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Asusena Avalos, On Behalf of Herself v. Foster Poultry Farms

June 29, 2011

ASUSENA AVALOS, ON BEHALF OF HERSELF
AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
FOSTER POULTRY FARMS, INC., A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION, AND DOES 1 THROUGH 50, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael J. Seng United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO REMAND (ECF No. 13)

I. INTRODUCTION

On March 10, 2011, Plaintiff initiated this wage and hour action as a Class Action in Fresno County Superior Court, Case Number 11CECG00784. Plaintiff, and others similarly situated (collectively "Plaintiffs"), alleged six causes of action, including violations of the California Labor Code, for: failure to fully compensate Plaintiffs for all hours worked and for overtime; failure to provide meal and rest periods; recovery of unpaid wages and waiting time penalties; failure to itemize pay stubs; and for unfair business practices under California Business and Professions Code §§ 17200, et seq.

Plaintiffs are production-line employees at Defendant's poultry processing plant. Plaintiffs' Complaint centers on an alleged failure by Defendant to fully and properly compensate Plaintiffs as required by California law for pre- and post-production-line activities, commonly referred to as "donning and doffing", i.e., putting on and taking off protective gear. Plaintiffs plead no federal causes of action. Plaintiffs' allegations on their face raise no federal claims, and there is no alleged diversity of citizenship to bring the case within the jurisdiction of this Court.

However, on April 14, 2011, Defendant removed this case to federal court claiming that the allegations of Plaintiffs' Complaint brought it within Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (29 U.S.C. § 185(a)) ("LRMA") and thereby raised federal questions subject to the jurisdiction of this Court. (ECF No. 2.) Specifically, Defendant alleges that Plaintiffs are members of The United Food and Commercial Workers Union ("UFCW") whose employment terms and conditions were governed by a Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") between Defendant and the UFCW.*fn1 Section 7(H)(3) of the CBA, a paragraph entitled "DONNING AND DOFFING", provides:

The parties have discussed compensation practices, including compensation to employees for the Donning and Doffing of protective equipment and clothing, and, after good faith bargaining agree that this negotiated agreement properly compensates employees for the Donning and Doffing of safety or sanitation equipment and walking to and from the production area.

(Decl. of Vic Moreno, ex. A, ECF No. 23.)

On May 6, 2011, Plaintiffs filed this motion seeking the Court's order remanding the case to California Superior Court. (ECF No. 13.) In essence, Plaintiffs allege that their Complaint seeks to enforce non-negotiable statutory protections and rights which arise exclusively out of state law and exist independently of the CBA. The Plaintiffs further allege that Section 301 preemption does not result simply because the CBA may be consulted in the course of proving its claim.

On June 3, 2011, Defendant filed its Opposition to the Motion for Remand. (ECF No. 22.) Defendant maintains Section 301 preemption is proper because since the CBA addresses donning and doffing as described above, it must be consulted and interpreted to resolve the claims raised in this action.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Removal

"'[A]ny civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant . . . .'" Franchise Tax Bd. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 7-8 (1983) (citation omitted); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1441. However, federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. See, e.g., Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). Accordingly, the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction for purposes of removal is on the party seeking removal, and the removal statute is strictly construed against removal jurisdiction. Valdez v. Allstate Ins. Co., 372 F.3d 1115, 1117 (9th Cir. 2004); see also Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). "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.

"The presence or absence of federal-question jurisdiction is governed by the 'well-pleaded complaint rule . . . .'" Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). The well-pleaded complaint rule recognizes that the plaintiff is the master of his or her claim. "[H]e or she may avoid federal jurisdiction by exclusive reliance on state law." Id.

While a defense of preemption, also known as "ordinary preemption," is insufficient to demonstrate removal jurisdiction, "complete preemption," which is a corollary to the well-pleaded complaint rule, would be a sufficient basis for removal. Rains v. Criterion Sys., Inc., 80 F.3d 339, 344 (9th Cir. 1996). Under the complete preemption doctrine, the force of certain federal statutes is considered to be so "extraordinary" that it "converts an ordinary state common law complaint into one stating a federal claim for purposes of the well-pleaded complaint rule." Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. ...


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