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MCCANN v. ALASKA AIRLINES

January 24, 1991

CATHERINE T. M. McCANN, Plaintiff,
v.
ALASKA AIRLINES, INC., et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HENDERSON

 THELTON E. HENDERSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 This matter comes before the Court on the plaintiff's motion to remand this action to state court and for attorney fees, and on the defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The parties' motions came on for hearing on January 14, 1991 at 10:00 a.m., the Honorable Thelton E. Henderson presiding. Stephen R. Jaffe appeared for the plaintiff. Charles F. Palmer, Randi Maurer and Perkins Coie appeared for the defendants.

 The central issue in deciding both of the major motions is whether the plaintiff's state law claims are preempted by the Railway Labor Act. After careful consideration of the parties' written and oral arguments, it appears to the satisfaction of the Court therefrom that the plaintiff's state law claims are not preempted by the Railway Labor Act, and that therefore, the plaintiff's motion to remand to state court should be GRANTED, and the defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction should be DENIED. However, we do not believe that the plaintiff has demonstrated that attorney fees are appropriate in this instance, and we therefore exercise our discretion to DENY the motion for attorney fees.

 BACKGROUND

 At the time of the events here at issue, Catherine McCann was employed by the defendant, Alaska Airlines, Inc. ("Alaska"), as a customer service agent. McCann's employment is governed by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) entered into by Alaska and her union. Alaska and its employees are covered by the Railway Labor Act (RLA). The following are the facts as alleged by the plaintiff.

 Patrick Partridge, a security representative employed by Alaska, was assigned to investigate a report that $ 95 had been taken from a cash drawer at Alaska's Oakland facility. Toward the end of McCann's shift on August 1, 1990, her supervisor, Vern Organ, asked her to enter a private room on Alaska's premises. McCann there encountered Partridge for the first time. Partridge identified himself as a law enforcement officer and began to interrogate McCann. Partridge detained McCann for a total of over three hours, and for one hour beyond the end of her shift. Despite McCann's requests, Partridge refused to allow her to leave the room for this period, even to use the restroom.

 Partridge told McCann that she was soon to be arrested for unspecified crimes and would be taken to Alameda County Jail and incarcerated. He told her that she had been under the surveillance of a video camera with a lens "the size of the tip of a ball point pen," and that he had a videotape showing McCann engaged in crimes and improper conduct. Partridge told McCann that she would lose her job regardless of her guilt or innocence. Partridge repeatedly left the room to telephone a high ranking Alaska executive named Ray Vecci concerning the matter, and for instructions on whether to detain McCann further. Many of Partridge's questions were of a personal nature, wholly unrelated to McCann's employment.

 McCann denied any improprieties, and asked to see the videotape. Partridge said she would only see the videotape when it was shown to the jury. No videotape is now alleged to exist.

 To date, McCann remains employed by Alaska in the same position.

 On October 22, 1990, McCann commenced this action in Alameda County Superior Court, naming Alaska, Partridge, and 20 Does as defendants, and alleging state law claims for: (1) false imprisonment; (2) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (3) assault; (4) slander; and (5) conspiracy.

 On November 6, 1990, Alaska removed to federal court, claiming that the state law claims are preempted by the RLA.

 THE MOTIONS

 The defendant now moves for dismissal of the action, on the ground that even if the above facts are true, the plaintiff's state law claims are preempted by the Railway Labor Act (RLA). The defendant argues that the RLA establishes an elaborate arbitration scheme which is to be the sole mechanism for the resolution of all employer-employee disputes, with a small number of narrowly-defined exceptions. In the alternative, the defendant argues that the matters raised by the plaintiff are at least "arguably" governed by the collective bargaining agreement. In either case, the defendant argues that the plaintiff's only recourse is to the RLA arbitration procedures, and that this Court is therefore without jurisdiction to hear the case, and must consequently grant the motion to dismiss.

 The plaintiff has moved for remand on the ground that the state law claims are not preempted by the RLA, and that the action was therefore improperly removed. The plaintiff argues that the RLA preempts only those matters which are governed by the CBA, and that there is nothing in the CBA which even arguably governs the type of behavior here at issue. In the alternative, the plaintiff argues that even if the action involves conduct arguably governed by the RLA, the conduct at issue falls into the "outrageous conduct" exception to RLA preemption.

 The plaintiff moves also for attorney fees in the case that we grant the ...


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