September 19, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 18-cv-01201 -
Charles P. Kocoras, Judge.
Sykes, Hamilton, and Brennan, Circuit Judges.
BRENNAN, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
law imposes a duty on unions to fairly represent all
employees in their bargaining units. Osama Taha sued his
union, arguing it breached that duty after his employer fired
him for abandoning his job. Although the union grieved
Taha's firing, he alleges it did so unfairly. He also
contends the union wrongfully shut down his grievance
process. The district court dismissed Taha's second
amended complaint for failure to state a claim, finding it
gave no details to support any allegation of unlawful union
conduct. Our review compels the same conclusion. Because
Taha's complaint fails to state a plausible claim for
relief, we affirm.
Airlines hired Taha in 1988 and laid him off in 2003. He
retained recall rights to his position under a collective
bargaining agreement ("CBA") between the airline
and his union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters,
Local 781. After a twelve-year furlough, United offered Taha
an opportunity to return to work at O'Hare Airport in
Chicago, which he accepted.
three weeks into this new job, Taha learned his mother had
suffered a heart attack. Because she lived in Saudi Arabia,
Taha asked for time off to travel and care for her. Taha
wanted six months; United gave him 30 days. He sought to
extend his leave by reaching out to several people for help,
among them Carla Starck, a human resources representative
with United. Starck told Taha that United's operations
management department had the final say on an extension. Taha
also spoke with the union's president, Paul Stripling,
who told him to trust in the union's process.
denied Taha's extended-leave request in a letter sent to
his home in Indiana. But Taha never saw it, as he remained in
Saudi Arabia throughout his leave. Nor did he return to work,
which the airline construed as job abandonment. Three months
after United expected Taha back on the job, he was fired.
grieved his firing through the union. The CBA required Taha,
with the union's help, to first attempt to resolve the
dispute through a series of informal exchanges with United.
Those exchanges included supervisor discussions as well as a
written complaint and answer process. After that, if the
dispute remained unsettled, the CBA required Taha and United
to take the grievance before a body known as the Joint Board
of Adjustment ("JBA"). Taha's grievance
culminated in a JBA hearing, and Stripling represented Taha
in that proceeding.
unanimously denied Taha's grievance. Stripling notified
Taha about the JBA's decision in a letter saying:
"The board has denied your grievance. Good luck in your
future endeavors." In response, Taha asked the union to
demand arbitration from United. But the union showed no
urgency in answering him, waiting over six months to reply.
When the union finally responded, it explained that the CBA
barred further pursuit of his grievance.
then sued the union, alleging it breached its duty to fairly
represent him under the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C.
§§ 151-188. His pleadings proceed in pairs. He filed
two amended complaints, with the second alleging two separate
incidents: the union's handling of his JBA hearing, and
its post-hearing refusal to arbitrate. He also pleaded only
two facts to support his breach claims: (1) before the JBA
hearing began, Taha overheard Stripling and Starck
"chatt[ing] genially" about Starck acquiring
airline tickets for some of Stripling's friends; and (2)
during the hearing, Stripling "told Taha to remain
silent" and "prevented Taha from presenting several
strong and important exhibits."
union moved to dismiss Taha's second amended complaint
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing it
failed to allege enough facts to support an unfair
representation claim. It also argued Taha's complaint was
time-barred. The district court agreed with the ...