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Campbell v. Challenge MFG. Co., LLC

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

July 2, 2018

CHALLENGE MFG. COMPANY, LLC, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs Motion to Remand (ECF No. 14). This matter is fully briefed and ready for disposition.


         Removal statutes are strictly construed, and any doubts about the correctness of removal are resolved in favor of state court jurisdiction and remand. See Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 108-09 (1941); In re Bus. Men's Assurance Co. of Am., 992 F.2d 181, 183 (8th Cir. 1993); Manning v. Wal-Mart Stores East, Inc., 304 F.Supp.2d 1146, 1148 (E.D. Mo. 2004) (citing Transit Cas. Co. v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's of London, 119 F.3d 619, 625 (8th Cir. 1997)). The party seeking removal and opposing remand has the burden of establishing jurisdiction. Cent. Iowa Power Coop. v. Midwest Indep. Transmission Sys. Operator, 561 F.3d 904, 912 (8th Cir. 2009); City of Univ. City, Missouri v. AT & T Wireless Services, Inc., 229 F.Supp.2d 927, 929 (E.D. Mo. 2002).

         A civil action brought in state court may be removed to the proper district court if the district court has original jurisdiction of the action. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Federal district courts have original jurisdiction in all civil actions between citizens of different states if the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00, exclusive of interest and costs. Manning, 304 F.Supp.2d at 1148 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1)).


         Plaintiff Derrick Campbell ("Plaintiff or "Campbell") originally filed this case in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, alleging that he was terminated by Defendant Challenge Manufacturing Company, LLC[1] in violation of Section 287.780, R.S. Mo. in retaliation for exercising his worker's compensation rights. (Petition, ECF No. 6). Campbell alleges that he worked as a temporary employee and then as a full-time, unionized employee (Petition, ¶3). Campbell asserts he was terminated because he exceeded the allowed number of absences. (Petition, ¶5). Campbell claims that his absences were mere pretext for Challenge's decision to terminate him for filing his worker's compensation claim. (Petition, ¶6).

         On January 19, 2018, Challenge removed this action to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§1331, 1367, 1441, and 1446. (ECF No. 1). Challenge claims that Campbell's state law claims are completely preempted under Section 301 of the Labor Relations Management Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185(a) and give rise to federal question jurisdiction in this Court. (ECF No. 1, ¶10).[2]


         I. Preemption under the Labor Management Relations Act

         As stated, Challenge removed this action, arguing that Campbell's suit was preempted by the LMRA, because resolution of Campbell's claim depends on interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") regarding attendance. To determine whether Campbell's claim is preempted, the Court must evaluate whether interpretation of a specific provision of the CBA is required, or if the claim is inextricably intertwined with the CBA. Dunn v. Astaris, LLC, 292 Fed.Appx. 525, 526-27 (8th Cir. 2008) (citing Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 405-06, 410, 108 S.Ct. 1877, 100 L.Ed.2d 410 (1988) (there is no preemption unless state-law claim itself is based on, or is dependent on analysis of, relevant CBA); Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 213, 105 S.Ct. 1904, 85 L.Ed.2d 206 (1985) (if state law claim is based on CBA or is "inextricably intertwined" with contents of CBA, claim is subject to § 301 preemption).

         The Court's analysis begins with what Campbell must prove to be successful. "[T]o make a submissible case for retaliatory discharge under section 287.780, an employee must demonstrate his or her filing of a workers' compensation claim was a 'contributing factor' to the employer's discrimination or the employee's discharge." Templemire v. W & M Welding, Inc., 433 S.W.3d 371, 373 (Mo. 2014).

         Challenge claims that Campbell's lawsuit is preempted because "the fact finder [must] interpret his collective-bargaining agreement, decide whether [Defendant] violated or followed the section about absences, and then conclude whether any deviation from the CBA proves retaliation." (Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1, ¶12). Challenge argues that this Court must look at the attendance section of the CBA to determine which absences Challenge was allowed to count under the contract. Challenge argues that this case is similar to that Davis v. Johnson Controls, Inc., 21 F.3d 866 (8th Cir. 1994). (ECF No. 15 at 4). In that case, plaintiff Larry Davis was terminated for after he injured his back and was unable to work. Id. at 867. After Davis's back improved, Johnson refused to allow Davis to return. Id. Davis brought a disability discrimination claim under the Missouri Human Rights Act ("MHRA") against Johnson Controls, Inc. ("Johnson"). Id. Johnson argued that Davis's claim was preempted because his prima facie case involved interpreting the CBA between Johnson and the union representing Johnson's employees. Id., at 868. Johnson contended that its assessment as to whether it could have reasonably accommodated Davis's disability required "reviewing Johnson's obligations under the collective-bargaining agreement and, consequently, interpreting the provisions of the agreement relating to seniority rights." Id., at 868. The Eighth Circuit found that, even if Davis was correct that the CBA allowed for transfer without alteration of seniority rights, then his claims would "perforce require interpretation of the agreement" and, therefore, his claim was preempted. Id. Thus, in the Davis case, reasonable accommodation was central to a discrimination claim under the MHRA.

         Guided by the Eighth Circuit, the Court holds that Campbell's action for wrongful termination based upon a worker's compensation claim is not completely preempted by the LMRA and therefore this Court does not have removal jurisdiction. See Humphrey v. Sequentia, Inc.,58 F.3d 1238, 1244 (8th Cir. 1995). The present controversy primarily concerns the conduct of the parties and their motivation for Campbell's termination. Id. Campbell alleges that Defendant's reason for terminating Campbell's employment was pretextual to "hide the fact that the filing of the worker's compensation claim was a contributing factor in Defendant's decision to retaliate against Plaintiff by terminating his employment." (Petition, ECF No. 6, ΒΆ6). "[P]urely factual questions' about an employee's conduct or an employer's conduct and motives do not 'requir[e] a court to interpret any term of a collective ...

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