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KIRTON v. SUMMIT MED. CTR.

August 29, 1997

CHARLOTTE KIRTON, Plaintiff,
v.
SUMMIT MEDICAL CENTER, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES

 Plaintiff's motion to remand and Defendants' motion to dismiss are presently before the Court. After careful consideration of the parties' moving papers, the arguments of counsel, and all matters presented, Plaintiff's motion to remand is DENIED and Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED for the reasons set forth below. The clerk of the court is ordered to close the case.

 BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff is employed by Defendants as a registered staff nurse. On September 15, 1995, Plaintiff's supervisor, Janet Thompson, discovered that Plaintiff had signed out portions of morphine sulfate but had failed to chart that any patient received the morphine sulfate. Soon thereafter, a co-employee made a complaint to Ms. Thompson alleging that Plaintiff had made a threatening telephone call to the co-employee for reporting the incident. Based on the uncharted morphine sulfate and the co-employee's complaint, Plaintiff was suspended for further investigation.

 On September 25, 1995, Plaintiff received a notice of final warning and a three day suspension for negligence in the performance of assigned duties and for inappropriate conduct in dealing with another employee. After serving the three day suspension, Plaintiff was terminated, effective October 4, 1995. The basis for the termination is in dispute. Defendants claim that Plaintiff failed to contact her supervisor or to return to work after the three day suspension and was terminated for insubordination. Plaintiff claims that she did contact her supervisor but was unable to return to work due to stress.

 Pursuant to the grievance procedure contained in the Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") between Defendants and Plaintiff's union, the California Nurses Association (the "union"), the union filed grievances on Plaintiff's behalf regarding the discipline and termination. The CBA provides that Defendants "shall have the right to discharge or assess disciplinary action for just cause." (Robinson Dec., Ex. A, Articles 32.9.1). The CBA also provides a grievance procedure and an "Accelerated Arbitration Procedure" for "discharge, suspension and similar cases." (Robinson Dec., Ex. A, Articles 32.2-32.3.11).

 On April 11, 1996, the grievances went to arbitration before Arbitrator John Kagel. Before the conclusion of arbitration, Defendants and the union reached an agreement to settle the grievances by reinstating Plaintiff's employment with back pay.

 On September 13, 1996, Plaintiff filed a complaint in Alameda County Superior Court for wrongful termination based on false accusations of stealing narcotics. On April 2, 1997, Defendants removed the case to federal court based on original jurisdiction under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ('LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. section 185. On April 30, 1997, Plaintiff filed a motion to remand the case to state court. On June 23, 1997, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case as preempted by section 301 of the LMRA.

 Plaintiff's first amended complaint alleges five causes of action for defamation, wrongful discharge/breach of contract, unlawful harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

 LEGAL STANDARD

 Plaintiff contends that her complaint does not facially invoke federal jurisdiction and, therefore, was improperly removed to federal court.

 A suit may be removed to federal district court only if it could have been brought there originally. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392, 96 L. Ed. 2d 318, 107 S. Ct. 2425 (1987). Absent diversity of citizenship, federal question jurisdiction is required. Id. The presence or absence of federal question jurisdiction that will support removal is governed by the "well-pleaded complaint rule," which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of the complaint. Id. Ordinarily, a case may not be removed to federal court on the basis of a federal defense, including the defense of preemption. Id. at 393; Franchise Tax Board of Cal. v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 12, 77 L. Ed. 2d 420, 103 S. Ct. 2841 (1983).

 Under the "complete preemption doctrine," however, once an area of state law has been completely preempted, any claim purportedly based on that preempted state law is considered, from its inception, a federal claim, and therefore arises under federal law and is removable. Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 393. "Controversies involving collective bargaining agreements constitute one such area." Galvez v. Kuhn, 933 F.2d 773, 776 (9th Cir. 1991), citing Lingle v. Norge Division of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 100 L. Ed. 2d 410, 108 S. Ct. 1877 (1988). Accordingly, the Court need only inquire whether Plaintiff's claims arise under section 301 of the LMRA, thus permitting removal to federal court, although Plaintiff seeks a remedy available under state law.

 Section 301 of the LMRA provides federal jurisdiction over "suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization." 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). Federal law under section 301 governs suits for breach of a CBA and displaces any state claim based on a CBA, as well as any state claim whose outcome depends on interpretation of the terms of a CBA. Young v. Anthony's Fish Grottos, Inc., 830 F.2d 993, 997 (9th Cir. 1987); Miller v. AT&T Network Systems, 850 F.2d 543, 545 (9th Cir. 1988); Cook v. Lindsay Olive Growers, 911 F.2d 233, 237 (9th Cir. 1990).

 It is not dispositive that a complaint is framed without reference to a CBA. Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 210-11, 85 L. Ed. 2d 206, 105 S. Ct. 1904 (1985). Rather, state claims which require interpretation of a CBA, Lingle, 486 U.S. at 410, or is "substantially dependent upon analysis of the terms of an agreement made between the parties in a labor contract," are preempted by section 301. Allis-Chalmers, 471 U.S. at 213. Thus, even suits based on torts, rather than on breach of a CBA, are governed by federal law if their evaluation is "inextricably intertwined with consideration of the terms of [a] labor contract." Id.

 Section 301, however, does not preempt every claim concerning employment or tangentially involving a provision of a CBA. Id. at 211. If a court can uphold state rights without interpreting the terms of a CBA, the state claim is not necessarily preempted. Id. "Nonnegotiable state-law rights . . . independent of any right established by contract" are not preempted. Id. at 213.

 LEGAL ANALYSIS

 Wrongful Discharge/Breach of ...


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