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Doucette v. CIM Group, L.P.

United States District Court, C.D. California

January 2, 2020

William Doucette, Plaintiff,
v.
CIM Group, L.P. et al, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND (DKT. 17).

          VIRGINIA A. PHILLIPS CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (the “Motion”). (Dkt. 17). Defendants filed their Opposition on November 11, 2019 (Dkt. 23), and Plaintiff replied on November 20, 2019 (Dkt. 24). The Court finds the matter suitable for decision without a hearing pursuant to Local Rule 7-15. After considering all papers filed in support of, and in opposition to, the Motion, the Court DENIES the Motion to Remand.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (the “Union”). (Dkt. 17 at 7). The Union and Defendants, a collection of entities and individuals that allegedly own, manage, lease, or are otherwise affiliated with the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California, are parties to a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) governing the employment of Union members by Defendants. (Dkt. 3, 25-29). Plaintiff claims, inter alia, that Defendants fired him in violation of the terms of the CBA. (Id. at 33-41).

         Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that, on or about July 12, 2016, Plaintiff accepted a job with Defendants to perform between two and twelve weeks of work as a stage technician, with the possibility of follow-on work. (Id. at 28-30). Defendants allegedly discharged Plaintiff the morning of July 12, 2016 and, after Plaintiff re-applied for and accepted the same position, again the following morning. (Id. at 29). Plaintiff states he believes he was fired on the basis of age and in retaliation for having previously filed grievances against Defendants. (Id. at 30).

         Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in California state court on October 19, 2018. (Id. at 6). Following several amendments to the complaint, Defendants timely removed the case to federal court on October 3, 2019. (Dkt. 1).

         On October 18, 2019, this Court issued an Order to Show Cause (“OSC”) why the Court should not dismiss Plaintiff's claim for breach of contract. (Dkt. 16). The Court noted the record did not reflect that Plaintiff had exhausted his remedies under the CBA prior to bringing this lawsuit, as required by Section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”). (Id. at 2). The Court granted an extension to respond to the OSC while the instant Motion was pending. (Dkt. 21).

         Plaintiff argues remand is appropriate because his first claim, for breach of contract, neither arises from nor requires interpretation of the CBA, and therefore the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. (Dkt. 17 at 13-17).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The federal removal statute, 28 U.S.C.A. § 1441, provides that any civil action brought in state court may be removed to a federal district court that would have had original jurisdiction over the same matter. A federal court must, however, remand the case if it finds there is no diversity of citizenship or the claims do not arise under federal law. 28 U.S.C.A. § 1447(c) (“If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded.”; see also Int'l Primate Prot. League v. Admin. of Tulane Educ. Fund, 500 U.S. 72, 87 (1991). Removal statutes are strictly construed against removal jurisdiction. Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 108 (1941); Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992).

         Section 301(a) of the LMRA “gives federal courts subject matter jurisdiction over “[s]uits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization.” 29 U.S.C.A. § 185. “Section 301 is on its face a jurisdictional statute, under which ‘[s]uits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce as defined in this chapter, or between any such labor organizations, may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties.'” Cramer v. Consol. Freightways, Inc., 255 F.3d 683, 689 (9th Cir. 2001), as amended (Aug. 27, 2001) (quoting 29 U.S.C. § 185(a)).

         The Supreme Court has long held that § 301 “preempts the use of state contract law in CBA interpretation and enforcement.” Id. at 689 (citing Local 174, Teamsters of Am. v. Lucas Flour Co., 369 U.S. 95, 103-04 (1962)). Not all claims implicating collectively bargained agreements raise a federal question, however: § 301 preempts only “claims founded directly on rights created by collective-bargaining agreements, and also claims substantially dependent on analysis of a collective-bargaining agreement.” Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 394 (1987) (quotation marks and citation omitted); see also Livadas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107, 122-24 (1994) (“[W]hen the meaning of contract terms is not the subject of dispute, the bare fact that a collective-bargaining agreement will be consulted in the course of state-law litigation plainly does not require the claim to be extinguished.”). “If the plaintiff's claim cannot be resolved without interpreting the applicable CBA . . . it is preempted. Alternatively, if the claim may be litigated without reference to the rights and duties established in a CBA . . . it is not preempted.” Cramer, 255 F.3d at 691 (internal citations omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff contends his breach of contract claim does not derive from or substantially depend on analysis of the CBA, though he “acknowledges that on the face of the First Amended Complaint, it appears to state that the contract at issue arises out of the CBA.” (Dkt. 17 at 15). He argues that Union members' employment with Defendants was governed by both the CBA and an unwritten “custom and practice, ” the latter effectively a second agreement under which Plaintiff was entitled to retain his stage technician position. (Dkt. 17 at 15). Plaintiff submits that “the substance of the [breach of contract] claim is an extra-contractual agreement between ...


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