BOONE v. LOCAL UNION 475 PIPEFITTERS/STEAMFITTERS et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Jose L. Linares on 12/16/16. (DD, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
CIVIL ACTION NO. 16-5482 (JLL)
LOCAL UNION 475 PIPEFITTERS/
STEAMFITTERS, et aL,
LINARES, District Judge
This action was removed to federal court from New Jersey state court, and there
are now two motions to dismiss pending. first, the defendants Local Union 475
Pipefitters/Steamfitters, Edward A. Fass, Bob Sherlock, and Michael Holsworth
(hereinafter, “the Union Defendants”) move pursuant to federal Rule of Civil Procedure
(hereinafter, “Rule”) 12(b)(6) to dismiss the portions of the plaintiffs seven claims that
are asserted against them, and argue that those claims are preempted and barred by
federal law. (See dkt. 11 through dkt.l 1-5; dkt. 20.)’ Second, the defendant Skanska
USA, Inc. (hereinafter, “Skanska”) moves pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) to dismiss the
This Court will refer to documents by the docket entry numbers and the page numbers
imposed by the Electronic Case Filing System.
portions of the plaintiffs two claims that are asserted against it, and argues that the
plaintiff fails to assert plausible claims. (See dkt. 12 through dkt. 12-7; dkt. 21 through
dkt. 2l3.)2 The plaintiff opposes both of those motions. (Sç dkt. 1$; dkt. 19.)
This Court will address this matter upon a review of the papers and without oral
argument. See LCiv.R. 78.1(b). This Court presumes that the parties are familiar with
the factual context and the procedural history of this action. For the following reasons,
this action is remanded to state court. See 28 U.S.C.
The plaintiff identifies herself as an African American, and alleges that she is a
pipefitter by trade. (See dkt. 18 at 8.) The plaintiff brought this action in state court
against the Union Defendants and Skanska to recover damages for alleged violations of
the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (hereinafter, “NJLAD”). (çç dkt. I at 7—
The plaintiff alleges that while she was employed by Skanska, her fellow Union
members subjected her to the following egregious conduct that constituted racial, sexual,
and gender discrimination: a noose was hung near the area where she took her lunch
break; garbage was swept under her chair; her tools were knocked over; sexuallyoffensive comments were directed at her while she was on the job; and she was called a
The plaintiff has voluntarily dismissed five of her seven claims insofar as those claims
were asserted against Skanska. (See dkt. 22.) Furthermore, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed
her claims that were asserted against the defendant Hess Construction USA, Inc., before this
action was removed to federal court. (See dkt. 18 at 7.)
slur that made reference to her race and gender. In addition, the plaintiff alleges that the
Union and Skanska’s Human Resources Department failed to adequately remedy this
ongoing discrimination when she complained about it. Furthermore, the plaintiff alleges
that the Union acted in a discriminatory manner when assigning jobs by unjustifiably
skipping over her based upon her race and gender, and that Skanska allowed this
discriminatory conduct to occur.
The Union Defendants and Skanska removed this action to federal court. (See dkt.
1 at 1—4.) They argue that the plaintiffs claims are completely preempted by Section 301
of the Labor Management Relations Act (hereinafter, “LMRA”), 29 U.S.C.
in their view
the plaintiff alleges violations of the duty of fair
representation and a breach of the relevant collective bargaining agreement (hereinafter,
“CBA”), and thus the plaintiffs claims will require interpretations of the CBA. (See dkt.
The Union Defendants and Skanska also argue that the plaintiffs allegations
concern unfair labor practices that are preempted by the National Labor Relations Act
(hereinafter, “NLRA”). (Id.) This is known as Gannon preemption, which stands for the
proposition that federal law preempts state law when the activity that the state law
purports to regulate is actually regulated by the NLRA, or the conduct at issue constitutes
an unfair labor practice under the NLRA. See San Diego Bldg. Trades Council v.
Garmon, 359 U.S. 236 (1959); see also Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef. Inc., 486
U.S. 399, 408—10 (1988) (discussing and reiterating the holding in Garmon).
However, this Court’s review of the complaint and the papers filed in relation to
the two pending motions reveals that the plaintiffs claims are bereft of any allegations
concerning the duty of fair representation or a breach of the CBA. In fact, the plaintiffs
claims in the complaint are limited to alleged violations of the NJLAD by the defendants.
(See dkt. 1 at 16—24.)
Under the well-pleaded complaint rule, a party bringing a claim is “the master of
the claim.” Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). When a complaint
asserts only a cause of action under state law, the mere possibility that issues of federal
law may be involved will not alone suffice to create federal subject-matter jurisdiction.
See Franchise Tax Bd. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 9—12 (1983).
The complete-preemption doctrine is an exception to the well-pleaded complaint
the preemptive force of a [federal] statute is so extraordinary that it
converts an ordinary state common-law complaint into one stating a
federal claim for purposes of the well-pleaded complaint rule.
an area of state law has been completely pre-empted, any claim
purportedly based on that pre-empted state law is considered, from its
inception, a federal claim, and therefore arises under federal law.
Caterpillar Inc., 482 U.S. at 393 (citations and quotation marks omitted).
However, a plaintiffs claim that is asserted pursuant to state law is not completely
preempted by the LMRA if that claim requires no interpretation of a CBA, even if a court
may refer to the CBA when addressing that claim. See Lingle, 486 U.S. at 407—13. As
for a claim asserted under the NJLAD, it is now well-settled law that a CBA “is neither
the source of the plaintiffs claim, nor a document that needs to be consulted to resolve
[the] plaintiffs cause of action.” Kube v. New Penn Motor Express, Inc., 865 F.Supp.
221, 228 (D.N.J. 1994). This is so because “both the existence and the scope of
plaintiffs state law discrimination claims under the NJLAD are derived independently
from state law, and not from the obligations assumed by the parties under [a CBA].”
Carrington v. RCA Global Conrnic’ns, Inc., 762 F.Supp. 632, 641 (D.N.J. 1991).
It is apparent that the plaintiffs claims in this action are not completely preempted
by the LMRA, because the plaintiff seeks damages under the NJLAD only.
v. Viii. Super Mkt., Inc., 926 f.Supp. 476, 478—80 (D.N.J. 1996) (remanding an action to
state court wherein the plaintiff asserted NJLAD claims against the employer and the
union, and rejecting the notion that it was implicit to the plaintiffs allegations that the
union breached its duties to the plaintiff under the CBA); Carrington, 762 F.Supp. at
640—42, 646 (remanding the NJLAD claim brought against the employer and the union);
see also Patterson v. Exxon Mobil Corp., 262 F.Supp.2d 453, 464—66 (D.N.J. 2003)
(remanding the NJLAD action); Naples v. N.J. Sports & Exposition Auth., 102 F.Supp.2d
550, 552—55 (D.N.J. 2000) (remanding the NJLAD action); Kube, 865 F.Supp. at 228—30
(remanding the NJLAD action).
Indeed, if the mere possibility that this Court might need to refer to the terms of a
CBA were to give rise to federal jurisdiction over the plaintiffs NJLAD claims, then “all
discrimination actions brought by unionized employees would be preempted because the
starting point for every case would have to be the [CBA].” Coefield v. Jersey Cent.
Power & Light Co., 532 F.Supp.2d 685, 697 n.8 (D.N.J. 2007); see Sealy v. Verizon
Commc’ns, Inc., No. 13-7461, 2014 WL 7331950, at *3 (D.N.J. Dec. 15, 2014) (holding
the same in remanding an action to state court wherein the plaintiff asserted NJLAD
claims). Such a result would be contrary to controlling federal law, because NJLAD
claims “do not require an analysis of the terms of employment but rather the motivations
behind [the defendants’ conduct].” Montana v. Acra Turf Club, LLC, No. 11-1394, 2011
WL 4703068, at *3 (D.N.J. Oct. 4, 2011) (remanding an action wherein the plaintiff
brought NJLAD claims in state court, and the employer and the union had removed to
federal court by arguing that the claims were preempted by the LMRA); çç Scott v.
Sysco Food Serv. of Metro N.Y., L.L.C., No. 07-3656, 2007 WL 3170121, at *6_7
(D.N.J. Oct. 26, 2007) (holding the same in remanding to state court an action wherein
the plaintiff asserted NJLAD claims).
Furthermore, the holding under Garmon may provide for a preemption defense to
the plaintiffs claims alleging violations of the NJLAD, but Ganuon does not provide for
the complete preemption by the NLRA of those claims. çç Caterpillar Inc., 482 U.S. at
392—93; Gulick v. Ferreira Constr. Co., No. 06-4069, 2007 WL 602440, at *2 (D.N.J.
Feb. 22, 2007). Indeed, the “NLRA.
do[es] not completely preempt state law and thus
provide[s] no basis for removal jurisdiction.” Briones v. Bon Secours Health Sys., 69
Fed.Appx. 530, 534—35 (3d Cir. 2003) (citation and quotation marks omitted). Even
though the Union Defendants and Skanska may choose to avail themselves of a Ganuon
preemption defense to the plaintiffs allegations upon the remand of this action to state
court, “[s]uch preemption.. is not the type of complete preemption that would provide
Defendants with a basis for federal question jurisdiction.” Kline v. Security Guards, Inc.,
386 F.3d 246, 262—63 (3d Cir. 2004) (emphasis in the original).
Therefore, this Court concludes that the defendants improperly removed this
action based upon the LMRA and the NLRA, because this action “falls squarely in line
with cases in this District that have repeatedly held that state discrimination laws are
generally not preempted by federal labor law.” Smith v. Silgan Containers Mfg. Corp.,
No. 15-7871, 2016 WL 3450811, at *4 (D.N.J. June 15, 2016) (citations and quotation
marks omitted) (remanding the NJLAD action to state court that was removed by the
employer, because the action was not completely preempted). As a result, the proper
course for this Court to take at this juncture is to remand this action and to permit the
state court to detennine if the plaintiffs claims are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the
National Labor Relations Board. See Ethridge v. Harbor House Rest., 861 f.2d 1389,
1397—1401 (9th Cir. 198$) (discussing the impact of the holding in Garmon); see also
Briones, 69 Fed.Appx. at 535; Kline, 386 F.3d at 263; Gulick, 2007 WL 602440, at *2.
Furthermore, any arguments concerning the statute of limitations or the failure to exhaust
remedies that are related to the LMRA or the NLRA should be raised by the defendants
as defenses in state court.
This Court notes that the plaintiff addresses the issue of the lack of complete
preemption in her papers, and even goes so far as to cite the case law demonstrating that
this action should be remanded, but does not specifically seek to remand this action to
state court. (See, e.g., dkt. 18 at 21 (the plaintiff arguing that her “[NJLAD] claims of
race and sex discrimination are independent from the collective bargaining agreement”);
see, e.g., id. at 2 5—27 (the plaintiff arguing that her NJLAD claims are not completely
preempted by federal law, and citing the following cases cited above: Gulick v. Ferreira
Const. Co., No. 06-4069, 2007 WL 602440 (D.N.J. Feb. 22, 2007), Patterson v. Exxon
Mobil Corp., 262 F.$upp.2d 453 (D.N.J. 2003), and Carrington v. RCA Global
Coinrnc’ns, Inc., 762 F.Supp. 632 (D.N.J. 1991)).) However, this Court is nevertheless
authorized to remand this action based upon those arguments that were raised by the
plaintiff See 28 U.S.C.
1447(c); see Coefield, 532 F.Supp.2d at 695—700 (in an action
wherein the plaintiff asserted NJLAD claims in state court, and the employer removed to
federal court under the LMRA, the action was remanded based upon the plaintiffs
responsive arguments to the employer’s summary judgment motion, even though the
plaintiff did not specifically move for remand); see also Malanga v. State Farm Ins. Co.,
No. 13-7712, 2014 WL 4244234, at *1 (D.N.J. Aug.26, 2014) (remanding an action to
state court for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction based upon the arguments raised by the
plaintiff in response to the defendant’s motion to dismiss, even though the plaintiff did
not move for remand).
The plaintiffs NJLAD claims in this action are not completely preempted by
federal law. Thus, this Court is compelled to remand this action to state court.
In doing so, this Court will administratively tenninate the motions that are pending
in this action without prejudice, in order to pennit the defendants to renew their
arguments in state court. This Court will issue an appropriate order.
nited States District Judge
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