that the plaintiff had terminated the employment of Jason Cambest without just cause in violation of the CBA. The parties were unable to resolve the dispute through the grievance process. The parties, through the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, selected arbitrator Hoyt N. Wheeler to determine their dispute. Arbitrator Wheeler held a hearing on the parties’ stipulated issue: “Was the discharge of Jason Cambest in violation of the collective bargaining agreement and, if so, what should be the remedy?” (ECF No. 1-1 at 1, 5.) On November 18, 2013, Arbitrator Wheeler issued his decision, finding the discharge of Cambest was in violation of the CBA and ordering the plaintiff to reinstate Cambest and pay backpay from the time of his termination until he resumed his employment. Id. The Company has refused to comply with the arbitrator’s award.

It is undisputed that, on June 27, 2011, Cambest, a Sales and Service Technician performed a service call at a residence in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, while a mother and her eight-year-old daughter were in the home. On July 11, 2011, the plaintiff received a warrant for the identity of the technician who had serviced the home. It is further undisputed that the warrant stated that the technician had exposed his genatalia and fondled himself in front of an eight-year-old girl. After the plaintiff identified Cambest as the technician, he was arrested and charged with Solicitation of a Minor. He was released on $3, 500 bail. Cambest contends that he “was either adjusting himself or adjusting his belt, that his private part came out and . . . he messed with it and put it back in” and that he did not say anything to her. (ECF No. 1-1 at 5.)

The Myrtle Beach Police Department directed the plaintiff not to contact the family of the alleged victim to avoid interference with the investigation or prosecution of the alleged crime. (Compl. ¶ 14; Answer ¶ 14.) The plaintiff suspended him. Cambest’s trial date was delayed several times, but he ultimately pled guilty on November 13, 2012, in accordance with North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25 (1970), to the offense of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, which makes it a crime for “any person over eighteen years of age to knowingly and willfully . . . injure or endanger [a minor’s] morals or health.” (Compl. ¶¶ 9, 18.)

Upon learning of Cambest’s guilty plea, the Company resumed its internal investigation and conducted an interview with Cambest on November 20, 2012. The Company concluded its investigation and decided to terminate Cambest’s employment, on November 29, 2012. (Compl. ¶ 19; Answer ¶ 19.)

The plaintiff emphasizes that the Solicitor, in the underlying prosecution, admitted that the case had been “aggressively overcharged” and reduced the charge to the misdemeanor of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, “removing all sexual aspects of the case.” (ECF No. 1-1 at 4, 5.) The Arbitrator noted that the Solicitor also described the alleged conduct as “ambiguous as to both what occurred and what was [the] Grievant’s intent.” Id. at 9. Cambest did not plead guilty to a sexual offense. Rather, to resolve the matter, Cambest entered an Alford plea to the misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. During the sentencing hearing, the Solicitor stated on the record that the reduced charge had taken “all of the sexual nature of the offense out of the picture.” Id. at 4, 5. Cambest was “sentenced” to pay a $200 fine, which he paid. He did not receive any jail time other than the one day he had served when he was arrested. He was not placed on the sex offender registry, and Cambest’s record was expunged of all charges. Id. at 5, 8.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The court shall grant summary judgment “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The movant bears the initial burden of demonstrating that summary judgment is appropriate; if the movant carries its burden, then the burden shifts to the non-movant to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 23 (1986). If a movant asserts that a fact cannot be disputed, it must support that assertion either by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials;” or “showing . . . that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).

Accordingly, to prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the movant must demonstrate that: (1) there is no genuine issue as to any material fact; and (2) that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. As to the first of these determinations, a fact is deemed “material” if proof of its existence or non-existence would affect disposition of the case under applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue of material fact is “genuine” if the evidence offered is such that a reasonable jury might return a verdict for the non-movant. Id. at 257. In determining whether a genuine issue has been raised, the court must construe all inferences and ambiguities against the movant and in favor of the non-moving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962).

Under this standard, the existence of a mere scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff’s position is insufficient to withstand the summary judgment motion. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. Likewise, conclusory allegations or denials, without more, are insufficient to preclude the granting of the summary judgment motion. Ross v. Communications Satellite Corp., 759 F.2d 355, 365 (4th Cir. 1985). “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude ...


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