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Alcala v. Republic Bag, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

April 3, 2018

Francisco Alcala
v.
Republic Bag, Inc., et al.

          Present: The Honorable JESUS G. BERNAL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

          CIVIL MINUTES-GENERAL

         Proceedings: Order (1) GRANTING Plaintiff's Motion to Remand; (2) DENYING Plaintiff's Request for Attorneys' Fees; (3) REMANDING the Case; and (4) VACATING the April 9, 2018 Hearing (IN CHAMBERS)

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Francisco Alcala's motion to remand. (“Motion, ” Dkt. No. 12.) The Court determines the Motion appropriate for resolution without a hearing. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 78; L.R. 7-15. After considering the papers filed in support of, and in opposition to, the Motion, the Court GRANTS the Motion, DENIES Plaintiff's request for attorneys' fees, and REMANDS the case to state court. The April 9, 2018 hearing is VACATED. The Clerk of the Court is directed to close the case.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         On December 22, 2017, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendants Republic Bag, Inc., Sigma Plastics Group, and Alpha Industries, Inc. in the Riverside County Superior Court. (“Complaint, ” Ex. C, Dkt. No. 1.) In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges 5 causes of action: (1) retaliation in violation of California Labor Code § 1102.5; (2) wrongful termination in violation of public policy; (3) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (4) negligent infliction of emotional distress; and (5) defamation and compelled self-defamation in violation of California Civil Code §§ 45, 46. (See Compl.)

         Defendant Republic Bag, Inc. (“Republic”) removed the action on February 5, 2018 arguing Plaintiff's claims are completely preempted by § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”). (Dkt. No. 1.)

         On March 7, 2018, Plaintiff moved to remand the action to Riverside Superior Court. (Mot.) Republic opposed the Motion on March 19, 2018.[2] (“Opposition, Dkt. No. 15.) Plaintiff replied on March 26, 2018. (“Reply, ” Dkt. No. 23.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal courts have limited jurisdiction, “possessing only that power authorized by Constitution and statute.” Gunn v. Minton, 568 U.S. 251, 256 (2013). As such, federal courts only have original jurisdiction over civil actions in which a federal question exists or in which complete diversity of citizenship between the parties exists and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332.

         LMRA § 301 provides federal jurisdiction over “[s]uits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization.” 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). This provision grants a “congressional mandate to the federal courts to fashion a body of federal common law to be used to address disputes arising out of labor contracts.” Matson v. United Parcel Service, Inc., 840 F.3d 1126, 1132 (9th Cir. 2016) (quoting Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 2012, 209 (1985)). This federal common law preempts the use of state contract law in the interpretation and enforcement of collective bargaining agreements (“CBAs”). Id.

         To determine whether a state law claim is preempted under § 301, the Ninth Circuit has articulated a two-part inquiry. The first step considers whether “a particular right inheres in state law, or instead, is grounded in a CBA.” Burnside v. Kiewit Pac. Corp., 491 F.3d 1053, 1060 (9th Cir. 2007). This determination focuses on the “legal character of the claim” and its independence from rights in the CBA. Matson, 840 F.3d at 1132 (quoting Livadas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107, 123-124 (1994)). “Only if a claim is ‘founded directly on rights created by collective-bargaining agreements' is preemption warranted at this step.” Id. (quoting Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 394 (1987)).

         The second step of the inquiry considers “whether a state law right is substantially dependent on the terms of a CBA.” Burnside, 491 F.3d at 1060. This analysis considers whether “the claim can be resolved by looking to versus interpreting the CBA.” Id. If the claim requires interpretation of the CBA, it is preempted. Id. In this context, the Ninth Circuit has stressed a narrow definition of “interpret”- more is required than just “consider[ing], ” “refer[ing] to, ” or “apply[ing]” the CBA. Id. (quoting Balcorta v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 208 F.3d 1102, 1108 (9th Cir. 2000)). Preemption of a state law claim is warranted only where the need to interpret the CBA “inheres in the nature of the plaintiff's claim” not simply because “the defendant refers to the CBA in mounting a defense.” Id. (quoting Cramer v. Consol. Freightways, Inc., 255 F.3d 683, 691 (9th Cir. 2001) (en banc)). “Speculative reliance” on the CBA also does not suffice to preempt a state law claim. Humble v. Boeing Co., 305 F.3d 1004, 1008 (9th Cir. 2002).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff asserts removal was not proper because preemption under § 301 of the LMRA is not justified as his state law claims do not require an interpretation of the CBAs. (Mot. at 4.) Republic argues each of Plaintiff's claims are preempted because the ...


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