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Al-Mumin v. Loraine

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

October 16, 2017

ABU AL-MUMIN, Plaintiff,
v.
NORM LORAINE, LEE ENTERPRISES MISSOURI, INC., ST. LOUIS POST DISPATCH, LLC, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CATHERINE D. PERRY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         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.

         Standard

         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-CV-W-FJG, 2010 WL 3398841, at *1-2 (W.D. Mo. Aug. 23, 2010).

         Discussion

         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, 451, (1957).

[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 rules.

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. ...


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