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CZOSEK V. O'MARA, 397 U. S. 25 (1970)

U.S. Supreme Court

Czosek v. O'Mara, 397 U.S. 25 (1970)

Czosek v. O'Mara

No. 234

Argued January 13, 1970

Decided February 24, 1970

397 U.S. 25


Employees of the Erie Lackawanna Railroad Co., who were furloughed and never recalled, filed suit against the railroad, their union, and subordinate organizations and officers of the union, alleging that the railroad had wrongfully discharged them and that the union defendants had been "guilty of gross nonfeasance and hostile discrimination" in refusing to process their claims. They sought damages from the railroad, the union defendants, or both. The District Court dismissed the complaint against the railroad for failure to exhaust the Railway Labor Act's administrative remedies and for lack of diversity jurisdiction, and against the union for failure adequately to allege a breach of duty and because the plaintiffs could have processed their own grievances. The Court of Appeals reversed with respect to the action against the union defendants, holding that the complaint adequately alleged a breach of the union's duty of fair representation. It affirmed dismissal of the complaint against the railroad, but held that, on remand, the employees could maintain their action against the railroad if they amended the complaint to allege that the employer was implicated in the union's discrimination.


1. The complaint against the union was sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. The claim for breach of the union's duty of fair representation is a discrete claim, being distinct from the right of individual employees under the Railway Labor Act to pursue their employer before the Adjustment Board. Pp. 397 U. S. 27-28.

2. The union can be sued alone for breach of its duty, and it cannot complain if separate actions are brought against it and the employer for the portion of the total damages caused by each where the union and the employer have independently caused damage to the employees. Pp. 397 U. S. 28-29.

407 F.2d 674, affirmed.

Page 397 U. S. 26

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