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Kevett v. Graf

United States District Court, C.D. California

March 30, 2017

Brittney Kevett
v.
Michael P. Graf, d/b/a Quiznos, et al.

          PRESENT: THE HONORABLE STEPHEN V. WILSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

          CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

         Proceedings: IN CHAMBERS ORDER REMANDING CASE TO STATE COURT [8]

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Brittney Kevett (“Plaintiff”) was an employee at a fast-food restaurant owned and operated by Michael P. Graf, doing business as Quiznos (“Graf”) and Does 1 through 20 inclusive (collectively “Defendants”). Dkt. 13-2, p. 1. Plaintiff filed various claims in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Riverside for Defendants' alleged violations under California Labor Code and California Business and Professions Code. Dkt. 13-2, p. 5-10. Graf removed the action to this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), arguing that the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) preempts Plaintiff's state law claims. Dkt. 2, p. 2. Graf then filed a Motion to Dismiss, which is presently before the Court. Dkt. 8.[1]

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On May 27, 2016, Plaintiff filed a complaint for damages against Defendants in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Riverside. Dkt. 13-2, p. 1. Defendants own and operate a fast-food business called Quiznos located in Riverside, California. Dkt. 13-2, p.1. Plaintiff was an employee of Defendants. Dkt. 13-2, p. 2. Plaintiff alleges she was a non-exempt employee required to work off-the-clock, that she was not compensated for all hours worked, that Defendants deducted wages if she forgot to clock in or clock out, that she was not permitted to take her full meal periods for shifts over five hours long nor did she receive compensation for missed meal periods, and that she did not receive a final paycheck for the full amount due to her after quitting her job at Quiznos. Dkt. 13-2, p. 3. Plaintiff's complaint includes claims under the California Labor Code and California Business and Professions Code for (1) failure to pay minimum wage, (2) failure to provide meal periods or compensation in lieu therefore, (3) failure to provide rest periods or compensation in lieu thereof, (4) failure to provide accurate wage statements, (5) waiting time penalties, and (6) unfair business practices. Dkt. 13-2, p. 5-10.

         On February 21, 2017, Graf filed a Notice of Removal under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) from the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Riverside to the United States District Court of the Central District of California. Dkt. 2. On March 6, 2017, Graf filed a Motion to Dismiss. Dkt. 8. On March 14, 2017, Plaintiff filed an Opposition to Graf's Motion to Dismiss. Dkt. 13. Graf did not file a reply.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         “‘Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, ' possessing ‘only that power authorized by Constitution and statute.'” Gunn v. Minton, 133 S.Ct. 1059, 1064 (2013) (quoting Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of America, 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)). “The burden of establishing jurisdiction falls on the party invoking the removal statute . . . which is strictly construed against removal.” Sullivan v. First Affiliated Sec., Inc., 813 F.2d 1368, 1371 (9th Cir. 1987). Further, “the court resolves all ambiguity in favor of remand to state court.” Hunter v. Philip Morris USA, 582 F.3d 1039, 1042 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992)).

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, federal question jurisdiction extends to cases in which a well-pleaded complaint establishes either that federal law creates the cause of action or that the plaintiff's right to relief “requires resolution of a substantial question of federal law in dispute between the parties.” Franchise Tax Board of California v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 13, 27-28 (1983). If a plaintiff may be entitled to relief for reasons that are “completely unrelated to the provisions and purposes” of the federal law at issue, then the claim does not arise under federal law. Christianson v. Colt Indus. Operating Corp., 486 U.S. at 800, 808 (1988).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         In Graf's Notice of Removal, Graf argues that Plaintiff could have commenced her action under the FLSA instead of under the California Labor Code and California Business and Professions Code. Dkt. 2, p. 2. He argues that federal laws preempt state laws, and thus the claim arises under federal law and belongs in federal court. Dkt. 2, p. 2. In Graf's Motion to Dismiss, Graf argues that Plaintiff failed to state a claim under the FLSA, and that the federal court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's remaining claims, thus this Court should grant his Motion to Dismiss. Dkt. 8, p. 3, 5.

         Plaintiff responds that her complaint contains viable claims under California law, and that Graf does not explain why FLSA should preempt California law for this case. Dkt. 13, p. 1. Plaintiff further argues that this Court may decline jurisdiction over a case, but may not dismiss the case on that premise. Dkt. 13, p. 6. Plaintiff then says that Graf failed to meet and confer pursuant to Local Rule 7-3, and thus Graf's Motion to Dismiss must be denied. Dkt. 13, p. 1. Lastly, Plaintiff requests leave to amend if Graf's Motion to Dismiss is granted. Dkt. 13, p. 6.

         Generally, federal law preempts state law if Congress expressly so states, if Congress enacts comprehensive laws that leave no room for additional state regulation, or if state law actually conflicts with federal law. Pacific Merchant Shipping Ass'n v. Aubry, 918 F.2d 1409, 1415 (9th Cir. 1990) (quoting California Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n v. Guerra, 479 U.S. 272, 280 (1987)). However, federal law concerning the regulation of working conditions and wages does not necessarily preempt state law. Rather, the standard most beneficial to employees ...


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