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Boehm v. United States Postal Service

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

November 12, 2013

KERI BOEHM, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

F.A. GOSSETT, III, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Keri Boehm ("Plaintiff") brought this action against the United States Postal Service ("Defendant") seeking to vacate an arbitration award, alleging that Defendant breached a collective bargaining agreement and that the National Association of Letter Carriers (the "Union") breached its duty of fair representation. (Filing 34.)

The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. (Filings 41 & 45.) Having fully considered the matter, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (filing 41) will be denied, and Defendant's Cross Motion for Summary Judgment (filing 45) will be granted.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

1. From 1998 to October 2011, Plaintiff was employed by Defendant as a city letter carrier. At all times relevant to this action, Plaintiff worked at the Saddle Creek Station in Omaha, Nebraska. (Filing 34; Filing 46-5.)

2. Plaintiff was a member of the Union and worked for Defendant under the National Agreement ("collective bargaining agreement" or "CBA") negotiated between the Union and Defendant. (Filing 46-2.)

3. Article 15 of the CBA sets forth a Grievance-Arbitration procedure, which includes the following steps:

a. Informal Step A - Any employee who feels aggrieved must discuss the grievance with the employee's immediate supervisor within fourteen (14) days. The employee may be accompanied by a steward or Union representative. The Union may also initiate a grievance at Informal Step A. If no resolution is met, the Union shall be entitled to file a written appeal to Formal Step A within seven (7) days.
b. Formal Step A - A Joint Step A Grievance Form shall be filed with the installation head or designee. The installation head or designee will meet with the steward or Union representative within seven (7) days. The grievant shall be represented for all purposes by a steward or Union representative who has authority to resolve the grievance as a result of the discussions or compromise. The Union representative shall make a full and detailed statement of the facts relied upon, contractual provisions involved, and remedy sought. The Union representative may also furnish written statements from witnesses or other individuals. The employer representative shall make full and detailed statement of facts and contractual provisions. The Formal Step A decision is to be made and the Joint Step A Grievance Form is completed the day of the meeting. The Union may appeal an impasse to Step B within seven (7) days.
c. Step B - An appeal from an unresolved case in Formal Step A shall be appealed in writing to the Step B team. The Step B team will review the appeal and issue a joint report of the decision and any supporting findings within fourteen (14) days. It is the responsibility of the Step B team to ensure that the facts and contentions of grievances are fully developed and considered, and resolve grievances jointly. The Step B team may (1) resolve the grievance, (2) declare an impasse, (3) hold the grievance pending resolution of a representative case or national interpretive case, or (4) remand the grievance with specific instructions. The Union may appeal an impasse directly to arbitration within fourteen (14) days after the receipt of the Step B impasse.

d. Arbitration - All decisions of an arbitrator will be final and binding. (Filing 46-6, Attachment B.)

4. Article 16.1 of the CBA provides that "[n]o employee may be disciplined or discharged except for just cause such as, but not limited to, insubordination, pilferage.... Any such discipline or discharge shall be subject to the grievance-arbitration procedure provided for in this Agreement..." (Filing 46-1, Attachment A.)

5. On or about April 1, 2011, Roger Humphries ("Humphries"), United States Postal Service Customer Relations Coordinator, received a phone call from Diane Inmann ("Inmann"), the manger of Bath and Body Works in Omaha, Nebraska. Inmann stated that a postal carrier named Keri had been coming to Bath and Body Works in her postal uniform and redeeming $5 coupons. The coupons were good for one per household, and Inmann reported that the carrier in question was bringing them in by the handful, fifteen to twenty at a time. (Filing 46-3, Attachment A.)

6. Humphries was able to determine that Plaintiff was the carrier in question. Humphries emailed the information from his conversation with Inmann to Special Agent Theresa Myers from the United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG"). The email was later forwarded to Special Agent Gabriel Ortiz ("Ortiz") of the OIG for further investigation. (Filing 46-3.)

7. On April 21, 2011, Ortiz interviewed Inmann who positively identified the carrier in question as Plaintiff. On the same day, Ortiz spoke with Don Allmon ("Allmon"), Manager of Customer Service at the Saddle Creek Station. Ortiz informed Allmon that he was investigating a customer report concerning possible mail theft by a carrier. Ortiz requested information about Plaintiff, and instructed Allmon to keep the investigation confidential. Ortiz continued his investigation of Plaintiff from April to July, 2011. ( Id. )

8. On July 21, 2011, Ortiz and Meyer went to the Saddle Creek Station to interview Plaintiff. ( Id. ) At the arbitration, the Union and Defendant stipulated to the fact that prior to the interview, Plaintiff asked Allmon "Do I need a Steward?" and Allmon replied, "I don't know. I am not the one conducting the interview." (Filing 46-1.) Plaintiff did not request a Union steward or ask Ortiz whether she ...


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