ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
Harold Stewart, Justice
before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary
judgment seeking dismissal of Plaintiffs single-count
complaint for retaliation under the Maine Whistleblowers'
Protection Act ("MWPA"). See 26 M.R.S.
§§ 831-840 (2018). The defendant, Twin Pavers Paper
Company, argues that it is entitled to summary judgment
because Plaintiffs MWPA claim is preempted by § 301(a)
of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA").
See 29 U.S.C. § 185(a).
judgment is granted to a moving party where "there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact" and the moving
party "is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
M.R. Civ. P. 56(c). A material fact is one that can affect
the outcome of the case. Lougee Conservancy v. City
Mortgage, Inc., 2012 ME 103, ¶ 11, 48 A.3d 774. A
genuine issue of fact exists when there is sufficient
evidence for a fact-finder to choose between competing
versions of the fact. Id. When reviewing the record
on a motion for summary judgment, a court views the facts in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Cormier
v. Genesis Healthcare LLC, 2015 ME 161, ¶ 7, 129
A.3d 944. "Any doubt on this score will be resolved
against the movant, and the opposing party will be given the
benefit of any inferences which might reasonably be drawn
from the evidence." 3 Harvey, Maine Civil
Practice § 56:5 at 240 (3d, 2011 ed.) A party
seeking to avoid summary judgment must present a prima facie
case for the claim or defense that is asserted for which it
has the burden of proof. Flaherty v. Muther, 2011 ME
32, ¶ 31, 17A.3d 640.
following material facts are not in genuine dispute;
was employed by the defendant Twin Rivers Paper Company as a
yard employee, mostly working as a forklift operator at the
company's mill in Madawaska, Maine. During his
employment, Nadeau was a member of the United Steelworkers
Union ("Union") and worked under the terms of a
collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") negotiated
by the Union and Twin Rivers management. (Nadeau Dep. 54, )
(Nadeau Dep. Ex. 3.) The CBA established work rules, company
policies, and disciplinary procedures including a grievance
process for all employees at the Madawaska Mill.
February 2015, Nadeau was transferred to work in the basement
distribution area of the mill. After his transfer, Nadeau
complained to his supervisor on multiple occasions about
dangerous conditions caused by toxic chemicals and dust in
the work area. (Pl's Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. Summ.
J, 1.) In November 2015, Nadeau was disciplined under the CBA
for unloading a tractor-trailer with a forklift without first
locking the brakes and chocking the wheel, a violation of the
company's safe truck operation policy. (Supp.'g
S.M.F. ¶ 20-31.) The parties agree that Last Chance
Agreements ("LCA") are recognized in the CBA and
that these LCAs are negotiated among the company management,
employee, and Union when the company has a strong basis for
terminating an employee under the CBA but is willing to give
the employee a final chance to satisfactorily perform and
maintain their job. (Supp.'g S.M.F. ¶ 32-33.) After
the November 2015 disciplinary incident, Nadeau, company
management, and the union entered into an LCA. (Supp.'g
S.M.F. 36.) Nadeau signed the LCA agreement on December
1? 2015 and agreed to return to work under the
agreement. (Supp.'g S.M.F. ¶ 35). The LCA provided
that Nadeau would be required to adhere to all work rules
outlined in the CBA, (Supp.'g S.M.F. 36.) (Nadeau Dep.
112-113.) If Nadeau failed to adhere to these work rules he
would be subject to immediate termination, without the right
to arbitration normally provided by the CBA. (Supp.'g
S.M.F, 37.) (Nadeau Dep. 113.) Nadeau contends that Ms
placement on an LCA was a retaliation for his complaints
about unsafe working conditions and that the use of the LCA
was an inconsistent application of discipline, compared to
other coworkers who violated the same safety policy.
(Pl's Opp'n to Def's Mot. Summ, J. 16-17.)
driving the forldift on August 27, 2016, Nadeau's fork
lift made some contact with a core saw at the Twin
River's mill. (Nadeau Dep. 130-131.) Nadeau did riot
believe he caused any damage to the saw at the time and did
not report the accident. (Nadeau Dep. 136, 146-148, 167.)
After the accident, Twin River's management became aware
of some damage to the core saw and investigated. (Supp.'g
S.M.F, ¶ 49-60.) After this internal investigation, Twin
Rivers concluded that Nadeau\s accident damaged the saw.
(Supp.'g S.M.F. 1! 65.) Twin Rivers further concluded
that by striking the core saw and failing to report the
accident Nadeau had violated the CBA's disciplinary rules
and was subject to termination under the LCA. Id.
Nadeau then brought a grievance challenging his termination,
which resulted in Twin Rivers offering to allow Nadeau to
resign. (Supp.'g S.M.F. ¶ 68.) Nadeau and the union
declined this offer and Twin Rivers terminated Nadeau's
employment. (Supp.'g S.M.F. ¶ 70.) Nadeau then filed
this suit alleging his discharge was a retaliatory
termination in violation of the MWPA.
argues that its motion for summary judgment should be granted
because Nadeau's MWPA claim is preempted by § 301(a)
of the LMRA, This federal statute provides:
Suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a
labor organization representing employees in an industry
affecting commerce as defined in this chapter .. . may be
brought in any district court of the United States having
jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to the amount in
controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the
29 U.S.C. § 185(a). The United States Supreme Court has
interpreted this language to preclude state-law claims
"whenever resolution of a state-law claim is
substantially dependent upon analysis of the terms" of a
collective bargaining agreement. Allis-Chalmers Corp, v.
Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 220 (1985); Lydon v. Boston
Sand & Gravel Co., 175 F.3d 6, 10 (1st Cir. 1999);
see also Flores-Flores v. Horizon Lines of
Puerto Rico, Inc., S75 F, Supp. 2d 90, 93-94 (D.P.R.
2012) ("[T]he 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, 'the preemptive force of 301
is so powerful as to displace entirely any state cause of
action."1 (Quoting Caterpilar Inc. v. Williams,
482 U.S. 386, 394 (1987))), However, not all labor dispntes
brought in the form of a state-law claim are preempted under
state-law claim is preempted by § 301 only when there is
a real interpretive dispute of a CBA's terms. Martin
v. Shaw's Supermarkets, Inc.,105 F.3d 40, 42 (1st
Cir, 1997). The mere consultation of a CBA in the course of
litigating a state-law claim is not sufficient to extinguish
the state-law claim. Livadas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S.
107, 124 (1994). Instead, courts confronted with state law
claims must "locate the line between the need for mere
consultation of a CBA, which does not demand federal