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Moore-Thomas v. Alaska Airlines

January 27, 2009

ALGIA MOORE-THOMAS, INDIVIDUALLY, AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHER PERSONS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
ALASKA AIRLINES, INC., A FOREIGN CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, Anna J. Brown, District Judge, Presiding, D.C. No. CV-06-00652-BR.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Milan D. Smith, Jr., Circuit Judge

FOR PUBLICATION

Argued and Submitted October 24, 2008 -- Portland, Oregon.

Before: A. Wallace Tashima and Milan D. Smith, Jr., Circuit Judges, and George H. Wu,*fn1 District Judge.

OPINION

Plaintiff-Appellant Algia Moore-Thomas (Moore-Thomas) appeals the district court's dismissal of her uncertified class action in which she alleges that Defendant-Appellee Alaska Airlines, Inc. (Alaska) willfully failed to pay her and other former employees all wages due upon termination, at the time and in the manner required by Oregon Revised Statutes (Or. Rev. Stat.) § 652.140. Moore-Thomas argues that the district court erred by concluding that the Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. §§ 151-63, 181-88, completely pre-empts her state law claim, by denying her motion to remand, and by granting Alaska's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Because the RLA does not completely pre-empt Moore-Thomas's claim, we reverse and remand with instructions to vacate the judgment and remand the action to state court.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Alaska employed Moore-Thomas as a customer service agent in Portland, Oregon. A collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between Alaska and its clerical, office, and passenger-service employees governed her employment.

In March 2006, Moore-Thomas and certain other former Alaska employees filed a class-action complaint against Alaska in Oregon state court. Their complaint asserts that Alaska willfully failed to pay them all wages due on termination of their employment, in violation of Or. Rev. Stat. § 652.140. Moore-Thomas seeks statutory penalties, costs and disbursements, pre- and post-judgment interest, and reasonable attorneys' fees on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated.

Alaska timely removed the action to the district court, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441(a) and 1446(b). In its removal petition, Alaska stated that the district court had jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because the RLA governed the action.*fn2

Once in federal court, Alaska filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, alleging that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the RLA pre-empts Moore-Thomas's state law claim, and because she had not complied with the RLA's mandatory arbitration provisions. Moore-Thomas then filed a motion to remand the action to state court, arguing that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the RLA does not pre-empt her claim.

The district court ruled that the RLA completely pre-empts Moore-Thomas's action because her claim requires interpretation of the CBA. Accordingly, the district court concluded that removal was proper, denied Moore-Thomas's motion to remand, and granted Alaska's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction in light of the parties' failure to arbitrate the claim pursuant to the RLA. Moore-Thomas timely appealed.

STANDARD OF REVIEW AND JURISDICTION

We review both the district court's pre-emption analysis and denial of the motion to remand de novo. Olympic Pipe Line Co. v. City of Seattle, 437 F.3d 872, 877 n.12 (9th Cir. 2006) (pre-emption analysis); Ritchey v. Upjohn Drug Co., 139 F.3d 1313, 1315 (9th Cir. 1998) (motion to remand). We ...


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