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Alcon v. Anderson Wood Products Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

October 24, 2014

CHARLES ALCON, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDERSON WOOD PRODUCTS COMPANY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

THOMAS B. RUSSELL, Magistrate Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on the Plaintiff's Motion to Remand. (Docket #5). The Defendant has responded. (Docket #8). This matter is now ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, the Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Docket #5) will be GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

This action arises from Plaintiff Charles Alcon's employment at Defendant Anderson Wood Products Company ("Anderson Wood"). Alcon alleges he was subjected to a racially hostile work environment, received disparate treatment including lower wages, and was terminated for opposing his harassment. (Docket #1, Ex. 1).

Alcon filed this lawsuit in Jefferson County Circuit Court. Alcon alleges only state claims, namely discrimination in violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act ("KRCA") and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Anderson Wood removed this lawsuit to federal court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction.[1] Anderson Wood argues Alcon's claims are preempted by § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), thereby converting his state claims into federal claims. Alcon moves to remand.

STANDARD

A defendant may remove "any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction." 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). "The defendant has the burden of establishing that removal is proper." Crump v. WorldCom, Inc., 128 F.Supp.2d 549, 553 (W.D. Tenn. 2001).

A district court has subject matter jurisdiction to hear federal question cases. See 28 U.S.C. §§1331. "The presence or absence of federal-question jurisdiction is governed by the well-pleaded complaint rule, ' which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint." Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). "There does exist, however, an independent corollary' to the well-pleaded complaint rule, known as the complete pre-emption' doctrine." Id. (citation omitted). The "pre-emptive force of a statute" may be "so extraordinary' that it converts an ordinary state commonlaw complaint into one stating a federal claim for purposes of the wellpleaded complaint rule." Id. ( quoting Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 65 (1987)).

"The complete pre-emption corollary to the well-pleaded complaint rule is applied primarily[2] in cases raising claims pre-empted by § 301 of the LMRA." Id. Section 301 states "Suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization... may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect of the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the parties. 29 U.S.C. § 185(a)." Most commonly, the contract between an employer and labor organization is a collective bargaining agreement. Although claims arising from a collective bargaining agreement might normally be state law claims, the "unusually powerful' pre-emptive force of § 301" not only preempts[3] state law claims "but also authorize[es] removal of actions that sought relief only under state law." Ben. Nat'l Bank v. Anderson, 539 U.S. 1, 7-8 (2003).

This does not mean, however, that any state claim "tangentially related" to a collective bargaining agreement must be preempted, but instead only those claims that are "inextricably intertwined." Paul v. Kaiser Found. Health Plan of Ohio, 701 F.3d 514, 522 (6th Cir. 2012). The Sixth Circuit has adopted a two-part test to "determine whether a state-claim is sufficiently independent' to survive § 301 preemption." Mattis v. Massman, 355 F.3d 902, 906 (6th Cir. 2004). "First, courts must determine whether resolving the state-law claim would require interpretation of the terms of the collective bargaining agreement." Id. "If interpretation of the CBA would be required, then the state-law claim is preempted and the inquiry is at an end." Loyd v. Saint Joseph Mercy Oakland, 766 F.3d 580 (6th Cir. 2014). "Second, courts must ascertain whether the rights claimed by the plaintiff were created by the collective bargaining agreement, or instead by state law." Mattis, 355 F.3d at 906. "If the rights were created by the collective bargaining agreement, the claim is preempted." Id. "In short, if a state-law claim fails either of these two requirements, it is preempted by § 301." Id. (emphasis in original).

DISCUSSION

Alcon alleges that Anderson Wood subjected Alcon to a racially hostile work environment in violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act ("KCRA"). Alcon also alleges that Anderson Wood's action constituted an intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Docket #1, Ex. 1). On its face, Alcon's complaint alleges only state law claims which do not provide federal question jurisdiction.

Anderson Wood argues the complete pre-emption corollary to the well-pleaded complaint rule applies in this case. Anderson Wood claims Alcon's discrimination claims are covered by the Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") between Anderson Wood and Alcon's union. Section VI of the CBA states, under the heading "No Discrimination":

The Company and the Union agree that no employee shall be discriminated against because of race, color, religion, national origin, disability, age, sex, or other characteristic protected by law. The Company and the Union will comply with all local, ...

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