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Glatts v. Crozer-Keystone Health Sys.

August 18, 2009

JOHN FRANCIS GLATTS, III, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CROZER-KEYSTONE HEALTH SYS. ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.

MEMORANDUM

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff John Francis Glatts, III ("Plaintiff") initiated this putative class action lawsuit against Defendants Crozer-Keystone Health System and Crozer-Chester Medical Center ("Defendants") in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. Plaintiff, a full-time employee of Crozer-Chester Medical Center, purports to bring this action on behalf of "[a]ll Pennsylvania residents who worked for entities owned or operated by Crozer-Keystone Health System from April 15, 2006 to the present, and who were subjected to Defendants' practice of calculating and awarding overtime premium pay based on a work period of fourteen (rather than seven) consecutive days." (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 5, doc. no. 2, Ex. A.) In essence, Plaintiff alleges that this practice violates the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act of 1968, 43 P.S. §§ 333.101, et seq. ("MWA").*fn1

On May 18, 2009, Defendants removed this action to federal court based on 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441, 1446 and 1331. Defendants argue that Plaintiff's state law claim is preempted by § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA") and that this Court has original jurisdiction.

On June 17, 2009, Plaintiff filed a motion to remand this case back to the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. The Court heard oral argument on Plaintiff's motion on July 21, 2009. Now, for the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion will be granted.*fn2

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Section 301 of the LMRA states: "Suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce as defined in this chapter, or between any such labor organizations, may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties." 29 U.S.C. § 185(a).

The determination of whether a plaintiff's state-law claim is preempted by Section 301 necessarily implicates principles of federalism. Indeed, the Supreme Court has directed courts to "sustain a local regulation 'unless it conflicts with federal law or would frustrate the federal scheme, or unless the courts discern from the totality of the circumstances that Congress sought to occupy the field to the exclusion of the States.'" Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 209 (1985) (quoting Malone v. White Motor Corp., 435 U.S. 497, 504 (1978)); see also id. ("In extending the pre-emptive effect of § 301 beyond suits for breach of contract, it would be inconsistent with congressional intent under that section to preempt state rules that proscribe conduct, or establish rights and obligations, independent of a labor contract.").

To assist courts in this inquiry, the Supreme Court has developed a substantial body of jurisprudence, which limits the otherwise sweeping preemptive force of Section 301. See Franchise Tax Board of Cal. v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust for Southern Cal., 463 U.S. 1, 23 (1983) (noting 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, notwithstanding the fact that state law would provide a cause of action in the absence of § 301") (internal quotation omitted).

Indeed, it is well settled that "when the meaning of contract terms is not the subject of dispute, the bare fact that a collective-bargaining agreement will be consulted in the course of state-law litigation plainly does not require the claim to be extinguished." Lividas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107, 124 (1994). Rather, "an application of state law is pre-empted by § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 only if such application requires the interpretation of a collective-bargaining agreement." Lingle v. Norge Division of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 413 (1988); see also id. at 409 ("§ 301 preemption merely ensures that federal law will be the basis for interpreting collective-bargaining agreements, and says nothing about the substantive rights a State may provide to workers when adjudication of those rights does not depend upon the interpretation of such agreements"); Lueck, 471 U.S. at 220 (holding that a state-law claim that is "substantially dependent upon analysis of the terms of an agreement made between the parties in a labor contract" will be preempted by § 301); Kline v. Security Guards Inc., 386 F.3d 246, 256 (3d Cir. 2004) ("[T]he dispositive question here is whether... [the] state claims require any interpretation of a provision of the CBA.").

Moreover, under certain circumstances, the preemption of a state-law claim by Section 301 will not confer a basis for federal jurisdiction. For example, where a defendant raises a defense that requires a court to interpret or apply a collective-bargaining agreement, federal jurisdiction may not be proper. The Supreme Court has put it this way:

It is true that when a defense to a state claim is based on the terms of a collective-bargaining agreement, the state court will have to interpret that agreement to decide whether the state claim survives.

But the presence of a federal question, even a § 301 question, in a defensive argument does not overcome the paramount policies embodied in the well-pleaded complaint rule - that the plaintiff is the master of the complaint, that a federal question must appear on the face of the complaint, and that the plaintiff may, by eschewing claims based on federal law, choose to have the cause heard in state court. When a plaintiff invokes a right created by a collective-bargaining agreement, the plaintiff has chosen to plead what we have held must be regarded as a federal claim, and removal is at the defendant's option. But a defendant cannot, merely by injecting a federal question into an action that asserts what is plainly a state-law claim, transform the action into one arising under federal law, thereby selecting the forum in which the claim shall be litigated.

Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 398-99 (1987); see also Antol v. Esposto, 100 F.3d 1111, 1117 (3d Cir. 1997) ("[T]he 'well-pleaded complaint' rule prevents removal to federal court if a plaintiff chooses to present only a state law claim and preemption is raised solely as a defense.... Although preemption may be a ...


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