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Wise v. Solar Turbines, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. California

June 9, 2014

WILLIAM WISE, an individual, Plaintiff,
SOLAR TURBINES, INC., a Delaware Corporation; and DOES 1 through 25, inclusive, Defendants.


JANIS L. SAMMARTINO, District Judge.

Presently before the Court is Plaintiff William Wise's ("Plaintiff") Motion to Remand ("MTR"). (ECF No. 9.) Also before the Court is Defendant Solar Turbines, Inc.'s ("Defendant") Response in Opposition (ECF No. 11), Plaintiff's Reply in Support (ECF No. 12), and Defendant's Motion For Leave To File a Sur-Reply (EFC No. 16). The Court vacated the motion hearing set for March 6, 2014 and took the matter under submission without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1). (ECF No. 13.) Having considered the parties' arguments and the law, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's MTR and DENIES AS MOOT Defendant's Motion For Leave To File a Sur-Reply.


In or around January 1989, Defendant hired Plaintiff. (Compl. ¶ 15, ECF No. 1-2.) Plaintiff's employment was governed by a Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA"). ( See id. ¶ 38(c); see also CBA, ECF No. 11-1.) In or around 2003, Defendant made Plaintiff a Safety Representative. (Compl. ¶ 16, ECF No. 1-2.) In or around August 2011, Plaintiff's coworker, Julian Herrera ("Herrera"), was transferred to Plaintiff's shift. ( Id. ¶ 21.) Thereafter Plaintiff and his coworkers observed Herrera making racist comments and engaging in disruptive behavior. ( Id. ¶¶ 22-31.) Plaintiff notified his shift supervisor, Jeff Daum ("Daum"), about Herrera's ongoing behavioral issues, but Daum failed to address the problem. ( Id. ¶¶ 31, 35.)

Eventually, Plaintiff complained to Will Sullivan, Daum's supervisor. ( Id. ¶ 36.) When Daum learned of this, he purportedly retaliated against Plaintiff by transferring him to a less desirable work location. ( Id. ¶¶ 38-40.) Plaintiff's seniority, conferred by the CBA, was allegedly ignored in the transfer. ( Id. ¶ 38.) Subsequently, Plaintiff complained to his supervisors that he was not receiving proper training in his new position. ( Id. ¶¶ 41-45.) Plaintiff's supervisors, however, ignored his concerns. ( Id. ¶ 46.)

In or around February and March 2012, Plaintiff further complained about Defendant's unsafe work practices and hostile work environment. ( Id. ¶¶ 47-63, 75.) Subsequently, Plaintiff was transferred several more times, including once to Herrera's work area. ( Id. ¶¶ 64-66.) In or around October 2012, Plaintiff's physician informed Plaintiff that he could only perform light-duty work until he underwent a surgery in January 2013 ( Id. ¶ 69.) When Plaintiff informed Daum, Daum refused to accommodate him and instead placed him on involuntary disability leave. ( Id. ) Plaintiff remained on disability leave until in or around May 2013, when he was placed on light duty. ( Id. ¶ 71.) On or around June 28, 2013, Defendant constructively terminated Plaintiff. ( Id. ¶ 83.)

On December 4, 2013, Plaintiff filed an action in California state court asserting six state-law claims: (1) retaliation; (2) discrimination on the basis of physical disability; (3 & 4) wrongful constructive termination in violation of public policy; (5) negligent supervision; and (6) intentional infliction of emotional distress. ( See generally Compl., ECF No. 1-2.) On January 2, 2014, Defendant removed the case to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). (Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff now moves to remand to state court for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.


If it appears at any time after a case has been removed from state court that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case must be remanded. 28 U.S.C § 1447(c). Whether a court has federal-question jurisdiction over a case is generally "governed by the well-pleaded complaint rule.'" Balcorta v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 208 F.3d 1102, 1106 (9th Cir. 2000) (citing Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987)). Pursuant to this rule, federal-question jurisdiction only exists when pleaded by the plaintiff, thereby preventing removal solely on the basis of a federal defense, including preemption. See id. However, there is an exception.

Under the "complete preemption" doctrine, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that particular federal statutes completely preempt areas of state law. Id. at 1107 (citing Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 65 (1987)). A state-law claim so preempted is considered to have arisen under federal law, thereby creating federal subject matter jurisdiction over the claim. See id.

The Supreme Court has held that Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 ("LMRA"), in some instances, falls within the complete preemption doctrine. See Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 413 (1988). Section 301(a) of the LMRA provides:

Suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce as defined in this chapter, or between any such labor organizations, may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the parties.

29 U.S.C. § 185(a).

The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that Section 301 of the LMRA preempts state law when a state-law claim requires the interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement. See, e.g., Lingle, 486 U.S. at 413; Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, AFL-CIO v. Hechler, 481 U.S. 851, 853 (1987); Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 210 (1985); see also Burnside v. Kiewit Pac. Corp., 491 F.3d 1053, 1059 (9th Cir. 2007); Balcorta, 208 ...

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