Al-Mumin v. Loraine et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER. (See Full Order.) IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff's motion to remand [# 13 ] is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that defendants' request for oral argument on plaintiff's motion to remand is DENIED. IT IS FU RTHER ORDERED that this case is REMANDED to the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, State of Missouri, from which it was removed. Signed by District Judge Catherine D. Perry on 10/16/2017. (Memo & Order and Docket sheet sent to Circuit Court of St. Louis County this date.) (CBL)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
NORM LORAINE, LEE
ENTERPRISES MISSOURI, INC.,
ST. LOUIS POST DISPATCH, LLC,
Case No. 4:17 CV 1226 CDP
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Plaintiff Abu Al-Mumin has been employed by defendants Lee Enterprises
Missouri and the St. Louis Post Dispatch since 2001. Plaintiff is a union employee
represented by the Communication Workers of America, AFL-CIO, CLC, Local
14620, which is a party to a collective-bargaining agreement with the St. Louis
Post Dispatch. Plaintiff, an African American male, alleges race discrimination
under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) against his employer defendants
and his manager, defendant Norm Loraine. Plaintiff claims he was treated
differently in terms of his pay and work conditions on the basis of his race.
Plaintiff originally filed this lawsuit in Missouri state court. Defendants removed
the case under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, contending this Court has federal-question
jurisdiction because plaintiff’s MHRA claims are completely preempted by § 301
of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. §185. Defendants
maintain that plaintiff’s claims are preempted by the LMRA because they are
substantially dependent on an analysis of the collective-bargaining agreement
(CBA) governing the terms and conditions of plaintiff’s employment.
The matter is before me now on plaintiff’s motion to remand. Plaintiff
contends this case should be remanded as defendants do not meet their burden of
proof to show complete preemption by the LMRA. Plaintiff argues his claims do
not depend on the CBA, but arise out of the MHRA because they turn on the
motives and intentions of his employers. In opposition, defendants contend the
CBA controls plaintiff’s claims because it contains provisions addressing wages,
seniority and job tasks.
I conclude this case is about racial discrimination in violation of the MHRA.
Defendants have not shown that plaintiff’s claims are “inextricably intertwined”
with or substantially dependent on an analysis of the CBA. As defendants have not
met their burden to establish federal jurisdiction based on complete preemption by
the LMRA, I will grant plaintiff’s motion to remand.
As the parties removing this action, defendants have the burden of
establishing federal jurisdiction. McNutt v. Gen’l Motors Acceptance Corp., 298
U.S. 178, 189 (1936); Hartridge v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 415 F.2d 809,
814 (8th Cir. 1969); Sullivan v. First Affiliated Secs. Inc., 813 F.2d 1368 (9th Cir.
1987). Moreover, all doubts about removal must be resolved in favor of remand
because removal statutes are strictly construed against removal. See Shamrock Oil
and Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100 (1941); Hubbard v. Federated Mut. Ins.
Co., 799 F.3d 1224, 1227 (8th Cir. 2015). “If at any time before final judgment it
appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be
remanded.” State of Missouri ex rel. Pemiscot County, Missouri v. Western Sur.
Co., 51 F.3d 170, 173 (8th Cir. 1995); In re Business Men’s Assurance Co. of Am.,
922 F.2d 181, 183 (8th Cir. 1978) (per curiam).
A defendant may remove a civil action from state to federal court only if the
action originally could have been filed in federal district court. See 28 U.S.C. §
1441(a). “Absent diversity of citizenship, federal-question jurisdiction is
required.” Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). “The presence
or absence of federal-question jurisdiction is governed by the ‘well-pleaded
complaint rule,’ which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal
question is presented on the face of the plaintiff’s properly pleaded complaint.” Id.
This rule means plaintiffs generally may avoid federal jurisdiction if they rely
exclusively upon state law. Id. Furthermore, “[d]efendants are not permitted to
inject a federal question into an otherwise state law claim and thereby transform
the action into one arising under federal law.” Central Iowa Power Coop v.
Midwest Transmission System Operator, Inc., 561 F.3d 904, 912 (8th Cir. 2009)
(internal quotations and citations omitted).
The corollary to the well-pleaded complaint rule, however, is the “complete
preemption rule.” The complete preemption doctrine holds that when Congress
intends the preemptive force of a statute to be so extraordinary that it completely
preempts an area of state law, any claim purportedly based on that preempted state
law is considered from its inception, a federal claim, and therefore arises under
federal law. Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 393. The “complete preemption” rule applies
only in limited circumstances. Cochran v. Union Pac. R. Co., No. 10-0512-CVW-FJG, 2010 WL 3398841, at *1–2 (W.D. Mo. Aug. 23, 2010).
Plaintiff argues that his claims are not preempted by the LMRA because he
does not rely on rights created by the CBA or an interpretation of the CBA’s terms.
Section 301(a) provides that “[s]uits for violation of contracts between an
employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting
commerce ... may be brought in any district court of the United States having
jurisdiction of the parties.” 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). The Supreme Court has said that §
301(a) is “more than jurisdictional,” however, in that it “authorizes federal courts
to fashion a body of federal law for the enforcement of these collective bargaining
agreements.” Textile Workers Union of Am. v. Lincoln Mills of Ala., 353 U.S. 448,
[T]he subject matter of section 301(a) is peculiarly one that calls for uniform
law. The possibility that individual contract terms might have different
meanings under state and federal law would inevitably exert a disruptive
influence upon both the negotiation and administration of collective
agreements.... [W]e cannot but conclude that in enacting § 301 Congress
intended doctrines of federal labor law uniformly to prevail over inconsistent
Local 174, Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen & Helpers of Am. v. Lucas
Flour Co., 369 U.S. 95, 103-04, (1962) (internal quotation marks and citations
omitted). Accordingly, “[s]ection 301 governs claims founded directly on rights
created by collective-bargaining agreements, and also claims ‘substantially
dependent on analysis of a collective-bargaining agreement.’” Williams, 482 U.S.
at 394 (quoting Int’l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, AFL-CIO v. Hechler, 481 U.S. 851,
859 n.3 (1987)).
At dispute here is whether plaintiff’s racial discrimination claims against
defendants are substantially dependent on an analysis of the CBA, for if a state-law
claim is inextricably intertwined with consideration of the terms of the labor
contract, it is preempted. See Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 213,
(1985); Markham v. Wertin, 861 F.3d 748, 755 (8th Cir. 2017).
“The Supreme Court has underscored the point, however, that § 301 cannot
be read broadly to pre-empt nonnegotiable rights conferred on individual
employees as a matter of state law, and the Court has stressed that it is the legal
character of a claim, as independent of rights under the collective-bargaining
agreement … that decides whether a state cause of action may go forward.”
Markham, 861 F.3d at 755 (internal quotations and brackets omitted) (citing
Livadas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107, 123-24 (1994)). See Hawaiian Airlines v.
Norris, 512 U.S. 246, 260 (1994) (noting a state law cause of action is not
preempted by the LMRA if it involves rights and obligations independent of the
CBA). “When the meaning of contract terms is not the subject of dispute, mere
reference to or consultation of a CBA plainly does not require the claim to be
extinguished.” Markham, 861 F.3d at 755 (internal quotations and brackets
omitted) (citing Livadas, 512 U.S. at 124) ; Gore v. Trans World Airlines, 210 F.3d
944, 949 (8th Cir. 2000) (“mere need to reference or consult a collective
bargaining agreement during the course of state court litigation does not require
preemption”). Moreover, fact questions about an employer’s conduct and motives
do not “require a court to interpret any term of a collective-bargaining agreement.”
Hawaiian Airlines, 512 U.S. at 260 (internal quotation omitted); Thomas v. Union
Pacific Railway Co., 308 F.3d 891, 893 (8th Cir. 2002).
Plaintiff’s petition alleges that defendants discriminated against him on the
basis of his race in violation of the MHRA. Specifically, the petition states
defendants: “paid [plaintiff] less money than similarly situated non-African6
American employees who have less seniority,” gave him “less desirable tasks than
similarly situated non-African-American employees,” and “treated him unfairly.”
(ECF No. 5 at ¶¶ 7-9). Defendants argue that proving plaintiff’s claims requires
an analysis of CBA provisions addressing job classifications, eligibility for wages,
The mere need to reference the CBA in proving a claim, however, is
insufficient to confer federal jurisdiction. Here, despite citing specific provisions,
defendants establish nothing more than a tangential need to consult the CBA.
Defendants do not show that plaintiff is claiming that his rights under the CBA
were violated, nor have they shown that his discrimination claims depend on the
meaning of a CBA provision. Although the CBA contains general descriptions of
job classifications, wage schedules, and a reference to “priority” (which defendants
indicate has a similar meaning to the term “seniority” used by plaintiff), none of
the referenced provisions are “the subject of dispute.” See Markham, 861 F.3d at
Moreover, at no point in plaintiff’s petition does he reference his union
membership or any provision or term of the CBA. Instead, Plaintiff claims his
right to be protected from unfair treatment arises under state law and turns on the
conduct and intent of his employers. Defendants do not prove otherwise.
Accordingly, plaintiff’s allegations of racial discrimination are not “inextricably
intertwined” with or substantially dependent on the CBA and I will grant plaintiff's
motion to remand. However, I will decline plaintiff’s request for his attorney’s
fees and other expenses.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff’s motion to remand [#13] is
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that defendants’ request for oral argument
on plaintiff’s motion to remand is DENIED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this case is REMANDED to the Circuit
Court of St. Louis County, State of Missouri, from which it was removed.
CATHERINE D. PERRY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 16th day of October, 2017.
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