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World Houseware Producing Co., Ltd. v. Mellon Bank (EAST) N.A.

argued: January 26, 1993.

PENNSYLVANIA FEDERATION OF THE BROTHERHOOD OF MAINTENANCE OF WAY EMPLOYEES, BY ITS TRUSTEE AD LITEM TED DODD; VINCENT BENNETT, ON BEHALF OF HIMSELF AND ALL OTHER SIMILARLY SITUATED EMPLOYEES
v.
NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION ("AMTRAK") PENNSYLVANIA FEDERATION OF THE BROTHERHOOD OF MAINTENANCE OF WAY EMPLOYEES AND VINCENT BENNETT, APPELLANTS



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (D.C. Civ. No. 91-2776).

Before: Greenberg, Roth, and Lewis, Circuit Judges.

Author: Greenberg

Opinion OF THE COURT

GREENBERG, Circuit Judge.

I. BACKGROUND

Appellants Pennsylvania Federation of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees (BMWE) and Vincent Bennett, a member of BMWE, initiated this action pursuant to the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act, Pa. Stat. Ann. tit. 43, §§ 333.101 to .115 (1992), against appellee National Railroad Passenger Corporation (AMTRAK) in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas.*fn1 AMTRAK removed the case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1349*fn2 and 1441. The parties then stipulated to the facts and filed dispositive motions. AMTRAK moved to dismiss the case, arguing that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because this case was a "minor dispute" requiring an interpretation of its collective bargaining agreement with BMWE, and therefore the National Railroad Adjustment Board had exclusive jurisdiction pursuant to the Railway Labor Act. 45 U.S.C. § 153 First (i). By an order entered June 15, 1992, the district court granted AMTRAK's motion to dismiss and denied appellants' motion for summary judgment as moot. Because we agree with the district court's reasoning and result, we will affirm.*fn3

BMWE and AMTRAK are parties to a currently effective collective bargaining agreement. BMWE represents, among others, AMTRAK employees who construct and maintain AMTRAK's tracks, bridges, and facilities. According to the collective bargaining agreement, AMTRAK may assign certain workers in its Track and Bridge and Building Department to camp cars*fn4 or headquarters and transport these workers on AMTRAK vehicles from these bases to job sites and back. Pursuant to Rule 63 of the collective bargaining agreement,*fn5 AMTRAK pays these employees straight-time pay for travel time falling outside the normal 40-hour work week.*fn6

BMWE and Bennett contend that this travel compensation scheme violates Pennsylvania's minimum wage law, Pa. Stat. Ann. tit. 43, § 333.104(c), because it does not provide for overtime pay for the return travel time. Under Pennsylvania law employers are required to pay employees overtime (not less than time and a half) for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. A Pennsylvania regulation, codified at 34 Pa. Code § 231.1, defines "hours worked" as:

all time during which an employee is required by the employer to be on the premises of the employer, to be on duty, or to be at the prescribed work place, all time spent in traveling as part of the duties of the employee during normal working hours, and all time during which an employee is employed or permitted to work; provided, however, that time allowed for meals shall be excluded unless the employee is required or permitted to work during that time, and provided further, that time spent on the premises of the employer for the convenience of the employee shall be excluded.

According to BMWE and Bennett, a simple construction of the Pennsylvania statute and regulation will vindicate their right to overtime pay. Therefore, they did not feel bound to submit their claims to the grievance process outlined in the collective bargaining agreement.

II. Discussion

In enacting the Railway Labor Act, Congress sought "to promote stability in labor-management relations in this important national industry by providing effective and efficient remedies for the resolution of railroad-employee disputes arising out of the interpretation of collective-bargaining agreements." Union Pacific R.R. v. Sheehan, 439 U.S. 89, 94, 99 S. Ct. 399, 402 (1978). Accordingly, Congress created the National Railroad Adjustment Board to hear disputes regarding rates of pay, rules, or working conditions. Congress considered it essential to keep so-called "minor disputes" out of the courts and in arbitration. Id. Therefore, the Railway Labor Act requires submission of minor disputes to arbitration. Consolidated Rail Corp. v. Railway Labor Executives' Ass'n, 491 U.S. 299, 303, 109 S. Ct. 2477, 2480 (1989); Andrews v. Louisville & N.R.R., 406 U.S. 320, 322, 92 S. Ct. 1562, 1564 (1972).

However, at the same time, Congress in enacting the Railway Labor Act did not intend to preempt states from exercising their police powers to regulate minimum working conditions. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Massachusetts, 471 U.S. 724, 757 n.32, 105 S. Ct. 2380, 2398 n.32 (1985) (citing Terminal R.R. Ass'n v. Railroad Trainmen, 318 U.S. 1, 6-7, 63 S. Ct. 420, 423 (1943)). Thus, BMWE and Bennett seek to avoid mandatory arbitration by bringing their claims under state law. Yet, the mere assertion of an independent state-law claim does not enable a party to avoid arbitration, otherwise compelled by the Railway Labor Act, because "if the resolution of [that] state-law claim depends upon the meaning of a collective-bargaining agreement, the application of state law . . . is pre-empted." Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 405-06, 108 S. Ct. 1877, 1881 (1988) (relying on Local 174, Teamsters v. Lucas Flour Co., 369 U.S. 95, 82 S. Ct. 571 (1962) and Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 105 S. Ct. 1904 (1985)).*fn7 Aware of this case law, BMWE and Bennett argue that we can resolve this dispute merely by construing Pennsylvania law, particularly the term "hours worked" as defined in 34 Pa. Code § 231.1.

In the district court, BMWE and Bennett apparently argued that the time spent traveling back to the camp cars or headquarters fell under the "all time spent in traveling as part of the duties of the employee during normal working hours" provision of the Pennsylvania regulation. However, as the district court correctly noted, it is impossible to determine whether this travel time is "part of the duties of the employee" without interpreting the collective bargaining agreement to see exactly what the duties of the employees are. Cf. O'Brien v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 972 F.2d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 1992) (holding that state law antidiscrimination claim was preempted by Railway Labor Act because claim required interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement to determine whether employee could perform duties of position he was seeking), cert. denied, 113 S. Ct. 980 (1993). ...


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