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Curry v. United Parcel Service, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

August 30, 2017

ROBERT CURRY, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          GERALD J. PAPPERT, J.

         Robert Curry sued United Parcel Service, Inc. and Teamsters Local 623 in state court asserting a single claim for wrongful discharge. Defendants removed the case to federal court on the basis of preemption and Curry filed a motion to remand. Because Curry's wrongful discharge claim is substantially dependent on analysis of the terms of a collective bargaining agreement, it is completely preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”). Removal was therefore proper and the motion to remand is denied.

         I.

         Robert Curry began working for UPS and joined Local 623 in 1996. (Compl. ¶ 4, ECF No. 1-2.) UPS and Local 623 are parties to a collective bargaining agreement. (Id. ¶¶ 60-61.) Curry explains that “[a]t all times relevant, [he] was employed by Defendants under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.” (Id. ¶ 61.) He “was not an at-will employee.” (Id.) Curry worked part time for UPS until 2002, when he became a package driver. (Id. ¶ 4.) He worked as a CDL Class A truck driver for UPS from July of 2014 until his termination. (Id. ¶ 26.)

         In 2013, UPS's contract with the Teamsters was about to expire and a change in health care plans was under negotiation. (Id. ¶ 6.) Curry took an active role in opposing the new plan. He joined a reform union within the Teamsters called “Teamsters for a Democratic Union, ” traveled to conventions and met with other like-minded members and gained notoriety for his reform efforts. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11.) Curry also led a slate of seven individuals to run for leadership of the Teamsters Local 623. Curry and his slate, however, lost by thirty votes. (Id. ¶ 22.) Curry contends that he experienced verbal harassment from friends and the Local 623 leadership from the time of the election until he was terminated two years later. (Id. ¶ 24.)

         On April 17, 2015, Curry stopped at a rest stop on Interstate 95 to use the restroom during his shift. (Id. ¶ 28.) Before leaving, Curry saw two co-workers, Sam Mendez and Sal Falice. (Id.) After chatting for a few minutes, the drivers returned to their trucks. (Id. ¶ 30.) As Curry started his truck, Mendez ran over to him and asked for a quarter. (Id.) Curry gave him the quarter and drove off. (Id.) He later learned that Mendez had used the quarter to tamper with the air lines on Falice's truck as a prank. (Id. ¶ 42.)

         On April 22, 2015, Curry was accused of “stealing time” by not clocking out when he stopped to use the restroom on April 17. (Id. ¶ 32.) He was also questioned about the quarter. (Id. ¶ 35.) Curry explained that he could not remember much of the details. (Id.) He was terminated at the conclusion of the questioning. (Id. ¶ 36.)

         Curry filed two grievances: one for unjust termination and the other for constant harassment. (Id. ¶ 39.) A hearing was held on the unfair termination grievance on May 1, 2015. (Id. ¶ 40.) The Hearing Panel reiterated that Curry had failed to clock out for his break and accused Curry of tampering with equipment by giving Mendez the quarter he used to block the air lines in Falice's truck. (Id. ¶¶ 40-42.) Curry explained that there was not a system in place for clocking out and that he had never been trained to do so. (Id. ¶ 41.) He also denied any knowledge of or involvement with Mendez's prank. (Id. ¶ 42.) The Panel upheld Curry's termination. At a hearing on May 19, 2015, a committee affirmed the Panel's decision. (Id. ¶ 52.)

         Defendants removed this case to federal court on May 23, 2017. (ECF No. 1.) Curry filed a Motion to Remand on June 22, 2017. (ECF No. 10.) Defendants' filed their responses on July 6, 2017, (ECF Nos. 17 & 18), and Curry filed a reply on July 11, 2017, (ECF No. 19). The Court held oral argument on the motion on August 16, 2017. (ECF No. 32.)[1]

         II.

         A.

         A defendant may remove to federal court “any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). District courts have original jurisdiction where the matter in controversy exceeds $75, 000 and where there is diversity of citizenship between the parties, see 28 U.S.C. § 1332, or where the suit “aris[es] under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States, ” id. § 1331. A suit “arises under” federal law “only when the plaintiff's statement of his own cause of action shows that it is based upon [federal law].'” Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49, 60 (2009) (quoting Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Mottley, 211 U.S. 149, 152 (1908) (quotation omitted)). This well-pleaded complaint rule “makes the plaintiff the master of the claim; he or she may avoid federal jurisdiction by exclusive reliance on state law.” Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987)).

         The well-pleaded complaint rule, however, is not absolute. In limited circumstances a defendant may remove a complaint notwithstanding its reliance on state law. Trans Penn Wax Corp. v. McCandles, 50 F.3d 217, 228 (3d Cir. 1995). “One such circumstance is when a state-law claim is preempted under section 301 of the LMRA.” Id. (citing Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 393); see ...


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