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View Case Details
 
DAVID MEDELLIN Plaintiff
vs.
CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY Defendant.
 
Case:
Case No. 93 C 6091
 
Location:
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS EASTERN DIVISION
 
Date:
February 26 1996 Dated
 
Attorneys:
For DAVID MEDELLIN plaintiff: Kevin Barry Rogers [COR LD NTC A] Kevin Rogers & Associates Chicago IL.
For CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY defendant: Kathleen Hope Herrmann [COR LD NTC A] Timothy Fair [COR] Chicago Transit Authority Corporate Law Department Apparel Center Chicago IL. For DAVID T MARTIN defendant: Timothy Fair [COR] Chicago Transit Authority Corporate Law Department Apparel Center Chicago IL.
 
Court:
Ann Claire Williams Judge United States District Court
 
Author:
The Hon. Justice Ann Claire Williams
 

Plaintiff David Medellin a former ticket agent with the Chicago Transit Authority ("CTA") brought this civil rights suit against the CTA and several of its agents and employees (collectively "defendants") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. SEC.1983. *fn1 Medellin claims that the CTA terminated him from his employment in March 1992 in violation of his Fourth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process rights. *fn2 He seeks reinstatement and damages. This matter is now before the court on defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Both parties have filed statements of fact together with supporting affidavits and other evidence pursuant to Rule 12 of the Local General Rules of this district. For the reasons stated below defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted and plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is denied.

Background

In April 1979 Plaintiff David Medellin began his employment as a ticket agent with the CTA and became a member of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 ("Union"). (Pl. Dep. at 38.) At all times relevant to this case the CTA and the Union were bound by the terms and conditions of a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA"). The provisions of the CBA included a four-step grievance/arbitration procedure (Def. Ex. 7 Arts. 14 & 15) and detailed procedures for blood and urine testing of bargaining unit employees. (Def. Ex. 7 Att. G.)

On August 4 1988 Medellin was discharged for excessive absenteeism. (Pl. Dep. at 38). One year later on August 28 1989 Medellin and his Union representatives reached a settlement agreement with the CTA that provided for Medellin's conditional reinstatement. (Def. Ex. 1.) As part of the reinstatement process Medellin submitted to a physical examination on September 18 1989 which included a urine test. (Def. Exs. 2 & 5.) Medellin's urine sample tested positive for cocaine. *fn3 (Def. Ex. 3). On September 28 1989 Medellin attended an informal hearing concerning his positive drug test with his Union representative Hector Flores and CTA Director of North Rail Personnel William J. Nichols. (Def. Ex. 5.) At the hearing Nichols recommended Medellin's discharge and denied his request for admission into the CTA Employee Assistance Program. (Id.) He did so on the grounds that Medellin initially denied using cocaine and showed blatant disregard for CTA work rules even after his lengthy suspension. (Id.) On October 5 1989 after meeting with his union representative and the CTA manager of transportation Medellin received an official Notice of Discharge (his second) for violations of several specified CTA work rules. (Def. Exs.4 & 6).

After his discharge Medellin invoked his rights under the CBA and filed a grievance through his Union with the CTA on October 12 1989. (Def. Ex. 2.) In the grievance Medellin admitted that he had a drug problem and again requested admission into the CTA Employee Assistance Program. (Id.) The CTA denied his grievance on October 27 1989 and after additional review denied it again on June 22 1990. (Def. Exs.8 & 9.) Plaintiff received written notification from both the CTA and the Union concerning the denial of his grievance. (Pl. Dep. at 53-54.) However the record does reflect some lack of communication between Medellin and his Union prior to March 1992. Medellin inquired into the status of his grievance during successive union meetings but his representative Hector Flores repeatedly told him that he "had to wait." (Id. at 60-61.) Medellin also made numerous telephone inquiries to Union attorney Richard Stanton to which Stanton finally responded by telling Medellin that "the case did not look good." (Id. at 63.)

Finally on March 2 1992 Medellin and his Union voluntarily entered into a second settlement agreement ("Agreement") with the CTA which again provided for his conditional reinstatement. Under the terms of the Agreement Medellin acknowledged that his October 5 1989 discharge was for "just cause." (Def. Ex. 10.) He also waived any legal or administrative actions against the CTA arising out of his October 1989 discharge except those necessary to enforce the Agreement itself. Specifically paragraph (2) of the Agreement provides in relevant part that:

Mr. Medellin will not pursue or join in any legal or administrative action against the Authority the Chicago Transit Board the Union or any of their officers employees or assigns insofar as such action arises out of his termination or the manner in which it was processed except as may be necessary to enforce the provisions thereof.

(Id.) In addition Medellin agreed to submit to a blood/urine medical examination "immediately upon reinstatement." (Id.) If Medellin tested positive he would "remain discharged with no recourse to the grievance/arbitration process." (Id.) If he passed the test Medellin would be required to successfully complete the Employee Assistance Program. (Id.) Thereafter he would be able to return to active status subject to the condition that he would be terminated if he tested positive for drugs or alcohol during a probationary two-year period. (Id.) Medellin signed the Agreement after conferring with Hector Flores his Union representative and Union attorney Richard Stanton. (Pl. Aff. at 80.)

Immediately thereafter Medellin went to the CTA's medical facilities where he was briefly examined by a CTA physician defendant Dr. Milton Sneider. (Sneider Aff. P 4.) During the examination Medellin told Dr. Sneider that he had used cocaine as early as two months prior to March 2. (Pl. Dep. at 86.) *fn4 Pursuant to the Agreement Medellin also submitted a urine sample for drug testing to a CTA certified nursing assistant defendant Baby Kishore. Pl. Dep. at 87; Kishore Aff. P 14.) The sample was delivered to a private laboratory for testing the next day. On March 5 1992 the CTA received the results from the laboratory indicating that Medellin had tested positive for cocaine. (Def. Ex. 11.)

Medellin challenges the integrity of his drug test result by alleging that the chain of custody and testing procedures used by the CTA and its employees violated established medical standards. Specifically Medellin states in his affidavit that he observed Ms. Kishore place the bottle containing his urine sample in an unsecured cabinet without labeling it. (Pl. Ex. C P 8.) Medellin also points to the one-day lapse between the collection of the sample and its delivery to the laboratory as further evidence of wrongdoing by the CTA. (Pl. Exs. E & F.) However Ms. Kishore's affidavit and the deposition testimony of Union attorney Richard Stanton indicate that the CTA followed the testing procedures outlined in the CBA and otherwise acted in good faith. (Kishore Aff. P 5-20; Stanton Dep. at 34.)

In any event Medellin was summarily discharged from his employment pursuant to the Agreement. On March 5 1992 Stanton learned of the test results from the CTA and informed Medellin that he had failed the drug test and that "he did not have a job." (Pl. Dep. at 99-100.) Evidence in the record also suggests that the CTA orally informed Medellin that he failed the drug test and that he should "not return to work." (Def. Ex. 12 P 31.) *fn5 However Medellin allegedly never received the written results of his urine test or any formal written notice of his termination by the CTA. He also did not receive a hearing either before or after his termination. On October 3 1993 Medellin filed the instant civil rights action seeking reinstatement and damages.

Standard of Review

A court grants summary judgment when "the pleadings depositions answers to interrogatories and admissions on file together with the affidavits if any show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The court must enter summary judgment if the nonmoving party fails to come forward with evidence that would permit the finder of fact to find in his favor on a material question. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp. 24 F.3d 918 920 (7th Cir.1994). In deciding a motion for summary judgment the court views the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. There is a genuine issue of material fact where "there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party." Id. at 249. However statements of belief or opinions are insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact precluding summary judgment. Cleveland v. Porca Co. 38 F.3d 289 (7th Cir. 1994). Similarly argument is not "evidence" upon which the court can base a denial of summary judgment. Scherer v. Rockwell 975 F.2d 356 361 (7th Cir. 1992).

Analysis

Medellin claims that the CTA terminated him from his employment in March 1992 without due process of law in violation of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Defendants move for summary judgment on the grounds that: (1) Medellin was afforded adequate due process during the grievance/arbitration procedure and as a result of the March 1992 Agreement; and (2) Medellin's Fourth Amendment claims fail as a matter of law because the Union had the exclusive right to bind him to the terms of the Agreement which expressly provided for urine testing.

  1. PROCEDURAL DUE PROCESS
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment forbids a state from depriving any person of life liberty or property without due process of law. U.S. Const. Amend XIV Sec. 1. To sustain a due process claim Medellin must demonstrate: (1) a cognizably property interest; (2) a deprivation of that property interest; and (3) a denial of due process. Buttitta v. City of Chicago 9 F.3d 1198 1201 (7th Cir.1993). In ruling on defendants' prior Motion to Dismiss this court found that the March 1992 Agreement provided Medellin with a limited but enforceable property interest in his continued employment with the CTA. Medellin v. Chicago Transit Auth. No. 93 C 6091 1994 U.S. Dist.10370 1994 WL 395132 at *2 (N.D. Ill. July 28 1994). Clearly Medellin's discharge by the CTA after testing positive for cocaine constituted a deprivation of this property interest. Therefore the court focuses its attention solely on whether the procedures afforded Medellin both before and after his March 1992 termination satisfied due process requirements.

Plaintiff argues that the CTA violated his due process rights because he did not receive written notice of the drug test results did not receive a pre-termination hearing allowing him to challenge the testing process and results and did not receive adequate notice of his discharge or a post-termination hearing. In response the CTA asserts that the procedures afforded Medellin through the CBA grievance/arbitration mechanism and the March 1992 Agreement constituted sufficient due process. G e n e r a l l y speaking due process is "a flexible concept" and "calls for such procedural protections as the particular situation demands." Buttita 9 F.3d at 1201 (citing Morrissey v. Brewer 408 U.S. 471 481 33 L. Ed. 2d 484 92 S. Ct.2593 (1972)). A public employer can satisfy its due process obligation through grievance procedures established in a collective bargaining agreement even when one of its employees has been discharged. Wallace v. Tilley 41 F.3d 296 301 (7th Cir.1994) (citing Buttita 9 F.3d at 1205). To determine whether due process is satisfied in a particular case the court is obliged to balance the three factors articulated by the Supreme Court in Mathews v. Eldridge 424 U.S. 319 47 L. Ed. 2d 18 96 S. Ct.893 (1976):

First the private interest that will be affected by the official action; second the risk of an erroneous deprivation of such interest through the procedures used and probable value if any of additional or substitute procedural safeguards; and finally the Government's interest including the function involved and the fiscal and administrative burdens that the additional or substitute procedural requirement would entail.

424 U.S. at 335; Buttitta 9 F.3d 1198 1205 (7th Cir. 1993).

Applying the Matthews test the court finds at the outset that Medellin clearly received adequate due process in connection with his second discharge in October 1989 for illegal drug use. Without doubt Medellin's interest in maintaining his job is substantial. See Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill 470 U.S. 532 543 84 L. Ed. 2d 494 105 S. Ct.1487 (1985) ("The significance of the private interest in retaining employment cannot be gainsaid.") However where a termination decision turns squarely on the results of routine standardized medical and clinical procedures conducted by health care specialists in good faith the risk of error is low. Buttita 9 F.3d at 1205 (citing Matthews 424 U.S. at 344). In this case Medellin did not challenge the results of the drug test precipitating his 1989 discharge perhaps because he openly acknowledged using cocaine since 1987. Nevertheless before his termination Medellin received written notice of the work rule violations relevant to his conduct and two informal hearings with CTA officials and his Union representatives. In terms of post-termination procedures Articles 14 and 15 of the CBA provided for a three-step grievance process with ever-higher levels of CTA management followed by a neutral arbitration hearing. (Def. Ex. 7.) This grievance/arbitration mechanism which is typical of those found in other collective bargaining agreements clearly comports with due process requirements and satisfies the strong public interest in the peaceful and efficient settlement of labor disputes. See e.g. Winston v. United States Postal Serv. 585 F.2d 198 208 (7th Cir.1978) (holding that a similar multi-step grievance/arbitration procedure provided adequate due process to a discharged public employee). Medellin through his Union invoked his right to challenge his termination in the first two steps of the grievance process. Having failed at both levels Medellin and his Union jointly decided to preserve his employment by entering into a settlement agreement with the CTA. On balance the court has little difficulty concluding that Medellin received all the process he was due with respect to his 1989 discharge.

The crux of this case however concerns the extent to which Medellin was entitled to additional procedural safeguards as a consequence of the March 1992 Agreement and his discharge thereunder. This contract voluntarily entered into by Medellin his Union and the CTA typifies what has come to be known in modern labor relations as a "last chance" agreement. Under such agreements the employer gives an employee who faces serious discipline or discharge for violating a work rule one last chance to correct his behavior in exchange for which the employee agrees to certain conditions including the promise to refrain from further violations and to waive recourse to the grievance/arbitration process if another violation is committed. See United States Dept. of Air Force v. Federal Labor Relations Auth. 292 U.S. App. D.C. 300 949 F.2d 475 478 (D.C. Cir.1991) (describing last chance agreements). The Seventh Circuit has held that these contracts are both valid and enforceable against unions and their employees covered by collective bargaining agreements. See Tootsie Roll Indus. v. Local No. 1. Bakery Confectionery and Tobacco Workers' Int'l Union 832 F.2d 81 84 (7th Cir.1987).

Under the terms of the Agreement at issue here the CTA reinstated Medellin on the condition that he immediately submit to and pass a urine examination which tested for the presence of illegal drugs. The Agreement clearly placed Medellin on notice that a positive showing would result in his immediate discharge. Indeed as in 1989 Medellin's urine sample taken on March 2 1992 tested positive for cocaine. Both the CTA and Union attorney Richard Stanton verbally informed Medellin of the results and his consequent termination. While Medellin alleges that the CTA never provided him with formal written notice of the test results there is no evidence in the record to indicate that defendants ever denied Medellin or his Union attorney Richard Stanton access to the laboratory report. In fact under the blood/urine testing provisions of the CBA the CTA was obliged to make available to the Union upon request a copy of the written laboratory report within twenty-four hours after receiving it. (Def. Ex. 7 at G-5.) Thus Medellin cannot now be heard to complain of the CTA's failure to deliver a copy of the report to him merely because he and his Union failed to request it in a timely fashion. Accordingly the court finds that Medellin received constitutionally adequate notice of his positive drug test and subsequent termination in March 1992.

Medellin also argues that he was entitled to a pre-termination hearing in order to verify and/or challenge the administration and results of his drug test. In support of his argument Medellin offers limited evidence that raises the question whether defendants complied With the standard chain of custody procedures required under the terms of the CBA. However this factual dispute does not preclude the court from properly disposing of this case on summary judgment since the correctness of Medellin's urine test is not determinative of the legal outcome under procedural due process law. See Howland v. Kilquist 833 F.2d 639 (7th Cir.1987) (mere existence of factual dispute will not bar summary judgment unless disputed fact is outcome-determinative under governing law); Wallace v. Tilley 41 F.3d 296 299-300 (7th Cir.1994) ("The Due Process Clause is 'not a guarantee against incorrect or ill-advised personnel decisions.'") (citations omitted). Turning to the merits of Medellin's claim the court emphasizes that by signing the Agreement Medellin expressly waived his right to challenge the drug test results through the grievance/arbitration process. Medellin 1994 U.S. Dist.10370 1994 WL395132 at *2. However neither Medellin nor his Union waived their other rights under the terms and conditions of the CBA. The CBA provisions which did not supersede the Agreement remained valid and effective after March 2 1992 and continued to govern labor relations between the CTA the Union and Medellin as a bargaining unit employee. In this respect Attachment G to the CBA is helpful in the court's analysis of whether defendants denied Medellin the opportunity for a pre-termination hearing in violation of his due process rights. That section which sets forth procedures for blood and urine testing states in pertinent part that:

The union shall have the right to receive an aliquot portion of the [urine] specimen upon request if there is a positive test result. CTA agrees to make arrangements with the medical facility which is performing the blood and urine testing to allow for the preservation of the samples as requested.

. . . If the test results show the presence of . . . controlled substances the Union shall have the right to request the preserved samples or an aliquot portion of the sample to be sent for testing to a laboratory site which is certified by the Department of Health and Human Services to do drug testing for Federal agencies.

(Def. Ex. 7 Att. G at G-5.) (emphasis added). Had Medellin wished to challenge the validity of his positive drug test these provisions afforded him the opportunity through his Union to request a portion of his urine sample for independent testing. Such action would have effectively guaranteed Medellin "an initial check" against mistaken test results in satisfaction of the demands of due process under Loudermill. See Loudermill 470 U.S. at 545-46. The CTA cannot be held liable for the failure of plaintiff and his Union to promptly avail themselves of the explicit procedural safeguards set forth under the CBA. Although Medellin had a significant interest in avoiding permanent discharge the court concludes that the CTA's interests in managerial efficiency and public safety clearly outweigh the value of any additional procedures that could have been made available to Medellin prior to his discharge.

Finally Medellin argues that the CTA deprived him of due process by denying him the opportunity for a post-termination hearing. While Medellin waived recourse to the grievance/arbitration process the Agreement did not preclude him from exercising his right to enforce its terms "if he believed that CTA failed to live up to its part of the bargain." Medellin 1994 U.S. Dist.10370 1994 WL 395132 at *2. In other words if Medellin had reason to believe that the CTA discharged him in March 1992 based upon an erroneous drug test result he could have taken action to enforce the Agreement at that time. Contrary to plaintiff's argument the language contained in paragraph (2) of the Agreement discussed supra did not constitute a waiver of this right. Rather Medellin waived his right to pursue legal action against defendants only insofar as such action related to his initial discharge in October 1989. Therefore Medellin could have filed a complaint with the Chicago Transit Board to enforce the Agreement and could have presented evidence in a hearing to support the CTA's breach thereof pursuant to section 28 of the Metropolitan Transit Authority Act. 70 ILCS 3605/28. *fn6 Medellin failed to promptly invoke this legal right. Given the factual circumstances of this case and the effective pre-termination procedures established by the CBA the court concludes that the Due Process Clause did not require the CTA to provide Medellin any additional post-termination procedures beyond those already available to him under Illinois law.

Accordingly defendants are entitled to summary judgment as to Medellin's Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claims.

  1. FOURTH AMENDMENT
Medellin also alleges in his Fourth Amended Complaint that the drug tests administered to him by the CTA in September 1989 and March 1992 violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment. Defendants move for summary judgment on this claim on the ground that Medellin bound himself through his Union to the terms and conditions of the CBA which explicitly included procedures for employee drug testing. To the extent Medellin's claim implicates the Fourth Amendment right to consent prior to search defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

It is well established that a public employee union may validly consent to terms and conditions of employment on behalf of those it represents including submission to future drug testing. Bolden v. Southeastern Pa. Transp. Auth. 953 F.2d 807 826-28 (3rd Cir.1991); accord In re Amoco Petroleum Additives Co. 964 F.2d 706 710 (7th Cir.1992) (acknowledging also that Bolden authorizes unions to compromise their employee's privacy claims including objections to drug tests). In this case Medellin and Union attorney Richard Stanton acting on his behalf freely and deliberately consented to drug testing through the March 1992 Agreement as a condition precedent to his permanent reinstatement. Accordingly Medellin's Fourth Amendment claim fails as a matter of law.

  1. PLAINTIFF'S MOTION
Medellin moves for partial summary judgment on the grounds that defendants violated his due process rights as a matter of law by discharging him in March 1992 without providing him with the procedures discussed above. The court has found that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact in this case. Since the court has resolved the relevant legal issues in favor of the defendants based on the record evidence Medellin's claims in his Motion for Partial Summary Judgment fail as a matter of law.

Conclusion

For the foregoing reasons the court grants defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and denies plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment.

ENTER:

Ann Claire Williams Judge

United States District Court

 
Notes:

*fn1 42 U.S.C. SEC. 1983 provides: "Every person who under color of any statute ordinance regulation custom or usage of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia subjects or causes to be subjected any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law suit in equity or other proper proceeding for redress."

*fn2 Although plaintiff does not raise a Fourth Amendment claim in his Motion For Partial Summary Judgment defendants have moved for summary judgment on this claim in response to allegations contained in plaintiff's Fourth Amended Complaint. Therefore the court will briefly address this issue at the end of the opinion.

*fn3 Although Medellin initially denied using cocaine (but did not challenge the test results) he subsequently admitted to using the drug for approximately two years prior to the 1989 test. (Pl. Dep at 48.)

*fn4 There is conflicting evidence in the record as to the length of time prior to March 2 1992 during which Medellin remained drug-free. Dr. Sneider's medical report and his subsequent affidavit indicate that Medellin told him he had used cocaine as early as two weeks prior to the date of the interview. (Pl. Ex. D; Sneider Aff. P 6.)

*fn5 Medellin alleged that he received such notice from the CTA in a legal malpractice complaint against Stanton filed in state court. (Def. Ex. 12 P 31.) However in his subsequent affidavit opposing defendants' motion for summary judgment in this case Medellin contradicts his previous allegation. He states At no time after my reinstatement and drug test on March 2, 1992, was I informed by any agent or employee of the CTA that I had failed the drug test and should not or could not return to work. Pl. Aff. P 2.) The court finds that this self-serving statement without concrete factual support in the record is insufficient to create a genuine issue of fact precluding summary judgment. Cf. Darnell v. Target Stores 16 F.3d 174 176 (7th Cir.1994). In any event Medellin clearly received actual notice of the results of the drug test through Stanton.

*fn6 Section 28 of the Metropolitan Transit Authority Act states in relevant part that:

No officer or employee shall be discharged except for cause which is detrimental to the service. Any officer or employee who is discharged or demoted may file a complaint in writing with the Board within ten days after notice of his or her discharge or demotion. If an employee is a member of a labor organization the complaint may be filed by such organization for and in behalf of such employee. The Board shall grant a hearing on such complaint within (30) days after it is filed.

70 ILCS 3605/28 (emphasis added).