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Curry v. Kraft Foods Global

October 25, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Virginia M. Kendall


Plaintiffs Christine Curry, Todd Schiltz, Anthony Thompson, David Lenoci, Thomas Sheridan, Terry T. Gibson, Margaret Key, Felix Kaskie, Estela Diehl, and Robert Kmiecik (collectively "Plaintiffs"), on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, brought this class action suit against Kraft Foods Global, Inc. ("Kraft" or "Defendant") for failing to pay Plaintiffs for time spent donning and doffing protective equipment before and after their work shift. Plaintiffs claim that Kraft violated the Illinois Minimum Wage Act (Count I) and the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (Count II). Plaintiffs move for the Court to remand the case to the Circuit Court of DuPage County because the state wage claims are not preempted by federal law, and therefore this Court does not have federal jurisdiction. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand.


Plaintiffs are employees of Kraft's Naperville, Illinois facility. In performing their duties they are required to wear personal protective equipment. It takes some time to put on and take off the protective equipment at the beginning and end of the day. Plaintiffs claim that Kraft has not counted the donning and doffing as part of their "Work Time." Plaintiffs claim they are entitled to receive payment for this "Work Time" and assert that Kraft is liable under two statutes: the Illinois Minimum Wage Law ("IMWL"), 820 ILCS 105/1 et seq. and the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act ("IWPCA"), 820 ILCS 115/1 et seq. The issue is whether two federal statutes-section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA") and section 203(o) of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA")-preempt these two state law claims. When the Plaintiffs initially filed their Motion to Remand, there was a case pending in the Seventh Circuit, Spoerle v. Kraft Foods Global, Inc., 614 F.3d 427 (7th Cir. 2010), involving issues similar to those in this case so the Court stayed briefing until the Seventh Circuit decided Spoerle.


A defendant can remove a case from state court to a federal district court if the district court has original jurisdiction over the matter. 28 U.S.C. § 1441; Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). The party seeking removal has the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction. Brill v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 427 F.3d 446, 447 (7th Cir. 2005). After a case is removed, but before the court renders a final judgment, if it "appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case should be remanded" back to state court. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). "When ruling on a motion to remand, '[c]courts should interpret the removal statute narrowly and presume that the plaintiff may choose his or her forum,' with any doubt resolved in favor of remand." See, e.g., Coake v. State Farm Ins. Co., 09-cv-353, 2010 WL 2545162, at *3 (N.D. Ind. May 28, 2010) (quoting Doe v. Allied-Signal Inc., 985 F.2d 908, 911 (7th Cir. 1993)).


Plaintiffs' Motion for Remand claims there is no preemption based on FLSA section 203(o) or LMRA section 301. If neither of these federal statutes preempt Plaintiffs' state law wage and hour claims, there is no basis for federal jurisdiction the Court must remand the case back to the Circuit Court of DuPage Court.

I. Fair Labor Standards Act Section 203(o)

The Plaintiff claims that Spoerle v. Kraft Foods Global, Inc., where the Seventh Circuit recently held that section 203(o) does not preempt Wisconsin wage and hour laws, applies directly to this case. 614 F.3d 427 (7th Cir. 2010). While the general rule is that the FLSA requires employers to pay workers for time spent donning and doffing protective equipment, FLSA section 203(o) allows for management and the union to enter into a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") that excludes from "Hours Worked" any time spent "changing clothes." See 29 U.S.C. § 203(o).

In a preemption analysis, Congress' intent governs but there is the assumption that Congress does not intend to interfere with a state's police power to improve the welfare of its citizens. Wyeth v. Levine, 129 S.Ct. 1187, 1994-95 (2009). This assumption is especially strong when Congress passes legislation in an area such as labor law that has historically been occupied by the states. Altria Group, Inc. v. Good, 129 S.Ct. 538, 543 (2008); see, e.g., Spoerle v. Kraft Foods Global, Inc., 626 F. Supp. 2d 913, 919 (W.D. Wisc. 2009). The general purpose of the FLSA is to correct "labor conditions detrimental to the maintenance of the minimum standard of living necessary for health, efficiency, and general well-being of workers." 29 U.S.C. § 202. Further, section 218(a) of the FLSA shows Congress' intent to leave more charitable state wage and hour laws unaffected by federal statutes: "No provision of this chapter . . . shall excuse noncompliance with any Federal or State law or municipal ordinance establishing a minimum wage higher than the minimum wage established under this chapter or a maximum work week lower than the maximum workweek established under this chaper." 29 U.S.C. § 218(a). As such, if the state law establishes a higher minimum wage or lower maximum work week than federal law, such a law would facilitate not hinder Congress' goals under the FLSA.

The constitutional basis for federal preemption is the Supremacy Clause, which states, "[T]he Laws of the United States . . .shall be the supreme Law of the Land[.]" U.S. CONST. art. VI, cl. 2.

Federal preemption can exist in three forms. First, under express preemption, "Congress clearly declares its intention to preempt state law." Mason v. SmithKline Beecham Corp., 596 F.3d 387, 390 (7th Cir. 2010). Second, under implied preemption, the "'structure and purpose' of federal law shows Congress's intent to preempt state law." Id. Third, under conflict preemption, there is "an actual conflict between state and federal law such that it is impossible for a person to obey both." Id.

The Illinois laws at issue here, the IMWL and IWPCA, are wage and hour laws. The IMWL establishes the minimum wage at $8.25 an hour but expressly states that it does not amend or rescind any other state laws that provide more favorable minimum wage or maximum hour standards. See 820 ILCS 105/4, 105/13. Likewise, the IMWL does not "in any way diminish the right of employees to bargain collectively with their employers through representatives of their own choosing in order to establish wages or other conditions of work in excess of the applicable minimum standards of the provisions of this Act. 820 ILCS 105/14 (emphasis added). The IWPCA controls the pay periods for wages, and also allows the parties to collectively bargain the date and arrangements for the payment of wages. 820 ILCS 115/4. The federal counterpart to these ...

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