Galett v. NetJets Aviation, Inc.
ORDER denying 34 Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. Signed by Judge Robert N. Chatigny on 9/30/12. (Goldsticker, M)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
STEVEN J. GALETT,
NETJETS AVIATION, INC.
Case No. 3:10-CV-1503 (RNC)
RULING AND ORDER
Defendant has moved for judgment on the pleadings contending
that plaintiff's claims for breach of contract, promissory
estoppel and negligent misrepresentation require interpretation
of a collective bargaining and are therefore preempted by the
Railway Labor Act ("RLA").
See 45 U.S.C. § 151a.
reasons that follow, the motion is denied.
The test for preemption under the RLA is virtually identical
to the standard used in cases involving § 301 of the Labor
Management Relations Act.
See Hawaiian Airlines, Inc. v. Norris,
512 U.S. 246, 256 (1994).
Under both statutes, the test asks
whether the plaintiff's state law claims are "inextricably
intertwined with consideration of the terms of the labor
Allis-Chalmers v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 213 (1985).
Not all agreements made by employees subsequently covered under a
CBA meet this standard.
See Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482
U.S. 386, 396 (1987) ("Individual employment contracts are not
inevitably superseded by any subsequent collective agreement
covering an individual employee.").
Indeed, the Second Circuit
has held that individual employment contracts can be enforced
under state law when the employee relies on a promise not
included in the applicable CBA, provided the claim does not
require interpretation of the CBA.
See Foy v. Pratt & Whitney
Grp., 127 F.3d 229, 235 (2d Cir. 1997) ("An employee's
nonnegotiable right to sue under state law, based on promises
that go beyond a CBA, is not automatically or necessarily
preempted solely because the CBA provides for lesser or other
rights than what the employee claims to have been promised.").1
Whether a state law claim requires interpretation of a CBA
and is thus preempted ultimately depends on whether the parties
disagree about the meaning of the relevant terms in the CBA.
Livadas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107, 124 (1994).
meaning of contract terms is not the subject of dispute, the bare
fact that a collective-bargaining agreement will be consulted in
Other courts – including the Third, Seventh, and Eighth
Circuits, and the Connecticut Supreme Court - have permitted such
claims. See Loewen Group Int'l, Inc. v. Haberichter, 65 F.3d
1417, 1423 (7th Cir. 1995)("As long as the employer is not
attempting to circumvent a union or undermine a [CBA], it is
permissible to negotiate more favorable contracts with individual
members." (citations omitted)); Berda v. CBS, Inc., 881 F.2d 30
(3d Cir. 1989) (allowing suit based on a misrepresentation of
permanent, reasonably long-term employment for a union position
that was quickly eliminated); Anderson v. Ford Motor Co., 803
F.2d 953, 958 (8th Cir. 1986) (permitting claims by union
employees based on pre-hiring promises that fell within the
purview of the CBA); see also Barbieri v. United Techs. Corp.,
255 Conn. 708 (2001).
the course of state-law litigation plainly does not require the
claim to be extinguished."
Id. at 24 (citations omitted);
compare Wynn v. AC Rochester, 273 F.3d 153 (2d Cir. 2001) (per
curiam) ("[T]here is no genuine issue between parties concerning
interpretation of the CBA. . . . [P]laintiffs' state law
misrepresentation claims depend upon the employer's behavior,
motivation, and statements, as well as plaintiffs' conduct, their
understanding of the alleged offer made to them, and their
reliance on it.") with Puccino v. SNET Info. Servs., Inc., No.
3:09-cv-1551, 2011 WL 4575937, at *6 (D. Conn. Sept. 30 2011)
(holding that promises about wages and commissions allegedly
superseding the CBA would require "substantial interpretation" to
determine whether there was a breach).
Here, NetJets allegedly made a promise to the plaintiff, a
non-union employee, guaranteeing seniority, among other benefits.
This promise was unrelated to the CBA.
Defendant emphasizes that
plaintiff's remedies cannot be separated from the CBA.
examination of the plaintiff’s state law claims in light of the
parties’ preemption arguments shows that there is no material
dispute concerning the meaning of the terms in the CBA.
In the absence of a such a dispute, the need to refer to the
CBA is insufficient to require preemption of plaintiff’s state
The Supreme Court has emphasized that "§ 301 cannot
be read broadly to pre-empt nonnegotiable rights conferred on
individual employees as a matter of state law."
U.S. at 123 (1994).
Rather, state law claims are preempted by §
301 only when necessary "to assure that the purposes animating §
301 will be frustrated neither by state laws purporting to
determine questions relating to what the parties to a labor
agreement agreed, and what legal consequences were intended to
flow from breaches of the agreement, nor by parties’ efforts to
renege on their arbitration promises by relabeling as tort suits
actions simply alleging breaches of duties assumed in collectivebargaining agreements."
Id. at 122-23 (citations omitted).
Accordingly, "[w]hen resolution of the tort litigation hinges on
‘purely factual questions’ about the conduct or motives of
employers and employees, even if the conduct takes place during
contractually authorized grievance procedures, no interpretation
of the contract is required, and thus the [s]tate litigation may
Harris v. Hirsch, 630 N.Y.S.2d 701, 704 (1995)
(applying Lingle’s preemption standard adopted for RLA preemption
in Hawaiian Airlines); see also in re Bentz Metal Prods. Co., 253
F.3d 283, 285, 289 (7th Cir. 2001) ("We now hold, consistent with
Lingle and Livadas v. Bradshaw, that a state law claim is not
preempted if it does not require interpretation of the CBA even
if it may require reference to the CBA." (citation omitted)).
No Second Circuit case involving preemption is directly on
point, but Foy is analogous.
In that case, employees covered by
a collective bargaining agreement were laid off from a plant in
North Haven after failing to apply for openings at a plant in
The employees brought a claim of negligent
misrepresentation against the employer alleging that they had not
applied for the openings because they had been assured that they
would be given an opportunity to transfer before being subjected
The employer argued that the claim was preempted by
§ 301 because the issue of justifiable reliance on the alleged
misrepresentation had to be determined in light of the employees’
limited rights under the collective bargaining agreement.
Court of Appeals carefully considered whether allowing the claim
to go forward would be contrary to the purposes of § 301.
concluded that preemption was not required because, although
reference to the collective bargaining agreement might be needed,
"state law [would] play no part in determining what the parties
had agreed to in the CBA or whether the CBA ha[d] been breached."
Foy, 127 F.3d at 235.
Moreover, state law, not the CBA, was the
source of the nonnegotiable right at issue.
factors are present here.
Accordingly, defendant's motion for judgment on the
pleadings [doc. #34] is hereby denied.
So ordered this 30th day of September 2012.
Robert N. Chatigny
United Stated District Judge
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