United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
DAVID JOHNSON, individually and on behalf of a class of similarly situated individuals, Plaintiff,
UNITED AIR LINES, INC., a Delaware corporation, and UNITED CONTINENTAL HOLDINGS, INC., a Delaware corporation, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Virginia M. Kendall, Judge
United Air Lines, Inc., and United Continental Holdings,
Inc., (collectively "United") utilized Plaintiff
David Johnson's fingerprints to track when he signed in
and out of work as a baggage handler at O'Hare
International Airport. Johnson sued United in state court on
behalf of himself and others similarly situated for
violations of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act
("BIPA"), 740 ILCS 14 §§ 1, et
seq. United removed the case to federal court and has
since filed a Motion to Dismiss or Strike the Class
Allegations. See (Dkt. No. 19). Also pending is a
Motion to Remand the matter to state court filed by Johnson.
See (Dkt. No. 23). The Court grants the Motion to
Dismiss. [19.] Johnson's Motion to Remand is dismissed as
is an Illinois citizen who worked as a baggage handler for
United at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. (Dkt.
No. 1, ¶ 18; Dkt. No. 1-1, at 33.) Both United
defendants are citizens of Delaware and Illinois. (Dkt. No.
1, ¶¶ 20-21.) The International Association of
Machinists and Aerospace Workers ("IAMAW")
represents Johnson and other United employees for
establishing a collective bargaining agreement with United.
(Dkt. No. 1-2, at Ex. 2) (Decl. of Dortoa Karpierz).
collective bargaining agreement ("CBA"), which both
parties attached to their pleadings, governs the terms and
conditions of employment between Johnson and United.
See (Dkt. No. 1-2, at 6-13; Dkt. No. 20-2, Ex. A.)
The CBA utilizes a three-step grievance and arbitration
process in circumstances where an employee "believes
that the Company has ... interpreted or applied the Agreement
[improperly], [then] the complaint should be settled at the
lowest possible level based upon the facts and common sense
under the [set forth] procedures." (Dkt. No. 1-2, at 9.)
The CBA also provides that "[United] has the sole and
exclusive right to manage, operate, and maintain the
efficiency of the business and working forces,"
including the right to "maintain discipline and
efficiency in the Company's facilities" and "to
determine the type and location of facilities [and] equipment
... the Company will utilize." See (Dkt. No.
20-1, Ex. A at 14) (Art. 10 of the CBA). The CBA further
states that if the grievance procedure does not result in
settlement then the matter goes to arbitration before the
System Board of Adjustment. (Dkt. No. 1-2, at 11.)
the auspices of the CBA, United uses fingerprint technology
as a means for its employees to "clock-in" and
"clock-out" of work every day, and so they require
fingerprint scans as a condition of employment. (Dkt. No.
1-1, at ¶ 21.) When employees arrive for work they swipe
their fingerprint as a means of clocking in and out and for
timekeeping purposes. Id. ¶¶ 28-31. In
collecting the fingerprint data of its employees, United did
not obtain employee consent for any transmission to third
parties of their employees' biometric information.
Id. ¶¶ 32-34.
objects to United's collection and use of biometric
information so he filed this lawsuit in state court alleging
a violation of BIP A on behalf of a class of plaintiffs all
of whom had their fingerprints scanned and stored by United
for the purpose of timekeeping. See generally (Dkt.
No. 1-1) (Plaintiffs Motion for Class Certification and
Complaint filed in state court). United removed the matter to
the United States District Court for the Northern District of
Illinois alleging federal question jurisdiction pursuant to
the Railway Labor Act; and because the Class Action Fairness
Act permits removal to federal court of any class action suit
where there exists minimal diversity. (Dkt. No. 1, at 3-9.)
United now moves for dismissal of the complaint for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction because the RLA preempts
resolution of the BIPA claim. (Dkt. No. 20.) Johnson disputes
removal of this lawsuit to federal court and requests that
the Court remand the matter back to the Circuit Court of Cook
County, Illinois. (Dkt. No. 23.)
the Court can review any substantive arguments, it must first
examine the basis for federal jurisdiction. Aaron v.
Mahl, 550 F.3d. 659, 662 (7th Cir. 2008); State of
Illinois v. City of Chicago, 137 F.3d 474, 478 (7th Cir.
1998) ("[s]ubject-matter jurisdiction is the first
question in every case, and if the court concludes that it
lacks jurisdiction it must proceed no further"). When
reviewing for dismissal based on lack of subject matter
jurisdiction a district court must accept as true all
well-pleaded factual allegations and draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Evers v.
Astrue, 546 F.3d 651 (7th Cir. 2008). However, where the
complaint is facially sufficient "but external facts
call the court's jurisdiction into question, [the
district court] 'may look beyond the jurisdictional
allegations of the complaint and view whatever evidence has
been submitted on the issue to determine whether in fact
subject matter jurisdiction exists.'" Taylor v.
McCament, 875 F.3d 849, 853 (7th Cir. 2017) (quoting
Apex Digital, Inc. v. Sears, Roebuck &
Co., 572 F.3d 440, 444 (7th Cir. 2009). The plaintiff
bears the burden of establishing that subject matter
jurisdiction exists in the face of a 12(b)(1) motion.
Ctr. for Dermatology & Skin Cancer, Ltd. v.
Burwell, 770 F.3d 586, 588-89 (7th Cir. 2014).
passed the Railway Labor Act ("RLA") to
"promote stability in labor-management relations by
providing a comprehensive framework for resolving labor
disputes." Hawaiian Airlines, Inc. v. Norris,
512 U.S. 246, 252 (1994) (citing Atchison, T. &
S.F.R. Co. v. Buell, 480 U.S. 557, 562 (1987). In doing
so, the RLA establishes "a mandatory arbitral mechanism
for 'the prompt and orderly settlement'" of
major and minor disputes. Id.; see also 45 U.S.C.
§ 151a. Major disputes are those that create contractual
rights, such as "rates of pay, rules or working
conditions," while minor disputes "grow out of
grievances or out of the interpretation or application of
agreements covering rates of pay, rules, or working
conditions." Hawaiian, 512 U.S. at 252-53.
argues that Johnson's BIPA claim is a "minor
dispute" of the CBA between United and the IAMAW under
the RLA, which therefore preempts the BIPA claim and warrants
dismissal. (Dkt. No. 20, at 5-9.) A plaintiffs claim is
properly characterized as a minor dispute (and is therefore
subject to mandatory and exclusive arbitration under the RLA)
when the resolution of the plaintiffs claim requires
interpretation of the CBA. See Coker v. Trans World
Airlines, Inc., 165 F.3d 579, 583 (7th Cir. 1999)
(stating that "the distinguishing feature of a minor
dispute is that the dispute can be conclusively resolved by
interpreting the existing CBA."). "All minor
disputes must be adjudicated under RLA mechanisms, which
include an employer's internal dispute-resolution
procedures and an adjustment board established by the unions
and the employer." Brown v. III. Cent. R.R.
Co., 254 F.3d 654, 658 (7th Cir. 2001) (quoting
Monroe v. Missouri Pac. R.R. Co., 115 F.3d 514, 516
(7th Cir. 1997) (internal quotations omitted). Success on
this theory requires that United show that a claim under BIPA
is impossible because the RLA "so occupies the field
that state law is 'completely preempted' and that any
claim must rest on federal law." Hughes v. United
Air Lines, Inc., 634 F.3d 391, 393 (7th Cir. 2011).
'"Complete preemption' applies to subjects over
which federal law is so pervasive that it is impossible to
make out a state-law claim, no matter how careful the
pleading" and generally permits removal, whereas
ordinary preemption is a defense that must be pleaded and
established in the court where the litigation began.
Id. If there is no basis for "complete
preemption," then removal is only warranted if the
defendant can show another basis for subject matter
jurisdiction such as if the parties are completely diverse
pursuant to §1332. Id.
here, the issue raised by Johnson is a minor dispute subject
to preemption under the RLA because there is no way for the
Plaintiff to pursue a BIPA claim without interpreting the
existing CB A between United and IAMAW. The CB A included
explicit terms, which the parties negotiated at arm's
length, including United as having the "sole and
exclusive right to manage, operate, and maintain the
efficiency of the business and working forces," and
including the ability to "maintain discipline and
efficiency in the Company's facilities."
See (Dkt. No. 20, at 7) (citing to the CBA). In
exercising these CBA rights, United opted for a timekeeping
system utilizing fingerprint technology that they implemented
over five years ago. Id. Thus, any challenge to the
use of fingerprints as a means of managing the efficiency of
its business and work forces at its Company locations would
at the very least require interpretation of the CBA to
determine whether it falls within its scope, and further the
grievance process spelled out within Articles 9 and 10. Even
if Johnson's claim is grounded in some other source -
such as state law - it "will be preempted if it cannot
be adjudicated without interpreting the CBA, or if it can be
'conclusively adjudicated' by interpreting the
CBA." Brown, 254 F.3d at 658 (quoting
Hawaiian Airlines, 512 U.S. at 261-62). That is
clearly the case here where Johnson's claim requires
interpretation of the CBA to determine whether United has the
authority to use a ...