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Silva v. USF Reddaway Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Francisco Division

May 15, 2017

TROY SILVA, Plaintiff,


          LAUREL BEELER United States Magistrate Judge.


         This employment-discrimination suit is here on removal jurisdiction. Plaintiff Troy Silva claims that his employer, defendant USF Reddaway, Inc., breached a collective-bargaining agreement (CBA), and discriminated against him, by failing to accommodate his recurring shoulder injury by assigning him to a different job.[1] He brings three claims under California state law: one for breach of the CBA; one for "common[-]law disability discrimination": and one for disability discrimination under California's Fan Employment and Housing Act.[2] The defendant moves to dismiss all these claims, arguing that they are preempted by section 301 of the federal Labor-Management Relations Act (LMRA) (codified at 29 U.S.C. § 185(a)).[3] (The plaintiff has conceded that the first claim, for breach of the CBA, is preempted. Only the discrimination claims remain for the court's decision.[4]) The parties have consented to magistrate jurisdiction.[5] This matter can be decided without oral argument. See Civil L.R. 7-1(b). The court thus vacates the hearing that is set for May 18, 2017. The court now holds that LMRA § 301 preempts the plaintiff's claims. Those claims are therefore dismissed without prejudice to any claim that Mr. Silva might have under the CBA or directly under the LMRA.


         In 2011, Mr. Silva began working for Reddaway "as a pick[-]up and delivery[-]truck driver, who makes multiple local deliveries every day"[6] "This position requires substantial lifting, pushing, and movement of freight."[7] A collective-bargaining agreement governed the employment relationship between Mr. Silva and Reddaway.[8] This CBA "required defendant not to discriminate against plaintiff. . ., and to comply with the Americans for Disabilities Act."[9] The CBA also contained terms governing worker seniority and the assignment of employees to different jobs.[10] The contract also set out a grievance procedure for resolving labor-management disputes.[11]

         "In early 2012, [Mr. Silva] had a recurrence of shoulder pain."[12] He went on leave and "requested accommodation for his disability."[13] Specifically, he asked that he be "transfer[red] to long[-]distance line driving, where he would not be required to do as much lifting or pushing freight."[14] Mr. Silva soon returned to work but in his old position; he could not do the freight-handling that this position required and returned to disability.[15] By late August 2012, Reddaway had not reassigned Mr. Silva to a long-distance, line-driving position.[16]

         Four years later, Mr. Silva sued Reddaway in California state court.[17] He did not serve Reddaway until February 2017, though, and when he did, it was under the aegis of the operative First Amended Complaint.[18]

         The defendant moved the case to this court and now moves to dismiss Mr. Silva's claims as preempted by LMRA § 301.[19]


         1. Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

         This case is before the court on federal-question removal jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Neither party challenges that jurisdiction. The court must consider the issue nonetheless. "[A] federal court has an independent duty to assess whether federal subject matter jurisdiction exists, whether or not the parties raise the issue." H &K Invs., LP v. Erfe, 2012 WL 1657744, *2 (E.D. Cal. May 10, 2012), report and recommendation adopted. 2012 WL 2841131 (E.D. Cal. July 9, 2012) (citing United Investors Life Ins. Co. v. Waddell & Reed Inc., 360 F.3d 960, 967 (9th Cir. 2004) ([T]he district court had a duty to establish subject matter jurisdiction over the removed action sua sponte, whether the parties raised the issue or not.")).

         The court has jurisdiction, through the LMRA, even though the operative complaint advances only state-law claims. Section 301 of the LMRA establishes federal jurisdiction over "suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization." 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). The absence of an LMRA claim from the operative complaint does not defeat removal jurisdiction. "Under the 'artful pleading' doctrine, a plaintiff cannot defeat removal of a federal claim by disguising or pleading it artfully as a state claim. If the claim involved is one arising under federal law, the federal court will recharacterize the claim and uphold removal." Madison v. Motion Picture Set Painters ana1 Sign Writers Local 729, 132 F.Supp.2d 1244, 1250 (CD. Cal. 2000) (citing Federated Dept. Stores, Inc. v. Moitie, 452 U.S. 394 (1981); Schroeder v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 702 F.2d 189, 191 (9th Cir. 1983)). "Where a state law claim is completely preempted by federal law, the 'artful pleading' doctrine applies." Id. (citing Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987) ("Once an area of state law has been completely pre-empted, any claim purportedly based on that pre-empted state law is considered, from its inception, a federal claim, and therefore arises under federal law."); Sullivan v. First Affiliated Sees., Inc., 813 F.2d 1368, 1372 (9th Cir. 1987) ("A traditional example of the artful pleading doctrine is one in which the defendant has a federal preemption defense to a state claim and federal law provides a remedy.")).

         The defendant here has a preemption defense based on the LMRA - a defense, moreover, that the court upholds - and so this court has subject-matter jurisdiction of this case under 28 U.S.C. § 1441.

         2. Rule 12(b)(6)

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of the complaint. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). A claim will normally siuvive a motion to dismiss if it offers a "short and plain statement. . . showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the coml must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint as well as all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from such allegations. LSO, Ltd. v. Stroll, 205 F.3d 1146, 1150 n. 2 (9th Cir. 2000). Such allegations must be construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Shwarz v. United States, 234 F.3d 428, 435 (9th Cir. 2000). A Rule 12(b)(6) inquiry "may also consider documents" outside the complaint "whose authenticity cannot be questioned and on which plaintiff's complaint 'necessarily relies."' Hotel Employees & Rest. Employees Local 2 v. Vista Inn Mgmt. Co., 393 F.Supp.2d 972, 979 (N.D. Cal. 2005) (quoting Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 688-89 (9th Cir. 2001)); see also, e.g., Parrino v. FHP, Inc., 146 F.3d 699, 706 (9th Cir. 1998). The defendant in this case has filed the relevant collective-bargaining agreement[20]; Mr. Silva has not disputed its authenticity, and it is central to his claims. The court has therefore considered it in this analysis.


         1. Preemption Under Section 301 of the LMRA

         “A suit for breach of a collective bargaining agreement is governed exclusively by federal law under section 301" of the LMRA. Young v. Anthony's Fish Grottos, Inc., 830 F.2d 993, 997 (9th Cir. 1987) (citing Franchise TaxBd. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 23 (1983)). "The preemptive force of § 301

is so powerful as to displace entirely any state cause of action "for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization." [28 U.S.C. 185(a) (codifying LMRA ยง 301).] Any such suit is purely a creature of federal law, notwithstanding the fact that state law ...

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