Judge Allows ADA Suit Against Union to Proceed

U.S. Dist. Judge George Z. Singa (D. Me., Clinton) held Apr. 23 that an ex-paper mill employee can go forward with an Americans with Disabilities Act claim against Paper, Allied-Indus., Chem. & Energy Workers Int’l Union Local 1188 in Bucksport, Me., because of the local’s “deliberate acquiescence” with the potentially illegal actions of the employer.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Cir. has not yet considered whether a claim for deliberate acquiescence can be brought under either the ADA,  said Singa; but his decision to allow Joseph Greenier to proceed with an ADA claim against the union is “recognition that it is a plausible legal theory worthy of further factual development.”

Singa found Greenier’s allegations to be “adequate” and to constitute “a plausible legal theory” under the ADA. Greenier claimed that he sought the assistance of union officials to remedy the illegal termination, but that he was rebuffed, and “instead of assisting him, [the local] cooperated with Champion [Paper].”  Singa said, the local failed to subpoena the witnesses Greenier had requested or to assist him in discovery. “These allegations are adequate to put [the local] on notice of [Greenier’s] ADA claim,” the court said.

Singa also determined that Greenier “may be able to recover against [the union] if he can prove a duty of fair representation claim under the ADA,” if he can prove that Champion Paper breached its collective bargaining agreement, the union failed to address the breach, and the breach by the union “was motivated by hostility toward [Greenier] as a person with a disability.”    Greenier also can proceed with a retaliation claim against the union, if he is able to establish that the local refused to assist him in the arbitration or otherwise “not strictly because he was disabled, but rather because he exercised his rights under the statute,” the Singa wrote.

Although Greenier reportedly suffers from “unspecified physical and mental disabilities,” he won the case by representing himself. Jonathan Beal of Fontaine & Beal in Portland, Me., represented the union. [BNA 4/29/02]