that his claims are not based on a collective bargaining agreement, but on a separate and independent contract (stemming from the employment manual and assorted oral and implied promises) and, therefore, are properly remanded to state court.
In deciding whether this action should be remanded, I must resolve two inquiries: first, whether Henderson's complaint relies upon federal law as a ground for recovery, and, second, if it does not, whether it states a claim that is "completely preempted" by federal law.
A. Well-Pleaded Complaint Rule
Ordinarily, whether a case is one "arising under" the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States, and therefore properly removable to the district court is determined by the district court's examination of a plaintiff's claims under the well-pleaded complaint rule. See Franchise Tax Board v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 9-12, 77 L. Ed. 2d 420, 103 S. Ct. 2841 (1983); Dukes v. U.S. Healthcare, Inc., 57 F.3d 350, 353 (3d Cir. 1995). The well-pleaded complaint rule requires that the federal question be presented on the face of the plaintiff's complaint. See Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 62, 95 L. Ed. 2d 55, 107 S. Ct. 1542 (1987). Henderson's complaint seeks damages for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, wrongful discharge, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and detrimental reliance. In no instance does the complaint rely upon federal law. Therefore, I will have jurisdiction only if Henderson's claims fall into one of the narrow areas that Congress has decided to completely preempt. See Franchise Tax Board, 463 U.S. at 23.
B. Complete Preemption
The doctrine of complete preemption applies only when it is found that Congress intends that a federal statute completely preempt an area of state law, so that any complaint alleging that area of state law is presumed to allege a claim arising under federal law, and, thus, may be removed to federal court. See Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 96 L. Ed. 2d 318, 107 S. Ct. 2425 (1987). The Supreme Court has held that the Labor Management Relations Act is such a statute. See Franchise Tax Board, 463 U.S. 1, 77 L. Ed. 2d 420, 103 S. Ct. 2841.
Section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA") provides federal jurisdiction over "suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization." 29 U.S.C. § 185(a).
Federal substantive law governs actions for enforcement of collective bargaining agreements. See Franchise Tax Bd., 463 U.S. at 23; Milione v. Hahnemann Univ., 1990 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6407, 1990 WL 73039, at *2 (E.D. Pa. May 29, 1990) (Reed, J.). Therefore, questions relating to what the parties to a labor agreement agreed, and what legal consequences were intended to flow from branches of that agreement, must be resolved by reference to uniform federal law, whether such questions arise in the context of a suit for breach of contract or in a suit alleging liability in tort. Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202 at 211, 85 L. Ed. 2d 206, 105 S. Ct. 1904.
In order for there to be § 301 preemption, the plaintiff must plead an action that requires interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement. Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 398. The fact that as part of a defense to a state law contract action an employer might raise "a federal question, even a § 301 question" does not mean that the claim is preempted by section 301. Id. Furthermore, "not every dispute concerning employment, or tangentially involving a provision of the collective bargaining agreement, is preempted by Section 301 or other provisions of federal labor law." Id. However, when resolution of a state law claim is "substantially dependent upon analysis of the terms of an agreement made between the parties in a labor contract, that claim must either be treated as a § 301 claim or dismissed as pre-empted by federal labor-contract law." Id. ; see also Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 399-400, 100 L. Ed. 2d 410, 108 S. Ct. 1877 (1988) ("if the resolution of a state law claim depends upon the meaning of a collective bargaining agreement, the application of state law . . . is pre-empted and federal labor law principles necessarily uniform throughout the Nation must be employed to resolve the dispute.").
Employers and employees who are parties to a collective bargaining agreement may enter into individual contracts that "embody matters not necessarily included within the statutory scope of collective bargaining," to the extent that such contracts are "not inconsistent with a collective agreement or do [ ] not amount to or result from or [are] not part of an unfair labor practice." J.I. Case Co. v. NLRB, 321 U.S. 332, 339, 88 L. Ed. 762, 64 S. Ct. 576 (1944). Henderson contends that he and Merck had an independent contract based on the employment manual. Merck responds that Henderson's claims are based on an alleged employment contract that was formed, if at all, concurrently with a collective bargaining agreement, and the terms of that contract are potentially inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement. Therefore, Merck argues, Henderson's claims substantially depend on the interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement, and, for that reason, are preempted by § 301 of the LMRA. Henderson responds that his state law claims can be resolved independently of the collective bargaining agreement by examining the provisions of the employment manual and the circumstances of his discharge.
Courts have struggled repeatedly with the issue of § 301 preemption of state law claims. The Supreme Court found that the state law claims of the plaintiffs in Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 96 L. Ed. 2d 318, 107 S. Ct. 2425 (1987), who had independent contracts prior to entering into a collective bargaining agreement, were not completely preempted by section 301. Courts, following the Supreme Court's decision in Caterpillar, have allowed state law claims to go forward where based on prior independent contracts, but not where plaintiffs alleged the formation of independent contracts while governed by a collective bargaining agreement. See Berda v. CBS, 881 F.2d 20, 25 (3d Cir. 1989) (holding plaintiff's claims not pre-empted where based on individual contract negotiated prior to employee becoming a member of the union's bargaining unit); see also White v. National Steel Corp., 938 F.2d 474 (4th Cir. 1991); Overby v. Chevron USA, Inc., 884 F.2d 470, 473-74 (9th Cir. 1989).
While courts agree that state law claims are only preempted to the extent that they "substantially depend" on the interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement, they have differed on the more particular question whether in fact there would be substantial dependence in the case before them. See Berda v. CBS, 881 F.2d 20, 25 (3d Cir. 1989). As the Third Circuit has noted, on similar facts courts have reached different answers to the preemption question. See id. (citing cases). The inquiry is inherently strained, of course, in that I must look to the collective bargaining agreement in order to determine whether I must interpret it.
I must analyze whether the instant case falls within the scope of Section 301. First, Henderson's employment with Merck was always governed by the terms and conditions of the collective bargaining agreements between Merck and Local 8-86. Defendant has produced sufficient evidence to show that Henderson was a member of Local Union No. 8-86 during his entire employment with Merck, and his employment was always governed by a collective bargaining agreement. Def.'s Suppl. Jur., Exh. A. Therefore, any independent contract between Merck and Henderson would be formed concurrently with a collective bargaining agreement. Accordingly, I must turn to the particular claims raised in Henderson's complaint and determine whether resolution of these claims requires interpretation of the collective bargaining agreements.
1. Contractual Claims
In his claims for breach of contract and detrimental reliance, Henderson alleges that Merck's oral and implied policies, as well as Merck's employment manual provisions concerning alcohol treatment, constituted terms governing his employment with Merck on which he relied, and that Merck violated those terms by discharging him. Compl. PP 24-31, 48-51.
A breach of contract claim under Pennsylvania law requires:
(1) a definite, intentional offer to be bound,
(2) which is accepted by the other party, and