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United Transportation Union v. Foxx

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

May 8, 2014

UNITED TRANSPORTATION UNION, Petitioner,
v.
ANTHONY FOXX, [*] U.S. Secretary of Transportation; U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION; JOSEPH C. SZABO, Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration; FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION, Respondents

Argued and Submitted, December 3, 2013,  Pasadena, California

On Petition for Review of an Order of the Federal Railroad Administration.

Lawrence M. Mann (argued), Alper & Mann, PC, Bethesda, Maryland, for Petitioner.

Joy K. Park (argued), Trial Attorney, Robert S. Rivkin, General Counsel, Paul M. Geier, Assistant General Counsel for Litigation, and Peter J. Plocki, Deputy Assistant General Counsel for Litigation, United States Department of Transportation, Washington, D.C.; Michael T. Haley, Acting Chief Counsel, Thomas J. Herrmann, Assistant Chief Counsel for Safety Law, Rebecca S. Behravesh, Colleen A. Brennan, and Matthew T. Prince, Trial Attorneys, Federal Railroad Administration, Office of the Chief Counsel, Washington, D.C., for Respondents Anthony Foxx, United States Secretary of Transportation; et al.

Before: Mary M. Schroeder, John T. Noonan, and Richard R. Clifton, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge Schroeder.

OPINION

Page 1110

SCHROEDER, Circuit Judge

The United Transportation Union petitions for review of a decision of the Federal Railroad Administration (" FRA" ) that the agency lacked jurisdiction to decide whether the Union Pacific Railroad Company had authority under the Collective Bargaining Agreement to designate terminals for a new service the railroad had instituted in California. The Union had contended that terminals could be designated only through negotiations, while the Railroad had taken the position that after negotiations failed, the Agreement authorized it to designate terminals unilaterally on a trial basis.

The FRA concluded it lacked jurisdiction to resolve the dispute because it did not have statutory authority to interpret collective bargaining agreements. The Union does not disagree with that principle of law, but contends that in this case, " interpretation" of the Agreement was not required because a cursory " review" establishes that the new terminal is not a designated terminal.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement is unquestionably relevant. Congress has attempted to clarify that the designation of terminals is to be determined by collective bargaining agreements, 49 U.S.C. § 21101(1); H.R. Rep. No. 95-1176, at 9 (1974), and this intent has been incorporated in the FRA Agency policy, see 49 C.F.R. § 228, Appx. A (2012). Given the positions of the parties in this case, the Union can prevail in the dispute only if the Railroad's interpretation of the Agreement is rejected. We therefore agree with the FRA that the dispute is outside the purview of the FRA's authority. The FRA can review an agreement to determine what the designated terminals are, but it cannot interpret the agreement to decide how the terminals shall be designated. Disputes over how an agreement should be interpreted are governed by a different statute. Because this is a dispute regarding interpretation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, it is governed by the procedures of the Railway Labor Act (" RLA" ) for disputes requiring " interpretation or application of agreements covering rates of pay, rules, or working conditions." 45 U.S.C. § 151a; see also id . § § 152-6. We therefore deny the petition for review.

BACKGROUND

This dispute over designating terminals has significance because under the railroad safety laws, known as the Hours of Service Laws (" HSL" ), if an employee is released from work for more than four hours at a designated terminal, the employee is not on duty. If an employee is released at a place other than at a designated terminal, the employee is on duty. 49 U.S.C. § 21103(b)(5)-(6). These are provisions of the HSL that the FRA administers. See id . at § 103(g).

Page 1111

The HSL are intended to ensure that employees have adequate rest to perform their work, and therefore on-duty hours are limited. Id. at § 21103. To accomplish this, the HSL calculates duty time with reference to when the employee begins and is released from duty. On-duty time begins when an employee reports for duty and ends when an employee is released from duty. Id. at § 21103(b)(1). It is common practice in the railroad industry, however, to release employees from duty at a terminal different from the one at which they begin their service day. The HSL thus includes provisions indicating whether time spent after such a release is calculated as on duty or off duty. Id. at ยง 21103(b)(5)-(6). Specifically, an employee is on duty when released for " [a]n interim period available for rest at a place other than a designated terminal . . . [and a]n interim period available for less than 4 hours ...


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