United States District Court, D. Maine
ORDER ON DEFENDANT CALAIS REGIONAL HOSPITAL'S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
E. WALKER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
removed action, the Plaintiff, Donna Webb, alleges
the Defendant, Calais Regional Hospital, retaliated against
her in violation of the Maine Human Rights Act
(“MHRA”) for engaging in activity protected under
the Maine Whistleblower Protection Act
(“MWPA”). Compl. (ECF No. 4-1). Defendant moves for
summary judgment on Plaintiff's single claim, asserting
that Plaintiff's claim under the Whistleblower Protection
Act is preempted by the Labor Management Relations Act. Mot.
Summ. J., 16 (ECF No. 27, #117). For the reasons discussed
below, Defendant's motion is GRANTED.
following statement recites the facts in the light most
favorable to the party opposing the entry of summary
judgment, Plaintiff Donna Webb. D. Me. Loc. R. 56;
Boudreau v. Lussier, 901 F.3d 65, 69 (1st Cir.
Webb worked for Defendant Calais Regional Hospital as a nurse
assigned to the obstetrics unit. Def.'s Statement of
Material Facts (“DSMF”) ¶ 1 (ECF No. 28,
#125). During the period relevant to this complaint, Ms. Webb
was a member of the Maine State Nurses Association, Local
Unit #116. DSMF ¶ 2. As a function of her membership in
the Nurses Association, her employment was subject to a
collective bargaining agreement
(“CBA”). DSMF ¶ 2; DSMF Ex. 1A (ECF No. 28-3);
Loman Decl. Ex. 2 (ECF No. 44-2). In relevant part, the CBA
prohibited discrimination, DSMF Ex. 1A, 7, governed the
process of resignation, id. at 11, outlined a
grievance procedure by which employees were to dispute
“the interpretation or application of any provision of
the [CBA], ” id. at 27, required arbitration
in the case that “no satisfactory settlement is
reached” through the grievance process, id. at
29, and established discipline and discharge procedures,
id. at 44.
September 28, 2014, Plaintiff participated in the delivery of
a stillborn baby. Lohman Decl., Ex. H (ECF No. 28-9, #226).
On October 7, 2014 the hospital organized a “Root Cause
Analysis” meeting in which hospital administrators and
caregivers involved with the stillbirth discussed the
incident and formulated preventative measures. DSMF ¶
69. Following the meeting, the Hospital's representatives
made the determination to terminate Webb. PSMF ¶ 63.
However, the Hospital decided to hold off on terminating
Plaintiff and, instead, placed her on administrative leave,
effective October 8, 2014. PSMF ¶ 66. This
administrative leave continued until June 29, 2016, at which
time Ms. Webb was placed on suspension without pay while the
Hospital “contemplat[ed] her discharge from
employment” due to Ms. Webb's role in the
“fetal demise of a patient under [her] care” at
the Hospital. DSMF ¶ 89. On July 13, 2016, Ms. Webb met
with representatives from the Hospital as well as union
representatives to discuss her termination. DSMF ¶ 91.
During this meeting, a union representative, Todd Ricker,
requested that Ms. Webb be allowed to resign instead of being
fired. DSMF ¶ 91. The Hospital's representatives
agreed and Ms. Webb immediately resigned from her position.
DSMF ¶ 93.
judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). As cautioned by the Supreme Court,
“the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute
between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly
supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is
that there be no genuine issue of material fact.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 247-48 (1986). A material fact is one that has the
potential to determine the outcome of the litigation.
Id. at 248; Oahn Nguyen Chung v.
StudentCity.com, Inc., 854 F.3d 97, 101 (1st
Cir. 2017). To raise a genuine issue of material fact, the
party opposing the summary judgment motion must demonstrate
that the record contains evidence that would permit the
finder of fact to resolve the material issues in her favor.
See Triangle Trading Co. v. Robroy Indus.,
Inc., 200 F.3d 1, 2 (1st Cir. 1999) (“Unless
the party opposing a motion for summary judgment can identify
a genuine issue as to a material fact, the motion may end the
Plaintiff's erroneous reference to a cause of action
arising under 5 M.R.S.A. § 4572(1)(A), I address the
Hospital's argument that any claim asserted by a union
member under the Maine Whistleblower Protection Act is
preempted by the Labor Management Relations
Mot. Summ. J., 16. As stated by the First Circuit,
“[c]ertain aspects of federal labor law have long been
construed to preempt the field - they not only provide for
federal jurisdiction over contract disputes but also prohibit
certain state law actions in the same subject area.”
Lydon v. Bos. Sand & Gravel Co., 175 F.3d 6, 10
(1st Cir. 1999). In particular, Section 301 of the
Labor-Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a),
preempts state-law claims “whenever resolution of a
plaintiff's claim is substantially dependent on analysis
of a CBA's terms.” Id. (citing
Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202 (1985));
see also Flores-Flores v. Horizon Lines of Puerto Rico,
Inc., 875 F.Supp.2d 90, 93-94 (D.P.R. 2012) (“The
Court has expressly extended complete preemption to state law
claims ‘founded directly on rights created by
collective-bargaining agreements' or ‘substantially
dependent on analysis of a collective-bargaining
agreement.' . . . If one of those circumstances is
satisfied, ‘[t]he pre-emptive force of § 301 is so
powerful as to displace entirely any state cause of
action.'” (quoting Caterpillar Inc. v.
Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 394 (1987))).
this standard, not all labor disputes asserted in the form of
state-law claims are preempted. Bishop v. Bell Atl.
Corp., 81 F.Supp.2d 84, 87 (D. Me. 1999) (indicating
that “preemption applies only when there is a
‘real interpretive dispute' of a CBA's
terms” (citing Lydon, 175 F.3d at 10)).
Certainly, as Plaintiff argues, failure to accommodate claims
brought pursuant to the Maine Human Rights Act have withstood
preemption arguments. See, e.g., Adams v. N. New England
Tel. Operations, L.L.C., No. 1:08-cv-00296-JAW, 2009 WL
2712970, at *1 (D. Me. Aug. 27, 2009). However, this court
has resoundingly held that when a Plaintiff whose employment
is subject to a CBA brings a claim under the Maine
Whistleblowers' Protection Act, that claim is necessarily
preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations
Act. Bishop, 81 F.Supp.2d at 88; see also
Carmichael v. Verso Paper, LLC, 679 F.Supp.2d 109, 136
(D. Me. 2010) (“[A]ny MWPA claim made by an employee
working under a CBA is almost by definition intertwined with
an interpretation of the CBA and therefore
preempted.”). As explained by Judge Brody:
The Maine Whistleblowers' Protection Act . . . provides
that it “shall not be construed to diminish or impair
the rights of a person under any collective bargaining
agreement.” 26 M.R.S.A § 837. This provision would
require the Court to interpret the CBA between [the parties]
in order to ensure that the Whistleblowers' Act does not
“diminish or impair the rights” of those
operating under the CBA. Since the Court is not permitted to
engage in such interpretation, Plaintiff's claim under
the Maine Whistleblowers' Protection Act is preempted. .
. . In attempting to determine whether a statute is
“inconsistent” with a collective bargaining
agreement, or whether it “impair[s] or
diminish[es]” the rights of those operating under such
agreements, the Court would be engaged in the forbidden
interpretation of a CBA.
Bishop, 81 F.Supp.2d at 88-89; see also
Carmichael, 679 F.Supp.2d at 136 (Woodcock, J. (same)).
employment was subject to the terms of a CBA. By the terms of
the Whistleblower Protection Act, resolution of her claim
would require me to interpret the ...