United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. CHAMBERS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is a Motion to Stay Litigation Pending
Arbitration filed by Defendants CSX Transportation, Inc.
(“CSXT”) and Craig S. Heligman, M.D.
(“Heligman”). Mot. to Stay, ECF No. 34.
The relevant issues have been adequately presented to the
Court and are ripe for review. For the reasons set forth
below, the Court DENIES the motion.
case arises out of Plaintiff Adonis Ginn's August 21,
2017 termination by Defendant CSXT after approximately eleven
years of employment. See Resp. in Opp'n, ECF No.
38, at 1-2. At the time of his discharge, Plaintiff worked as
a Signal Foreman with CSXT's special maintenance team in
Huntington, West Virginia. Compl., ECF No. 1, at
¶ 10. Plaintiff alleges that he had “suffered from
a right shoulder condition that caused flare-ups with
significant pain radiating to his arm and shoulder
blade” for several years prior to his discharge, and
that the condition “began to worsen beginning in
February 2017.” Id. at ¶¶ 12-13.
the following months, Plaintiff recalls visiting several
doctors for various injuries and treatments. Id. at
¶¶ 14-24. On July 6, 2017, Plaintiff treated with
Shannon Johnson, a chiropractor, after injuring his back the
prior day. Id. at ¶¶ 19, 25. Plaintiff
claims he visited Dr. Johnson because his wife “was
already a patient of” hers, and her “office was
the most convenient chiropractic office location” to
his home. Id. at ¶ 26. Dr. Johnson concurred
with an earlier medical opinion that his back injury
“occurred as a direct result of [his] shoulder
condition, ” and that he “would be required to be
out of work for approximately two months.” Id.
at ¶¶ 27, 29. Plaintiff contacted his supervisor
and advised him of his Dr. Johnson's opinion, which she
independently communicated to CSXT by filling out a
“CSX Medical Department Certification of Ongoing
Illness or Injury” form. Id. at ¶¶
21, 2017, Plaintiff received a letter from CSXT advising him
of a formal investigation into his injury. Id. at
¶ 34. The investigation focused on allegations that
Plaintiff was “dishonest and attempted to defraud the
Company and/or benefits providers when [he], as well as more
than 50 other craft employees, submitted potentially
fraudulent documentation” from certain medical
providers, including Dr. Johnson. Id. The letter also
served as a notice of Plaintiff's termination
“pending the outcome of the formal
to internal grievance procedures mandated by the Railway
Labor Act (“RLA”), a series of
“on-property” dispute resolution proceedings
began on August 1, 2017. Mem. of Law, ECF No. 35, at
3. At that point, CSXT conducted an investigative hearing
into Plaintiff's alleged fraud and formally fired
Plaintiff soon after. Id. at 4. Through his union,
Plaintiff unsuccessfully appealed his termination to
CSXT's Director of Labor Relations. Id. After
the parties were unable to resolve their dispute in
conference, Plaintiff submitted his claim to the National
Railroad Adjustment Board (“NRAB”) on September
28, 2018 for arbitration proceedings. Id. While NRAB
acknowledged receipt of Plaintiff's notice on November
28, 2018, no arbitration has been scheduled to date.
Id. at 4; Resp. in Opp'n, at 5.
September 27, 2018-fourteen months ago-Plaintiff filed his
Complaint in this Court, alleging violations of the Family
Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), the West Virginia
Human Rights Act (“WVHRA”), and the Railroad
Safety Act (“RSA”). Compl., at
¶¶ 50-98. These statutory claims are distinct from
the contractual claims under consideration in Plaintiff's
ongoing arbitration. On January 17, 2019, the Court entered a
Scheduling Order setting trial for January 14, 2020.
Scheduling Order, ECF No. 15. On November 13,
2019-just twenty-six days before the pretrial conference, and
well after the close of discovery and the deadline for
dispositive motions- Defendants filed the instant motion to
stay proceedings in this matter. Mot. to Stay, at 1.
Plaintiff timely filed his Response in Opposition two weeks
later, arguing that this case should be permitted to proceed
to trial as scheduled. Resp. in Opp'n, at 11.
The Court considers the parties' arguments below.
grant or denial of a request to stay proceedings calls for an
exercise of [a] district court's judgment to balance the
various factors relevant to the expeditious and comprehensive
disposition of the causes of action on the court's
docket.” Maryland v. Universal Elections,
Inc., 729 F.3d 370, 375 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting
United States v. Ga. Pac. Corp., 562 F.2d 294, 296
(4th Cir. 1977)). “The party seeking a stay must
justify it by clear and convincing circumstances outweighing
potential harm to the party against whom it is
operative.” Williford v. Armstrong World Indus.,
Inc., 715 F.2d 124, 127 (4th Cir. 1983). Put somewhat
differently, a movant “must make out a clear case of
hardship or inequity in being required to go forward, if
there is even a fair possibility that the stay for which he
prays will work damage to someone else.” Id.
(quoting Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 255
(1936)). Ongoing arbitration does not narrow a court's
wide discretion in deciding whether a stay is warranted in a
given case. See Moses H. Cone Mem. Hosp. v. Mercury
Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 20 n. 23 (1983) (“In
some cases . . . it may be advisable to stay litigation . . .
pending the outcome of the arbitration. That decision is one
left to the district court . . . as a matter of its
discretion to control its docket.”). With this
discretionary framework in mind, the Court will undertake a
review of the instant motion.
ask the Court to stay this entire action pending conclusion
of Plaintiff's ongoing arbitration proceedings before the
NRAB. In considering whether to grant such a motion, courts
consider “(1) the interests of judicial economy; (2)
hardship and equity to the moving party if the action is not
stayed; and (3) potential prejudice to the non-moving
party.” Tolley v. Monsanto Co., 591 F.Supp.2d
837, 844 (S.D. W.Va. 2008). The Court turns to an analysis of
each factor below.
Interests of Judicial Economy
Defendants contend that “principles of . . .
efficiency and judicial economy favor awaiting the outcome
of arbitration.” Mem. of Law, at 9. The Court
finds this argument perplexing. This case was initiated over
fourteen months ago, and-as Plaintiff notes-“Defendants
were aware that [Plaintiff's] union representation was
simultaneously proceeding with the collective bargaining
agreement['s] . . . grievance procedure” the entire
time. Resp. in Opp'n, at 5. While a stay could
conceivably have served the interests of efficiency at an
earlier point in this litigation, these interests are now far
less compelling than they may once have been. Defendants
appear to admit as much, arguing that “a court may
impose a stay pending arbitration if it will help ensure the