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Francis B. Pilvalis v. Lockheed Martin Corporation

March 20, 2013

FRANCIS B. PILVALIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LOCKHEED MARTIN CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge

OPINION

Presently before the Court is Defendant Lockheed Martin Corporation's ("Lockheed Martin") Motion to Dismiss the complaint of Plaintiff Francis B. Pilvalis. [Docket No. 3.] For the reasons expressed below, Defendant's Motion will be granted.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Defendant Lockheed Martin is a global security and information technology corporation based in Bethesda, Maryland. Plaintiff Francis B. Pilvalis is an engineer formerly employed by Defendant. At all relevant times, Plaintiff was a member of the union, Association of Scientists and Professional Engineering Personnel ("ASPEP"). ASPEP and Lockheed Martin were parties to a collective bargaining agreement which set forth union member salary levels and job descriptions. (Compl. at 1.)

Lockheed Martin first hired Pilvalis as a Senior Engineer in its Moorestown, New Jersey office.*fn1 (Am. Compl. at 1.) In January of 2002, Defendant transferred Pilvalis to its branch in Mississippi. (Id.) According to Plaintiff, Defendant promised that, upon his transfer, he would assume the position of Senior LAN Engineer.*fn2 (Id. at 3.) Instead, however, Defendant assigned Pilvalis to a SPY RADAR*fn3 position - a position with which he had no experience, knowledge, or education. (Id.) Initially, Pilvalis apparently tried to decline the position, but Lockheed Martin allegedly threatened that he would lose his job and would need to pay back all relocation expenses if he did not accept the SPY RADAR position. (Id.) Pilvalis presently claims that he suffered poor performance ratings and did not receive proper job promotions and salary increases as a result of the new position for which he was unqualified. (Id.)

In December of 2005, Pilvalis was transferred back to the Moorestown, New Jersey location. (Id. at 1.) Pilvalis avers that, at some point while employed in Moorestown in 2007 or 2008, he received an "LM MS2 Moorestown Engineering Salary Survey," which apparently contained information regarding salary and collective bargaining agreement rights that had not previously been disclosed to him. (Id.; Compl. at 2.) Pilvalis presently contends that, upon reviewing the salary survey, he discovered that he was significantly underpaid during his time in Mississippi, and that Lockheed Martin had likewise failed to disclose certain rights available to him under the collective bargaining agreement during that time. (Am. Compl. at 3.)

On November 23, 2011, Plaintiff filed a civil action in the Superior Court of New Jersey, alleging that Lockheed Martin failed to pay him in accordance with the salary levels provided in the collective bargaining agreement between Defendant and ASPEP. More specifically, in this initial Complaint, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant was "negligent and fraudulent" in failing to "provide pertinent information to Plaintiff informing him of the existence of the CBAC or any rights Plaintiff was entitled to under the Union Contract." (Compl. at 2.) Plaintiff further averred that, as a result of Defendant's actions, he suffered damages for lost wages, interest, pension, 401K funds, job opportunities, promotions, and declining health. (Compl. at 3.)

Defendant timely removed this matter to federal court on March 6, 2012 on the grounds that Plaintiff's state-law causes of action based on his collective bargaining agreement were preempted by § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"). On March 27, 2012, Defendant filed the instant Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Without requesting leave of court, and more than twenty-one days after the filing of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on May 4, 2012. [Docket No. 6]. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint contains the following five claims for relief: (1) breach of contract, (2) breach of implied-in-fact contract, (3) breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, (4) promissory estoppel, and (5) "intentional infliction of emotional upset." (Am. Compl. at 2-4). Plaintiff also argues in his Amended Complaint that he is entitled to an equitable tolling of the applicable statute of limitations because he has been "pursuing his rights diligently . . . and some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way." (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff filed a Response on May 18, 2012, to which Defendant replied on May 29, 2012. [Docket Nos. 11 & 13.] Accordingly, this matter is now ripe for judicial consideration.

II. JURISDICTION AND REMOVAL

The Court has federal question subject matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.*fn4 Specifically, this matter was removed to federal court under 28 U.S.C. § 1446*fn5 on the basis that Plaintiff's state-law claims are preempted by § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act,*fn6 and therefore a federal question is present which this Court has the judicial authority to resolve.

Removal of an action initially filed in state court is only proper if the action "originally could have been filed in federal court." Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). Absent diversity of citizenship, the presence of a federal question is necessary to support removal. Id. The presence of a federal question is governed by the "well-pleaded complaint rule," which provides that federal jurisdiction is proper if a federal question is evident from the face of the plaintiff's pleading. Id.; see also Louisville & Nashville R.R. v. Mottley, 211 U.S. 149 (1908). The Supreme Court has recognized, however, that the complete preemption doctrine is an "independent corollary" to the well-pleaded complaint rule. See Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 393. In other words, since the preemptive force of certain federal statutes is so great as to convert otherwise ordinary state law claims into federal actions, some matters may be removable on federal preemption grounds even if a federal question does not immediately appear on the face of the well-pleaded complaint. See Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 65 (1987); Franchise Tax Bd. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust for S. Ca., 463 U.S. 1, 22 (1983); Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 392--93.

One such instance of complete preemption occurs in the context of § 301(a) of the LMRA, which provides as follows:

Suits for violations of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce . . . may be brought in any District Court of the United States having jurisdiction over the parties.

29 U.S.C. § 185(a). Section 301 governs disputes between employers, unions, and employees that are parties to a collective bargaining agreement. Id. at 211. The Supreme Court has previously recognized that:

[T]he pre-emptive force of § 301 is so powerful as to displace entirely any state cause of action "for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization." Any such suit is purely a creature of federal law, notwithstanding the fact that state law would provide a cause of action in the absence of § 301. Franchise Tax Bd., 463 U.S. at 23. In Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, however, the Supreme Court also made clear that "not every dispute concerning employment, or tangentially involving a provision of a collective bargaining agreement, is pre-empted . . . [because] it would be inconsistent with congressional intent . . . to preempt state rules that . . . establish rights and obligations independent of a labor contract." 471 U.S. 202 (1985). As such, a state law claim will be found to be preempted by § 301 if the claim is: (1) founded directly on rights created by a collective-bargaining agreement, or (2) "substantially dependent upon" or "inextricably intertwined with" an analysis of a collective bargaining agreement. Shanefelter v. U.S. Steel Corp., 784 F.Supp.2d 550, 558 (W.D. Pa. 2011) (quoting Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 394); see also Int'l Brotherhood of Elec. Workers v. Hechler, 481 U.S. 851, 858 (1987) .

In the instant case, neither party disputes that resolution of this matter will require interpretation of the terms of a collective bargaining agreement governed by federal law. Accordingly, removal to this Court was proper on the basis that the Court ...


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