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Ross v. Stater Bros. Markets

United States District Court, C.D. California

June 27, 2019

Cheylyn Ross
Stater Bros. Markets et al.




         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Cheylyn Ross's ("Plaintiff") Motion to Remand Case to State Court, filed on May 24, 2019 ("Motion"). Defendants Stater Bros. Markets et al ("Defendants") opposed the Motion on June 3, 2019 ("Opposition"). Defendant replied on June 10, 2019 ("Reply"). The Court found the matter suitable for disposition without oral argument. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b). For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion in its entirety.[1]


         Plaintiff was employed in an hourly, non-exempt customer service position by 17 Defendants from May 2018 through July 2018. (Id. at ¶ 26.) Defendants own and operate supermarkets in Southern California. (Id. at ¶ 16.) Cheylyn Ross is the named Plaintiff in the instant class action wage and hour dispute. (See Notice of Removal Ex. B, ECF No. 1-1). On April 3, 2019, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint against Defendants ("FAC") in the Superior Court of the State of California County of San Bernardino in a case captioned Cheylyn Ross v. Stater Bros. Markets, et al., asserting the following causes of action:

(1) Failure To Pay All Wages Owed, Including Overtime ("Wage Claim");
(2) Failure To Provide Second Meal Periods ("Meal Period Claim");
(3) Failure to Authorize and Permit Rest Periods ("Rest Period Claim");
(4) Failure to Timely Pay Wages Owed Upon Separation From Employer ("Separation Claim");
(5) Failure to Reimburse Necessary Expenses;
(6) Knowing and Intentional Failure to Comply with Accurate Itemized Wage Statement Provisions;
(7) Violation of the Unfair Competition Law; and
(8) Penalties under the Private Attorneys General Act, Labor Code § 2698 Et. Seq.

(FAC ¶ 2.)

         Plaintiff seeks to represent eight classes of similarly situated current or former non-exempt employees of Defendant in California (the "Class"). (Id. at ¶ 5.) Plaintiff names the following eight subclasses:

(1) The Minimum Wage Subclass;
(2) The Overtime Subclass;
(3) The Meal Period Subclass;
(4) The Rest Period Subclass;
(5) The Indemnification Subclass;
(6) The Waiting Time Subclass;
(7) The Inaccurate Wage Statement Subclass;
(8) The Unfair Business Practices Subclass.

(Id. at ¶¶ 49-52.)

         Plaintiff alleges that for at least four years prior to the filing of this action (the "Class Period") Defendant prohibited its employees from taking timely and proper meal and rest breaks during work hours, and failed to furnish accurate wage statements to Plaintiff and the Class. (Id. at ¶ 31-33, 35-43.) Plaintiff also alleges Defendant failed to pay for all hours worked upon termination, in violation of various California laws. (Id. at ¶ 44.) Specifically, Plaintiff claims that "Plaintiff [was] not properly compensated for all hours worked, in part because she was frequently required to work off the clock [and] perform work duties and functions either before or after shifts" for which she was not compensated, in violation of various California laws (Id. at ¶ 30). Plaintiff seeks recovery of unpaid overtime wages, plus interest and penalties, attorneys' fees, and costs. (Id. at ¶ 66-69.) Although two separate collective-bargaining agreements ("CBA") were in place during the Class Period, Plaintiff's FAC makes no mention of them and exclusively states alleged violations of California law. (Id. at ¶ 13; But see Notice of Removal at ¶ 17-18, ECF No. 1).

         A. Removal

         On April 24, 2018, Defendants removed Plaintiff's action to this Court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1441, and 1446. (See Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1.) Specifically, Defendants assert that (1) Plaintiff's Wage Claim, (2) Plaintiff's Meal Period Claim, (3) Plaintiff's Rest Period Claim, and (4) Plaintiff's Separation Claim are preempted by federal law, Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (the "LMRA" or "Section 301"). (Id. (citing 29 U.S.C. § 185.)) Additionally, Defendants argue that this Court should exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's remaining claims. (Id. (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1367.))

         B. The Instant Motion

         In the instant Motion, Plaintiff seeks to remand this action to San Bernardino Superior Court. Plaintiff maintains that (1) her FAC is governed by California law; and (2) that her claims are not preempted by the LMRA. (See generally Mot.)


         A. Legal Standard

         1. Removal Jurisdiction

         The removal statute allows a defendant to remove a case originally filed in state court into federal court if it presents a federal question or is between citizens of different states and involves an amount in controversy over $75, 000. ee 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1441. A "federal question" is presented if the claim arises under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. Id. Federal courts are well established to be "courts of limited jurisdiction." Owen Equip. & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 374 (1978). As such, "a federal court is presumed to lack jurisdiction in a particular case unless the contrary affirmatively appears." Stock W., Inc. v. Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, 873 F.2d 1221, 1225 (9th Cir. 1989) (citation omitted). Furthermore, a federal court's lack of subject matter jurisdiction may be challenged by any party at any time, and it is never waived. See United States v. Cotton, 535 U.S. 625, 630 (2002). If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case must be remanded. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).

         Federal question jurisdiction typically exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint. Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). Thus, where a plaintiff has both state and federal claims, she can prevent removal by simply choosing not to address the latter in her complaint. Rains v. Criterion Systems, Inc., 80 F.3d 339, 344 (9th Cir. 1996). Where there is "any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance," the Ninth Circuit has held that courts must "strictly construe the removal statute against removal jurisdiction" and reject federal jurisdiction. Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (citations omitted).

         2. LMRA Preemption

         Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA" or "Section 301") gives federal courts the exclusive jurisdiction to hear "suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization." 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). Section 301 governs claims that involve right(s) granted to an employee solely based on a collective bargaining agreement or right(s) that are "substantially dependent" on a [collective bargaining agreement]. Kobold v. Good Samaritan Reg'l Med. Ctr., 832 F.3d 1024, 1033 (9th Cir. 2016) (quoting Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 394 (1987). This is to "ensure uniform interpretation of collective-bargaining agreements, and thus to promote the peaceable, consistent resolution of labor-management disputes." Lingle v. Norge Division of Magic Chef, Inc.,486 U.S. 399, 404 (1988). A state law claim is preempted if it is so ...

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