Gutierrez v. Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Inc. et al

Filing 20


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1 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 2 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 3 4 GUADALUPE GUTIERREZ, SR., 5 6 7 No. C 11-03428 CW Plaintiff, ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND CASE TO STATE COURT v. 8 KAISER FOUNDATION HOSPITALS, CARLOS AVILA; AND DOES 1 THROUGH 10, 9 Defendants. United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 ________________________________/ 11 12 13 INTRODUCTION Plaintiff Guadalupe Gutierrez, Sr., brought twelve causes of 14 action in state court against Defendants Kaiser Foundation 15 Hospitals and Carlos Avila based on allegations that Defendants 16 subjected him to adverse employment actions including race and age 17 discrimination, unlawful termination, and retaliation for 18 disclosing unlawful conduct. 19 federal court based on preemption under section 301 of the Labor 20 Management Relations Act (LMRA). 21 case to state court and seeks attorneys' fees. 22 the motion. 23 created by a collective bargaining agreement, and they are 24 preempted. 25 remaining claims, and the motion to remand is DENIED. 26 27 28 Defendants removed the case to Plaintiff moves to remand the Defendants oppose Plaintiff has brought two claims based on rights The Court has supplemental jurisdiction over the BACKGROUND Plaintiff was employed, pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), as Lead Biomedical Engineer with Kaiser for more 1 than twenty-two years. 2 around June 6, 2009, Avila "abruptly removed" him from work and 3 placed him on administrative leave without providing an 4 explanation or an opportunity to address the alleged misconduct, 5 which included excessive overtime, falsifying service reports, and 6 entering false safety readings. 7 in violation of Kaiser's policy of progressive discipline and, 8 further, that it was part of Kaiser's practice falsely to accuse 9 older workers of time sheet abuse in order to force them into United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 Plaintiff's complaint states that on or Plaintiff alleges that this was resignation. Plaintiff further states that, around February 2008, he and 12 other employees had complained about the racial discrimination and 13 abusive conduct of a supervisor. 14 five non-union subcontractors, which Plaintiff argues was in 15 violation of the CBA. 16 subcontractors schemed to cause his termination. 17 2009, Avila allegedly removed Plaintiff from his work based on his 18 being a "whistleblower." 19 after an arbitration proceeding determined that he had not been 20 terminated for just cause. 21 returned to work, he was subjected to a hostile and discriminatory 22 work environment designed to force his resignation. Later that year, Kaiser hired Plaintiff also alleges that the five On June 26, Plaintiff was eventually reinstated Plaintiff alleges that when he 23 Plaintiff brought twelve causes of action in state court: 24 (1) retaliation; (2) hostile work environment; (3) harassment; 25 (4) violation of Business and Professions Code section 17200 et 26 seq.; (5) wrongful termination in violation of public policy; 27 (6) violation of Labor Code section 1102.5; (7) constructive 28 discharge in violation of public policy; (8) wrongful termination; 2 1 (9) violation of Art. 1, section 8, of the California 2 Constitution; (10) intentional infliction of emotional distress; 3 (11) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair 4 dealing; and (12) age discrimination. 5 6 7 DISCUSSION I. Legal Standard A defendant may remove a civil action filed in state court to 8 federal district court so long as the district court could have 9 exercised original jurisdiction over the matter. 28 U.S.C. United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 § 1441(a). 11 statute must be strictly construed. 12 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). 13 removal jurisdiction means that the defendant always has the 14 burden of establishing that removal is proper." 15 should resolve doubts as to removability in favor of remanding the 16 case to state court. 17 On a motion to remand, the scope of the removal Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d "The 'strong presumption' against Id. Courts Id. "In general, district courts have federal-question 18 jurisdiction only if a federal question appears on the face of a 19 plaintiff's complaint." 20 F.3d 1405, 1409 (9th Cir. 1998) (citing Louisville & Nashville R. 21 Co. v. Mottley, 211 U.S. 149, 152 (1908)). 22 is the master of the complaint, a court does not exercise original 23 jurisdiction over a matter solely because a federal defense may be 24 anticipated. 25 Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 14 (1983). 26 or she wishes to bring and may forgo federal claims. 27 however, an exception to the general rule: the artful pleading 28 doctrine. Brennan v. Southwest Airlines Co., 134 Because the plaintiff Franchise Tax Bd. v. Construction Laborers Vacation A plaintiff chooses what claims he There is, Artful pleading exists where a plaintiff states an 3 1 inherently federal claim in state-law terms. 2 1409. 3 4 5 Brennan, 134 F.3d at DISCUSSION I. Remand Defendants move to dismiss on the basis of federal 6 preemption. 7 over "[s]uits for violations of contracts between an employer and 8 a labor organization representing employees in an industry 9 affecting commerce as defined in this chapter, or between such United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 Section 301 of the LMRA provides federal jurisdiction labor organizations." 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). The Supreme Court has stated that section 301 of the LMRA, 29 12 U.S.C. § 185(a), preempts equivalent remedies under state law and 13 that "the preemptive force of section 301 is so powerful as to 14 displace entirely any state cause of action 'for violation of 15 contracts between an employer and a labor organization.' 16 suit is purely a creature of federal law, notwithstanding the fact 17 that state law would provide a cause of action in the absence of 18 [section] 301." 19 Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 23 (1983); see also Caterpillar Inc. 20 v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 393 (1987). 21 cannot avoid removal by artfully pleading state law claims that 22 are actually preempted by federal statutes. 23 463 U.S. at 22; Young v. Anthony's Fish Grotto, Inc., 830 F.2d 24 993, 996-97 (9th Cir. 1987). 25 however, requires that a plaintiff be able to assert a federal 26 cause of action based on the allegations in the state law 27 complaint. Any such Franchise Tax Bd. v. Construction Laborers Moreover, a plaintiff Franchise Tax Bd., Federal removal jurisdiction, Young, 830 F.2d at 997. 28 4 1 A state law claim is completely preempted by section 301 of 2 the LMRA if resolution of the claim requires the interpretation of 3 a collective bargaining agreement. 4 Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 413 (1988). 5 founded directly on rights created by collective-bargaining 6 agreements, and claims 'substantially dependent on analysis of a 7 collective-bargaining agreement.'" 8 (citation omitted); Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 9 220 (1985) (tort claim preempted because extent of employer's duty Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic "Section 301 governs claims Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 394 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 of good faith depends on terms of collective bargaining 11 agreement). 12 Preemption under section 301 will not apply, however, in all 13 instances in which a collective bargaining agreement is present. 14 Section 301 preemption does not apply where a state-law remedy is 15 independent of a collective bargaining agreement in the sense that 16 resolution of the state-law claim does not require construing the 17 collective bargaining agreement. Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic 18 Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399 (1988). Section 301 does not preempt 19 state causes of action simply because they require analysis of the 20 same facts that would be at issue in a Section 301 claim, Lingle, 21 486 U.S. at 408-09, or because the court must refer to the 22 collective bargaining agreement, as opposed to interpreting its 23 terms, in order to decide the claim. 24 U.S. 107, 123-24 (1994). 25 exist independently of private agreements, and that as a result 26 can be waived or altered by agreement of private parties, are 27 preempted by those agreements." 28 213. Livadas v. Bradshaw, 512 Only state causes of action "that do not Allis-Chalmers Corp., 471 U.S. at 5 1 As Defendants indicate in their opposition, Plaintiff's 2 eighth and eleventh causes of action allege wrongful termination 3 and the breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair 4 dealing. 5 bargaining agreement, and the Court must refer to and interpret 6 the agreement to adjudicate the claims. 7 applies where claims are founded directly on rights created by a 8 CBA. 9 These claims invoke rights created by the collective Complete preemption Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 394. Plaintiff's wrongful termination claim is based on Kaiser's United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 alleged violation of an agreement not to terminate employees 11 without just cause and without progressive discipline. 12 state law does not create such a right independent of a collective 13 bargaining agreement. 14 that provides that no union employee will be terminated without 15 just cause. 16 provides that Kaiser has "the right to issue rules of conduct and 17 appropriate penalties for just cause infractions thereof." 18 Plaintiff's eighth cause of action thus derives directly from and 19 is created by the agreement. 20 876 F.2d 620, 624 (9th Cir. 1989) ("Discharge for just cause is a 21 subject governed by the collective bargaining agreement. This 22 count is inextricably intertwined with the collective bargaining 23 agreement and is preempted by section 301."). 24 California It is the collective bargaining agreement Avila Dec., Ex. A, CBA Section 3. It further See Johnson v. Anheuser Busch, Inc., The implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing "is read 25 into contracts in order to protect the express covenants or 26 promises of the contract, not to protect some general public 27 policy interest not directly tied to the contract's purposes." 28 Foley v. Interactive Data Corp., 47 Cal.3d 654, 690 (1988). 6 1 Although the eleventh cause of action itself is based in state 2 law, a claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and 3 fair dealing requires a valid agreement and an interpretation of 4 that agreement, to give effect to its terms. 5 and County of San Francisco, 225 Cal. App. 3d 38, 49 (1990) ("The 6 prerequisite for any action for breach of the implied covenant of 7 good faith and fair dealing is the existence of a contractual 8 relationship between the parties, since the covenant is an implied 9 term in the contract.") See Smith v. City Here, that agreement is the CBA. Ninth United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 Circuit cases are consistent with this reasoning. 11 Pacific Racing Ass'n, 854 F.2d 1142 (9th Cir. 1988), the court 12 found that a claim of a breach of the implied covenant of good 13 faith and fair dealing required it to interpret the specific 14 language of a collective bargaining agreement's terms, and that, 15 therefore, the claim was preempted under section 301. 16 854 F.2d at 1148. 17 II. In Newberry v. Newberry, Supplemental Jurisdiction 18 Because Plaintiff's claims for wrongful termination and 19 breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing are 20 preempted by section 301, the Court has federal question 21 jurisdiction over those claims. 22 in its discretion, remand the remaining non-preempted state law 23 claims. 24 a common nucleus of operative facts with the preempted claims, the 25 Court may, and does, exercise supplemental jurisdiction over these 26 claims. 27 U.S. 715, 725 (1966). 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The Court may, However, because Plaintiff's remaining claims arise from 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a); United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 28 7 1 2 III. Attorneys' Fees Title 28 U.S.C. section 1447(c) provides for "just costs and 3 any actual expenses, including attorney's fees, incurred as a 4 result of the removal" to a moving party who successfully seeks 5 remand. 6 to attorneys' fees. Because the motion is denied, Plaintiff is not entitled 7 8 9 CONCLUSION For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's motion (Docket No. 16) is DENIED. United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 IT IS SO ORDERED. 12 13 14 Dated: 9/27/2011 CLAUDIA WILKEN United States District Judge 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 8

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