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Miller v. Maine Teachers Ass'n
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MAINE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT			Reporter of Decisions
Decision:	1997 ME 152
Docket:	Pen -96-592
Submitted
on Briefs:	June 26, 1997
Decided:	July 18, 1997

Panel:		WATHEN, C.J., and ROBERTS, GLASSMAN, RUDMAN, and LIPEZ, JJ.  



DAVID MILLER v. MAINE TEACHERS ASSOCIATION et al.


GLASSMAN, J.
  
	[¶1] David Miller appeals from the judgment entered in the Superior
Court (Penobscot County, Marden, J.) granting the motion of the Maine
Teachers Association and Margo Lister, President of the Clerical, Office,
Laboratory and Technical Unit at the University of Maine (collectively MTA),
to dismiss his complaint against MTA seeking damages for the alleged
breach of the duty of fair representation and the intentional infliction of
emotional distress.  Miller contends the court erred by determining that the
Maine Labor Relations Board (the Board) has exclusive original jurisdiction
to hear this action.  Because we conclude that the trial court has jurisdiction
over Miller's claim for the intentional infliction of emotional distress, we
vacate the court's dismissal of that claim.  
	[¶2] Miller alleges the following facts in his complaint: Beginning in
1969, Miller became a full-time employee of the University of Maine.  At all
relevant times Miller was a member of MTA.  Following an April 1983
reduction of his employment status to part-time, he initiated a grievance
pursuant to the procedure contained within the collective bargaining
agreement between MTA and the University of Maine.  In May 1984,
pursuant to the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, MTA filed a
Step 3 request for a review of Miller's grievance that was denied.  MTA
agreed to take the grievance to arbitration and notified the University
accordingly.  On August 25, 1984, after reconsideration by MTA, it withdrew
the grievance from the arbitration procedure.  
	[¶3] Seeking both compensatory and punitive damages, Miller alleges
as Count I of his complaint that by withdrawing his complaint from
arbitration, MTA acted "arbitrarily," maliciously" and in "bad faith" and
breached its duty to represent him pursuant to the collective bargaining
agreement.  In Count II Miller alleges that the conduct of MTA caused him
"severe emotional distress; and the conduct was intentional."  
	[¶4] After a hearing on MTA's motion to dismiss the complaint on the
ground that the Board has exclusive jurisdiction to hear actions alleging
misconduct by a bargaining agent toward a member of the bargaining unit,
the court granted MTA's motion.  From the judgment entered accordingly,
Miller appeals.  
	[¶5] Miller contends the trial court erred by dismissing his complaint. 
"When reviewing a motion to dismiss, we assume that all the facts as alleged
in the complaint are true."  Webb v. Hass, 665 A.2d 1005, 1009 (Me. 1995). 
"We examine the complaint in the light most favorable to [Miller] to
determine whether it sets forth elements of a cause of action or alleges facts
that would entitle [Miller] to relief pursuant to some legal theory." J.R.M.,
Inc. v. City of Portland, 669 A.2d 159, 161 (Me. 1995).  
	[¶6] The relationships between Miller, MTA and the University are
governed by the University of Maine System Labor Relations Act, 26 M.R.S.A.
§§ 1021-1035 (1988 & Supp. 1996).  Pursuant to section 1027(2), MTA, as
the bargaining agent for Miller, is "prohibited from . . . [i]nterfering with,
restraining or coercing employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed
in section 1023 . . . ." Section 1023 provides:
 
No one may directly or indirectly interfere with, intimidate,
restrain, coerce or discriminate against university . . . employees
. . . in the free exercise of their rights, hereby given, voluntarily
to join, form and participate in the activities of organizations of
their own choosing for the purposes of representation and
collective bargaining, or in the free exercise of any other right
under this chapter.  

The Act authorizes the Board to remedy prohibited acts.  26 M.R.S.A. § 1029
(Supp. 1996).  
	[¶7] Recently, in Brown v. Maine State Employees Ass'n, 690 A.2d 956
(Me. 1997), in construing nearly identical language in the State Employees
Labor Relations Act, we concluded that "the exclusive jurisdiction for breach
of the duty of fair representation lies with the Board." Id. at 959-60 n.5.  We
based our decision in part on the Board's "broad discretion in fashioning
appropriate relief for the employer's prohibited practices . . . ." Id. at 959
(quoting City of Bangor v. American Fed'n of State, County, and Mun.
Employees Council 74, 449 A.2d 1129, 1136 (Me. 1982)).  The analogous
language of the University of Maine System Labor Relations Act compels the
same result in this case.  
	[¶8] We agree with Miller, however, that Brown does not control the
disposition of his claim for damages resulting from the intentional infliction
of emotional distress.  Miller's complaint alleges that MTA acted arbitrarily,
maliciously and in bad faith when it withdrew its support of Miller's attempt
to take his grievance to arbitration.  He alleges that by these actions, MTA
intentionally caused him great emotional distress.  
	[¶9] Unlike in the context of an alleged breach of duty of fair
representation, the Board's broad discretion to fashion relief does not
extend to tort remedies, including punitive damages, that may be available to
Miller pursuant to his claim for the intentional infliction of emotional
distress.{1}  See 26 M.R.S.A. § 1029(3) (Board has authority to issue cease and
desist order "and to take such affirmative action, including reinstatement of
employees with or without back pay, as will effectuate the policies of this
chapter.").  Because the Board does not have the authority to resolve Miller's
claim for emotional distress, that claim is not governed by the University of
Maine System Labor Relations Act and is properly before the court. 
Accordingly, while we express no opinion as to the merits of Miller's claim,
we conclude that the court erred by its dismissal of Count II of Miller's
complaint seeking damages for the intentional infliction of emotional
distress.  
	The entry is: 
Judgment on Count I affirmed; judgment
on Count II vacated.  Remanded for
further proceedings consistent with the
opinion herein. 


Attorney for plaintiff: Grover G. Alexander, Esq. P O Box 346 Gray, ME 04039 Attorney for defendant: Margaret T. Johnson, Esq. 87 Dupont Drive Presque Isle, ME 04769
FOOTNOTES******************************** {1} The plaintiff in Brown also alleged a tort (legal malpractice) against the Union. We did not address the Board's ability to afford the plaintiff a tort remedy because we concluded that: (1) as a matter of law, the complaint failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted; and (2) the "essence" of the malpractice claim was a breach of the duty to represent him and therefore was "covered within the contours of the statutory duty of fair representation." Brown, 690 A.2d at 960.