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Anderson v. Holten Meat

December 8, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, Chief Judge


I. Introduction

This matter comes before the Court on plaintiff Charles Anderson's Motion to Remand (Doc. 11) and supporting memorandum (Doc. 12), to which defendant Holten Meat, Inc., has filed its opposing Response (Doc. 15) and Plaintiff has thereafter replied (Doc. 17). Plaintiff brings this suit against Defendant, his former employer, alleging that Defendant terminated him in retaliation for exercising his rights under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act after he was injured on the job, which is in violation of public policy (Doc. 2, Ex. 1 - Complaint). Plaintiff originally filed his Complaint in the Circuit Court of St. Clair County, Illinois. Defendants timely removed this matter (Doc. 2) on the basis of federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, asserting that Plaintiff's claim is specifically preempted § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185, as its resolution would require the Court to interpret certain provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") made between Defendant and the United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local #655.

As discussed herein, because the Court finds that Plaintiff's retaliatory discharge claim does not require interpretation of the CBA, the case should be remanded.

II. Discussion

A. Legal Standard

1. Removal

The removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441, is construed narrowly, and doubts concerning removal are resolved in favor of remand. Doe v. Allied-Signal, Inc., 985 F.2d 908, 911 (7th Cir. 1993).The removing party bears the burden of presenting evidence of federal jurisdiction once the existence of that jurisdiction is fairly cast into doubt. See In re Brand Name Prescription Drugs Antitrust Litig., 123 F.3d 599, 607 (7th Cir. 1997). "A defendant meets this burden by supporting [its] allegations of jurisdiction with 'competent proof,' which in [the Seventh Circuit] requires the defendant to offer evidence which proves 'to a reasonable probability that jurisdiction exists.'" Chase v. Shop 'N Save Warehouse Foods, Inc., 110 F.3d 424, 427 (7th Cir. 1997) (citations omitted). However, if the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the action must be remanded to state court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).

2. Section 301 Preemption

Under the "well-pleaded complaint rule," it must be evident from the face of a properly pleaded complaint that a federal question is at issue; only this will give rise to federal-question jurisdiction. Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392-93 (1987) (a case may not be removed to federal court merely when a federal defense to a plaintiff's claims exists). However, although a plaintiff is considered the "master of the claim," the law will not allow a plaintiff to "artfully plead[]... a federal claim solely in terms of state law," in an attempt to avoid federal jurisdiction. See id., see also Tifft v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 366 F.3d 513, 516 (7th Cir. 2004) (citing Franchise Tax Bd. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 22 (1983)). The one exception or "'independent corollary'" to the well-pleaded complaint rule, therefore, is known as the "'complete preemption doctrine.'" Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 393 (quoting Franchise Tax Bd., 463 U.S. at 22). When "the preemptive force of a statute is so 'extraordinary' that it 'converts an ordinary state common-law complaint into one stating a federal claim,'" complete preemption occurs. Id. (quoting Metropolitan Life Ins. Co.v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 65 (1987)). Thus, once a particular area of state law becomes completely preempted, any claim brought pursuant to that state law will instead be considered a federal claim arising under federal law. Id. (citing Franchise Tax Bd., 463 U.S. at 24 ("'[I]f a federal cause of action completely preempts a state cause of action any complaint that comes within the scope of the federal cause of action necessarily 'arises under' federal law'").

Recognizing the importance of uniformity in labor law, § 301 of the LMRA provides federal jurisdiction for all "suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce...." See 29 U.S.C. § 185(a); see also Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 403 (1988); Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 393-94 (citing Avco Corp. v. Machinists, 376 F.2d 337 (6th Cir. 1967), aff'd, 390 U.S. 557, 558 (1968)(" when '[t]he heart of the [state-law] complaint [is] a... clause in the collective bargaining agreement, that complaint arises under federal law....'")(alterations in original)). In turn, courts have interpreted § 301 as means of providing federal-court jurisdiction over suits involving collective-bargaining agreements." Lingle, 486 U.S. at 403 (citing Textile Workers v. Lincoln Mills, 353 U.S. 448, 451 (1957)). Concurrent jurisdiction over § 301 claims lies with state courts, but federal law must be applied no matter the forum. Id. at 403, n.2.

A § 301 claim may be brought when the issues deal directly with "rights created by collective-bargaining agreements" or when the issues are "'substantially dependent on analysis of a collective-bargaining agreement.'" Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 394 (quoting Electrical Workers v. Hechler, 481 U.S. 851, 859, n.3 (1987)). Given the doctrine of complete preemption, any state claim also dealing with the aforementioned issues will be completely preempted by § 301 of the LMRA. See Tifft, 366 F.3d at 516 (citing Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S., 202, 220 (1985)). Yet, if a state law claim merely references a collective-bargaining agreement, but does not require the Court to analyze its provisions to resolve the underlying issues of the state law claim, § 301 preemption will likely not apply. Id. (citing Livadas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107, 117-18 (1994)). In this case, Defendant contends Plaintiff's Complaint is completely preempted by § 301.

B. Analysis

Even though Plaintiff has brought his claim pursuant to the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act, 820 ILL.COMP.STAT. 305/4(h), removal of this action will be deemed appropriate if the Court determines Plaintiff's claim requires an interpretation of the CBA. In turn, if the Court determines Defendant has not met its burden of showing that analyzing provisions of the CBA is a necessary step in resolving Plaintiff's claim, then ...

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