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Becerra v. McClatchy Co.

May 26, 2009

VERONICA BECERRA, AN INDIVIDUAL; WILLIAMS HERRERA LUIS, AN INDIVIDUAL; VANESSA CASTRO, AN INDIVIDUAL; AURORA HOLGUIN, AN INDIVIDUAL; ALMA LANDEROS, AN INDIVIDUAL; AND ELEUTERIA SOSA INDIVIDUAL; ADALBERTO HERNANDEZ, MENDOZA, AN INDIVIDUAL, ON THEIR OWN BEHALF AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE MCCLATCHY COMPANY, A DELAWARE CORPORATION, D/B/A THE FRESNO BEE; DELAWARE CORPORATION, D/B/A THE MCCLATHCY NEWSPAPERS INC., A FRESNO BEE; AND DOES 1 THROUGH 50, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Oliver W. Wanger United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION RE PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO REMAND (DOC. 11)

I. INTRODUCTION

Before the court is Plaintiffs' motion to remand this action to state court on the ground of lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs filed this purported class action lawsuit against Defendants The McClathcy Company and McClatchy Newspapers Inc. ("Defendants"), both doing business as "The Fresno Bee," in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Fresno, on December 19, 2008. On January 20, 2009, Defendants filed a notice of removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b) and (c). In their removal papers, Defendants asserted that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA") provided the basis for removal.

Plaintiffs are or were at-will newspaper carriers for Defendants' newspaper known as "The Fresno Bee." (Compl. ¶ 11.) Plaintiffs generally work at Defendants' distribution facility located in Fresno County. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-13.) Plaintiffs' duties include "assembling inserts, sections, pre-prints, samples, bags, and supplements." (Id. at ¶ 12.) Plaintiffs also deliver the newspapers once they are assembled. (Id. at ¶ 15.) Defendants control the number of newspapers available to Plaintiffs and instruct Plaintiffs on how and when to deliver the newspapers. (Id. at ¶¶ 13, 16.) Plaintiffs allege that they are Defendants' employees, rather than independent contractors. (Id. at ¶ 17.)

Plaintiffs' complaint contains eight claims. Claims one through seven assert violations of various provisions of the California Labor Code. Plaintiffs assert statutory claims for failure to pay minimum or overtime wages, failure to provide meal or rest periods, failure to reimburse for reasonable business expenses, unlawful wage deductions, failure to provide itemized wage statements, and failure to keep accurate payroll records. The eighth claim is for an alleged violation of California's Unfair Business Practices law. Plaintiffs seek to recover "unpaid regular and overtime wages, unpaid rest break and meal period compensation, reimbursement of all illegal deductions made from their wages, payment of all wages earned, reimbursement of expenses and losses incurred by them in discharging their duties, [and] payment of [the] minimum wage to all employees who failed to receive [the] minimum wage for all hours worked in each payroll period . . . ." (Id. at ¶ 3.)

III. STANDARD OF DECISION

A. Removal To Federal Court

Generally Removal is proper if, had the action been filed in federal court, the federal district court could have exercised subject matter jurisdiction over the action. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441; Duncan v. Stuetzle, 76 F.3d 1480, 1485 (9th Cir. 1996). Federal courts construe removal statutes strictly to limit removal jurisdiction. Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 108 (1941); Gaus v. Miles, 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). Jurisdiction must be determined from the face of the complaint, Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987), and it must be clear from the face of the complaint under the well-pleaded complaint rule that federal subject matter jurisdiction exists. Oklahoma Tax Comm'n v. Graham, 489 U.S. 838, 840-41 (1989) (per curiam).

"The burden of establishing federal jurisdiction is upon the party seeking removal . . . ." Emrich v. Touche Ross & Co., 846 f.2d 1190, 1195 (9th Cir. 1988) (citing Wilson v. Republic Iron & Steel Co., 257 U.S. 92, 97 (1921)). A district court may remand a removed case if at any time it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). "Federal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance." Gaus, 980 F.2d at 566.

B. Removal To Federal Court Based On ERISA Preemption

Consistent with the well-pleaded complaint rule, a complaint asserting only state law claims typically does not provide a basis for removal, even if there is a federal defense, absent diversity of citizenship and the requisite amount in controversy. There is, however, a well-recognized exception to this rule:

A federal defense to a state-law claim does not confer jurisdiction on a federal court. Thus, a plaintiff may generally avoid federal jurisdiction through artful pleading of solely state-law claims. An exception to this general proposition exists, however. If federal law completely preemps a plaintiff's state-law claim, that plaintiff may not escape federal jurisdiction no matter how careful his or her pleading. In such instances, any claim purportedly based ...


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