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HARRIS v. UNION PAC. R.R.

February 7, 1997

PAULA HARRIS and KIM WALTON, Plaintiffs,
v.
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ALESIA

 This matter is before the court on defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for lack of jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). For the reasons discussed hereafter, defendant's motion is granted.

 I. BACKGROUND

 Plaintiffs Paula Harris and Kim Walton are employed by defendant Union Pacific Railroad ("Union Pacific") as customer service representatives. Prior to their employment with Union Pacific, plaintiffs were employed by the Chicago and Northwestern Railway Company ("CNW"). CNW recently merged with Union Pacific; Union Pacific was the surviving company. The merger was approved by the Interstate Commerce Commission ("ICC"). *fn1"

 As a result of the merger, Union Pacific offered a "separation program" to eligible clerical employees who did not want to relocate to other locations. The separation program was limited to a maximum of 300 employees -- preference determined by seniority dates. The separation program was part of the "implementing agreement" negotiated between Union Pacific, CNW, and the Transportation Communications International Union. *fn2" Pursuant to the terms of the separation program, in exchange for their resignation, eligible employees could elect a lump sum payment of $ 60,000.

 At the time the notice was posted, plaintiffs were on maternity leave. Nevertheless, plaintiffs submitted application forms for the separation program. Because they were on maternity leave, they did not qualify as "active employees," thus, their applications were denied.

 Plaintiffs filed a four-count complaint alleging that Union Pacific's act of denying their applications for the separation program because they were on maternity leave violated: Count I - the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq.; Count II - the Pregnancy Discrimination Act ("PDA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k); and Count III the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et. seq. In Count IV, Harris brings a breach of contract action against Union Pacific.

 II. DISCUSSION

 Union Pacific seeks dismissal of Counts I through IV on the ground that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the counts. The court will analyze the dispute in two parts: the first part will be concerned with Counts I through III (the FMLA, the PDA, and the ERISA claims); the second part will be concerned with Count IV (Harris' breach of contract claim).

 A. The FMLA, the PDA, and the ERISA (Counts I, II, and III)

 Because the merger was of the type approved by the ICC, Union Pacific argues, citing 49 U.S.C. § 11341(a), *fn3" that all questions relating to the merger rest in the exclusive jurisdiction of the ICC. Further, Union Pacific argues that the separation program was incident and necessary to the ICC approved merger; accordingly, any questions regarding the program should be brought pursuant to the arbitration procedures (outlined in the "Master Merger Implementing Agreement") before the ICC.

 Plaintiffs, relying on the plain language of § 11341(a), argue that the ICC has jurisdiction only over questions that are "necessary to let [the] person carry out the [approved merger] transaction." Since the applicability of the FMLA, the PDA, and the ERISA in the instant situation is not necessary to carry out the approved merger transaction, plaintiffs argue ...


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