Federal Courts Have No Authority Over Local Duty Of Fair Representation Claims

Jon Gray had been a deputy sheriff for the City and County of San Francisco for almost ten years when his employment was terminated on October 6, 2008. He later brought a federal court lawsuit against his labor organization, the San Francisco Deputy Sheriff’s Association, claiming the Association violated its duty of fair representation. Gray sought damages in the amount of $1,727,488 as a consequence of having been terminated.

A federal court dismissed Gray’s lawsuit. The Court focused on whether Gray’s claims were covered by the federal Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA). Therein, the Court found, lay the problem: “The explicit language of the LMRA excludes states and their political subdivisions from its definition of ‘employer.’ Under the LMRA, the term ‘employer’ includes any person acting as an agent of an employer, directly or indirectly, but shall not include the United States or any wholly owned Government corporation or any State or political subdivision thereof or any labor organization (other than when acting as an employer).

“Thus, the LMRA does not grant a federal district court jurisdiction over claims against an individual employed by a political subdivision of the state. Gray has cited no decision finding jurisdiction over a municipal employer under the LMRA. Accordingly, Gray’s fair representation claim does not establish federal subject-matter jurisdiction, and the Association’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction is granted.”

Gray v. San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs Association, 2013 WL 6351029 (N.D. Cal. 2013).