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Fernandez v. Saia, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

February 28, 2017

Victor Fernandez
Saia Inc., et al.

          Present: The Honorable MICHAEL W. FITZGERALD, U.S. District Judge



         Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (the “Motion”), filed on January 17, 2017. (Docket No. 13). Defendant filed an Opposition to the Motion on February 6, 2017. (Docket No. 16). Plaintiff filed a Reply on February 7, 2017. (Docket No. 18). The Court held a hearing on February 27, 2017.

         For the reasons stated below the Motion is DENIED. While the Ninth Circuit has not spoken on this precise issue, its decisions in analogous cases as well as the Court's interpretation of the California law at issue militate against remand here.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff's Complaint alleges various claims of action under California law against Defendant, including disability discrimination, violation of the California Family Rights Act, race discrimination, national origin discrimination, wrongful termination, and declaratory relief. (Complaint, Docket No. 1, Ex. 2). Defendant removed the case on December 28, 2016, alleging the existence of diversity jurisdiction. (Docket No. 1).


         The threshold requirement for removal under 28 U.S.C. § 1441 is a “finding that the complaint . . . is within the original jurisdiction of the district court.” Ansley v. Ameriquest Mortgage Co., 340 F.3d 858, 861 (9th Cir. 2003). In most circumstances, “federal district courts have jurisdiction over suits for more than $75, 000 where the citizenship of each plaintiff is different from that of each defendant.” Hunter v. Philip Morris USA, 582 F.3d 1039, 1043 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)). “The strong presumption against removal jurisdiction means that the defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper.” Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). Congress has excepted from removal jurisdiction any “civil action in any State court arising under the workmen's compensation laws of such State may not be removed to any district court of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1445(c).


         Plaintiff's Motion argues that his claims “arise under” California workers' compensation law, and thus are not removable to federal court. (Motion at 5). “The term ‘arising under' in the context of § 1445(c) has the same meaning as ‘arising under' in 28 U.S.C. § 1331, which governs federal question jurisdiction.” Hamblin v. Coinstar, Inc., 2007 WL 4181822, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Nov. 21, 2007). In the context of § 1331, the Ninth Circuit has stated that a “claim arises under federal law within § 1331 if it is apparent from the face of the complaint either that (1) a federal law creates the plaintiff's cause of action; or (2) if a state law creates the cause of action, a federal law that creates a cause of action is a necessary element of the plaintiff's claim.” Virgin v. Cty. of San Luis Obispo, 201 F.3d 1141, 1142-43 (9th Cir. 2000).

         Plaintiff's fifth cause of action alleges, in part, violations of California Labor Code section 132a. (Complaint ¶ 102). Section 132a provides:

(1) Any employer who discharges, or threatens to discharge, or in any manner discriminates against any employee because he or she has filed or made known his or her intention to file a claim for compensation with his or her employer or an application for adjudication, or because the employee has received a rating, award, or settlement, is guilty of a misdemeanor and the employee's compensation shall be increased by one-half, but in no event more than ten thousand dollars ($10, 000), together with costs and expenses not in excess of two hundred fifty dollars ($250). Any such employee shall also be entitled to reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits caused by the acts of the employer.

Cal. Labor Code § 132a(1). Plaintiff argues that his claims under this section arise under California's workers' compensation law, and thus that this case was not removable to federal court.

         This question has been addressed by several federal courts in California. For example, in Hamblin, the court concluded that § 1445(c) barred removal of the plaintiff's claims made under section 132a. Hamblin, 2007 WL 4181822, at *3. In that case, the complaint contained only a single cause of action. The court determined that section 132a codifies a claim for retaliatory discharge in California. In addition, the statute provides a “two-fold” remedy to an employee fired for filing a workers' compensation claim. Id. The employee can file a claim seeking relief under section 132a with the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board. Id. Or, alternatively, the employee may file a common law termination in violation of public policy claim, known as a Tameny claim. Id. (citing Tameny v. Atl. Richfield Co., 27 Cal.3d 167, 176, 164 Cal.Rptr. 839 (1980)). The claims in that case, and in Plaintiff's case here, were Tamany claims. “To assert a Tameny claim, the plaintiff must identify the specific public policy the termination violated and the public policy must derive from a constitutional provision, statute, or administrative regulation that serves a statutory ...

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