United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
GARY DAILY, et al. PLAINTIFFS
ZEON CHEMICAL LIMITED PARTNERSHIP DEFENDANT
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
H. MCKINLEY JR., SENIOR JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
removed this matter from state court claiming that all of
Plaintiffs' claims are completely preempted by Section
301 of the Labor Management Relations Act. On the same basis,
Defendant moves to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims. [DN
Plaintiffs assert that their claims are not preempted. The
Court agrees with Plaintiffs and remands this case to the
Jefferson Circuit Court.
and present employees of Defendant Zeon Chemical Limited
Partnership (“Zeon”) brought this action claiming
they worked in excess of 40 hours a week and that they were
not compensated for said work as required by state law.
According to the Complaint, “Plaintiffs were required
for the convenience of Zeon to report to work and clock-in
and clock-out, but during said times were not paid for all of
such times for their work.” (Amend. Compl. [DN 11]
this lawsuit was filed by Plaintiffs in Jefferson Circuit
Court. On February 14, 2019, Zeon removed the case to this
Court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, claiming that the action is
completely preempted by § 301 of the Labor Management
Relations Act (“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. § 185(a).
Zeon argues that the relevant issues in this lawsuit are
governed by a collective bargaining agreement (the
“CBA”) between the parties that requires
arbitration to resolve disputes. On this basis, Zeon argues
the lawsuit must be dismissed. The Court heard oral arguments
on this issue on June 3, 2019.
Amended Complaint asserts one claim under state law.
“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). For this reason, “a case may not be
removed to federal court on the basis of a federal defense,
” such as preemption. Id. at 393 (emphasis in
original). The only exception to the well-pleaded complaint
rule is the “complete pre-emption” doctrine.
Id. “On occasion, the Court has concluded that
the pre-emptive force of a statute is so
‘extraordinary' that it ‘converts an ordinary
state common-law complaint into one stating a federal claim
for purposes of the well-pleaded complaint rule.'”
Id. (quoting Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v.
Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 65 (1987)). Therefore, the question
before the Court is whether the Plaintiffs' claim is
completely preempted by the LMRA. If not, the Court lacks
subject matter jurisdiction and the case must be remanded.
301 of the LMRA completely preempts state law claims based on
the violation of a collective bargaining agreement. 29 U.S.C.
§ 185(a). Based on the Supreme Court's guiding
principles, the Sixth Circuit developed a two-step approach
for determining whether § 301 preemption applies.
Alongi v. Ford Motor Co., 386 F.3d 716, 724 (6th
Cir. 2004) (citing DeCoe v. Gen. Motors Corp., 32
F.3d 212, 216 (6th Cir. 1994)). The court must first
examine whether proof of the state law claim requires
interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement. Next,
the court must decide whether the claims of the plaintiffs
are created by a collective bargaining agreement or by state
law. If the claim is created by state law and does not invoke
interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement, then
there is no preemption. However, a state law claim is
preempted by § 301 (1) if “the rights claimed by
the plaintiff were created by the collective bargaining
agreement, ” or (2) if “resolving the state-law
claim would require interpretation of the terms of the
collective bargaining agreement.” Mattis v.
Massman, 355 F.3d 902, 906 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing
DeCoe, 32 F.3d at 216).
basis of this lawsuit is the Plaintiffs' contention that
prior to December 2017, they were not fairly paid for the
time they gave to their employer during shift changes. In
seeking to right this perceived wrong, the Plaintiffs had two
different avenues of relief. Their first option was to file a
grievance using the process outlined in the CBA they had with
Zeon. Back in November 2017, Plaintiffs did pursue this
avenue and filed a grievance through their local union.
However, in July 2018, Plaintiffs withdrew the grievance
against Zeon. Instead, Plaintiffs opted to go with the second
avenue for relief: to vindicate their rights under state law.
and state statutes make certain guarantees to employees. For
example, the LMRA and its Kentucky counterpart-the Kentucky
Wage and Hours Act (KWHA)-guarantee overtime pay for
employees who work in excess of forty hours per week. 29
U.S.C. § 201(a)(1); Ky. Rev. Stat. § 337.285. If an
employee feels that he or she is not being sufficiently paid,
both federal and state law “authorizes an uncompensated
or undercompensated employee to sue the employer in
‘any court of competent jurisdiction' for the
amount due and unpaid, plus liquidated damages, costs and
attorney fees.” Parts Depot, Inc. v.
Beiswenger, 170 S.W.3d 354, 358 (Ky. 2005) (citing Ky.
Rev. Stat. § 24A.120(1)); see also 29 U.S.C.
§ 216(b). In litigating these claims, courts have
developed a body of case law. Federal case law is much more
robust than Kentucky law, which is why Kentucky courts often
rely on federal case law where “KWHA's regulations
are ‘substantially similar' to their federal
equivalents, and there is no state case law on point.”
Vance v. Amazon.com, Inc. (In re
Amazon.com, Inc.), 852 F.3d 601, 615 (6th Cir. 2017).
the two-step approach outlined in DeCoe, the Court
finds § 301 of the LMRA does not completely preempt
Plaintiffs' wage and hour claim. First, the Plaintiffs
are not pursuing rights created by the CBA. Zeon argues,
“The issues raised in the Complaint-i.e., wages and
hours, overtime pay, shift schedules, and clock-in/clock-out
procedures-are all issues governed and controlled by the
collective bargaining agreement between [Plaintiffs] and
Zeon.” (Mem. in Support of Mot. to Dismiss [DN 8-1] at
2). While it may be true that these issues are addressed by
the CBA, as discussed above, the Plaintiffs chose to rely
solely on protections from the Kentucky statutes in this
lawsuit. As the Plaintiffs noted in their Response,
“[W]hen Congress made unions the exclusive
representative of employees for purposes of collective
bargaining, it did not mean to establish unions as the
exclusive representative of employees for purposes of all
wage-related litigation.” Trollinger v. Tyson
Foods, Inc., 370 F.3d 602, 621 (6th Cir. 2004).
Plaintiffs, as masters of the Complaint, opted to pursue
their rights under Kentucky law, taking no account whatsoever
of the CBA with Zeon.
case stands in contrast to a previous LMRA preemption case
before this Court. In Saunders v. Ford Motor Co.,
the Court determined that a wage and hour claim brought by an
employee was preempted by the LMRA. No. 3:14-cv-00594-JHM,
2016 WL 6868155 (W.D. Ky. Nov. 18, 2016). In that case, the
plaintiff, Saunders, complained that his employer did not
allow him to work for a total of 80 days due to work
restrictions-a violation of a promise made to him in his
collective bargaining agreement. Since the KWHA does not
guarantee employees can work for a minimum number of days,
Saunders was pursuing a right guaranteed only by his
collective bargaining agreement. Here, the right to minimum
wages and overtime are guaranteed both in the CBA and the
KWHA and the Plaintiffs have opted to rely on the latter. For
this reason, the cases are not analogous.
oral arguments, Zeon offered an insight from an old Supreme
Court case: “A rule that permitted an individual to
sidestep available grievance procedures would cause
arbitration to lose most of its effectiveness, . . . as well
as eviscerate a central tenet of federal labor contract law
under § 301 that it is the arbitrator, not the court,
who has the responsibility to interpret the labor contract in
the first instance.” Allis-Chalmers Corp. v.
Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 220 (1985). Since the Supreme Court
issued that opinion, it has clarified its stance in later
decisions, making clear that “judges can determine
questions of state law involving labor-management ...