United States District Court, D. Maine
JILL A. KEHOE, Plaintiff,
THORNTON ACADEMY, Defendant.
ORDER ON MOTION TO REMAND
Torresen United States Chief District Judge
me is the Plaintiff's motion to remand to state court her
Amended Complaint asserting sex discrimination in violation
of state law. At issue is whether the Plaintiff's single
remaining claim presents a federal question because it
requires me to interpret a collective bargaining agreement
(“CBA”) between the Trustees of Thornton Academy
and the Thornton Academy Teachers Union. CBA (ECF No. 16-1).
If the resolution of the state law claim depends upon the
meaning of the CBA, then the claim is completely preempted by
federal labor law. If the state law claim is independent of
the CBA, then I must remand for lack of federal jurisdiction.
For the reasons stated below, I GRANT the Plaintiff's
motion to remand.
HISTORY AND THE PARTIES' POSITIONS
Plaintiff filed a two-count Complaint in the Maine Superior
Court alleging sex discrimination in violation of the Maine
Equal Pay Law, 26 M.R.S.A. § 628, and breach of the CBA.
The Defendant Thornton Academy removed the complaint to this
Court and filed a motion to dismiss. Notice of Removal (ECF
No. 1); Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss (ECF No. 7). The
Defendant's notice of removal asserts that this Court has
federal question jurisdiction over the claims alleged in the
complaint under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations
Act (“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 141-87.
Notice of Removal 2. In the motion to dismiss, the Defendant
argues that the Plaintiff's claims are preempted by the
LMRA and that an arbitrator's decision adverse to Ms.
Kehoe is the final and binding resolution of her claims.
Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss 5-9.
a week after the Motion to Dismiss was filed, the Plaintiff
filed an Amended Complaint, in which she dropped her breach
of contract claim and asserted only the sex discrimination
claim under the Maine Equal Pay Law. Amended Compl. (ECF No.
8). Plaintiff then moved to remand her case to state court on
the ground that her sex discrimination claim is not preempted
by federal law because it is not dependent on an
interpretation of the CBA. Pl.'s Mot. to Remand (ECF No.
The Governing Law
district courts have original jurisdiction over “all
civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or
treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
“The gates of federal question jurisdiction are
customarily patrolled by a steely-eyed sentry-the
well-pleaded complaint rule . . . .” BIW Deceived
v. Local S6, Indus. Union of Marine & Shipbuilding
Workers, 132 F.3d 824, 830 (1st Cir. 1997) (citation
omitted). Under that rule, “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). The plaintiff, as “master of the claim, ”
can “avoid federal jurisdiction by exclusive reliance
on state law.” Id.
is an “independent corollary to the well-pleaded
complaint rule known as the complete pre-emption doctrine,
” and it has long been applied to § 301
of the LMRA. Id. at 393 (internal citation and
quotations omitted). Section 301 provides that “[s]uits
for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor
organization representing employees . . . may be brought in
any district court of the United States having jurisdiction
of the parties” without regard to the amount in
controversy or diversity. 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). The
Supreme Court has determined that the “preemptive force
of § 301 is so powerful as to displace entirely any
state cause of action for violation of contracts between an
employer and a labor organization. Any such suit is purely a
creature of federal law.” Franchise Tax Board of
Cal. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust for S. Cal., 463
U.S. 1, 23 (1983) (footnote and internal quotations omitted).
Supreme Court has expanded the complete preemption doctrine
beyond suits alleging just contract violations in order to
prevent plaintiffs from evading the doctrine of complete
preemption by artful pleading. See Allis-Chalmers Corp.
v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 219-20 (1985). “If the
resolution of a state-law claim depends upon the
meaning of a collective-bargaining agreement, the
application of state law . . . is preempted and federal
labor-law principles . . . must be employed to resolve the
dispute.” Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef,
Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 405-06 (1988) (emphasis added).
are two ways that a Plaintiff's claim can “depend
upon the meaning of a collective-bargaining agreement.”
Id. at 406. First, “a claim can allege the
violation of a duty that arises from the CBA, ” and
second, “a claim can require a court to interpret a
specific provision of the CBA.” BIW Deceived,
132 F.3d at 829. The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
has dubbed these two ways as the “ ‘duty'
rubric” and the “ ‘interpretation'
rubric.” Id. at 830; see also Rueli v.
Baystate Health, Inc., 835 F.3d 53, 58 (1st Cir. 2016)
(“claims must either be ‘founded directly on
rights created by collective-bargaining agreements' or
‘substantially dependent on analysis of a
collective-bargaining agreement' ” (quoting
Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 394)). Here, the Defendant
argues that the Plaintiff's sex discrimination claim
requires the court to interpret two provisions of the
CBA-Article II (“Teacher Employment”) and Article
the interpretation rubric, I focus on “whether
‘resolution' of a claim ‘arguably hinges upon
an interpretation of the collective bargaining
agreement.' ” Rueli, 835 F.3d at 58
(quoting Flibotte v. Penn. Truck Lines, Inc., 131
F.3d 21, 26 (1st Cir. 1997)). In Rueli the First
Circuit explained that the qualifier “arguably”
is necessary because at the outset of a case when defendants
remove to federal court, “we cannot know the exact
contours of the wage dispute and the precise CBA terms likely
to require interpretation cannot be certain.”
Id. at 58-59 (quoting Cavallaro v. UMass
Mem'l Healthcare, Inc., 678 F.3d 1, 8 (1st Cir.
2012)). The emphasis under the interpretation prong is on
“the legal character of a claim, ” not its
underlying facts. Livadas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107,
section 301 is omnipotent within its sphere, it is not
endlessly expansive.” BIW Deceived, 132 F.3d
at 830. It does not preempt “nonnegotiable rights
conferred on individual employees as a matter of state law,
” Livadas, 512 U.S. at 123, and “purely
factual questions about an employee's conduct or an
employer's conduct and motives do not require a court to
interpret any term of a collective-bargaining agreement,
” Hawaiian Airlines, Inc. v. Norris, 512 U.S.
246, 261 (1994) (quoting Lingle, 486 U.S. at 407);
see also BIW Deceived, 132 F.3d at 830.
Lingle, the Supreme Court found that a
plaintiff's state claim for retaliatory discharge was not
preempted even though it was based on the same facts as the
plaintiff's grievance filed under the collective
bargaining agreement's ...