Duty Of Fair Representation Claim Against Local Police Union Does Not Belong In Federal Court

Anthony Maio has been a New Haven, Connecticut police officer for 15 years. On April 19, 2008, the Department sent Maio on an unspecified assignment which resulted in two citizens accusing Maio of criminal conduct. On June 4, 2008, Maio was arrested for sexual assault and unlawful restraint.

While the criminal matter was pending, Maio was apparently required to give a Garrity statement in an internal investigation. After Maio gave the statement, the Department lodged administrative charges to terminate Maio’s employment, and placed Maio on administrative leave. On August 12, 2009, a jury in the Connecticut Superior Court acquitted Maio of all the criminal charges filed against him.

Maio was a member of the bargaining unit represented by the New Haven Police Union. In a federal court lawsuit later brought against the City and the Union, Maio asserted (among other things) that the Union failed to adequately represent him, pressured him to resign from his employment and to withdraw his complaints against the City, and permitted the City to question him about his criminal charges. Maio also alleged that the Union refused to pursue or resolve any of Maio’s union grievances concerning his arrest.

A federal court dismissed Maio’s charges against the Union. The Court found that “Maio’s duty of fair representation claim cannot proceed under the National Labor Relations Act because the NLRA specifically excludes municipal employers and employees.” The Court noted that while Maio’s duty of fair representation claim could have been lodged as a matter of state rather than federal law, federal courts have the discretion to refuse to hear state claims.

Citing these principles, the Court refused to exercise its “supplemental jurisdiction” to hear a possible state law duty of fair representation claim: “Supplemental jurisdiction is a matter of discretion, not of right. Thus, the Court need not exercise supplemental jurisdiction in every case. The Court has dismissed Maio’s federal claim for breach of the duty of fair representation against the Union. There are no other causes of action directed against the Union other than the possible claim of breach of the duty of fair representation under state law. Thus, the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Maio’s state law claim for breach of the duty of fair representation against the Union.”

Maio v. City of New Haven, 2011 WL 4101462 (D. Conn. 2011).

This article appears in the November 2011 issue.