United States District Court, D. New Jersey
ROSALINA ANDERSON, KELVIN BADGER, KYLE COVINGTON, TIMOTHY EUBANKS, and SETH DAVIS, Plaintiffs,
VERIZON NEW JERSEY INC., LEE MILLER, ANGELO VALENTE, BILL KUHMICHEL, ERIC SHEEHAN, and CAROL SHIELDS, Defendants.
H. RODRIGUEZ, U.S.D.J.
matter is before the Court on its own Order to Show Cause why
the case should not be dismissed for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. Remaining Plaintiffs Rosalina Anderson, Kelvin
Badger, Seth Davis, Timothy Eubanks and Kyle Covington have
brought suit against their employer Verizon New Jersey Inc.
("Verizon") and Verizon managers Lee Miller, Angelo
Valente, Bill Kumichel, Erik Sheehan and Carol Shields
alleging that Defendants created and maintained a
discriminatory and hostile work environment. Specifically,
Plaintiffs complain of a hostile work environment permeated
by lies, threats of suspension, and manipulative tactics
including an aggressive discipline-focused management style
targeting them as African-American Field Technicians, in part
in retaliation for riling internal complaints. Plaintiffs
Covington and Anderson also complain of age discrimination
and Plaintiffs Anderson and Badger complain of disability
filed the initial Complaint in New Jersey Superior Court,
Camden County Vicinage; Defendants removed the matter on
August 8, 2013. The five-count Amended Complaint was filed on
March 31, 2015. The first cause of action alleges disparate
treatment and hostile work environment based on race in
violation of New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination
("NJLAD"). Next, Plaintiffs assert for age
discrimination in violation of the NJLAD. The third and
fourth causes of action allege handicap discrimination and
gender discrimination, respectively, in violation of the
NJLAD. The final claim is for unlawful retaliation in
violation of NJLAD for Plaintiffs' legally protected
basis for removal was that the Plaintiffs' claims were
preempted by the Labor Management Relations Act
["LMRA"], § 301, 29 U.S.C.A. § 185, the
Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974
["ERISA"], 29 U.S.C.A. § iooi, and the
National Labor Relations Act ["NLRA"], 29 U.S.C.A.
§ 151." In reviewing the parties' submissions
on summary judgment, the Court finds itself without subject
1331 of Title 28 of the United States Code provides the
district courts with original jurisdiction of all civil
actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of
the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Generally,
"determining whether a particular case arises under
federal law turns on the 'well-pleaded complaint'
rule." Aetna Health Inc. v. Davila, 542 U.S.
200, 207 (2004) (citing Franchise Tax Bd. of Cal. v.
Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust for S. Cat, 463 U.S. 1,
9-10 (1983)). Under this rule, subject-matter jurisdiction as
described under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 may only be granted
when a federal question is presented on the face of the
complaint. Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S.
386, 392 (1987).
there is an exception to the well-pleaded complaint rule
"when a federal statute wholly displaces the state-law
cause of action through complete pre-emption."
Beneficial Nat'l Bank v. Anderson, 539 U.S. 1, 8
(2003). Federal question jurisdiction "will lie over
some state-law claims that implicate significant federal
issues." Grable & Sons Metal Products, Inc. v.
Darue Engineering &Mfg., 545 U.S. 308, 312 (2005).
In determining whether federal jurisdiction exists over a
state law claim, the inquiry is "does the state-law
claim necessarily raise a stated federal issue, actually
disputed and substantial, which a federal forum may entertain
without disturbing any congressionally approved balance of
federal and state judicial responsibilities."
Id. at 314.
Supreme Court has held that section 301 of the LMRA is one
such statute that possesses pre-emptive force so
"extraordinary" that it "converts an ordinary
state common-law complaint into one stating a federal
claim." Caterpillar, Inc., 482 U.S. at 393.
Section 301 grants subject matter jurisdiction to the federal
courts over "[s]uits for violation of contracts between
an employer and a labor organization representing employees
in an industry affecting commerce as defined in this
Act." 29 U.S.C.A. § 185(a). Preemption is warranted
so that a "uniform federal law" would govern the
interpretation of collective bargaining agreements. See
Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399,
Supreme Court has cautioned, however, that the LMRA does not
preempt "every dispute concerning employment."
Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 211
(1985). "When resolution of a state-law claim is
substantially dependent upon analysis of the terms of an
agreement made between the parties in a labor contract, that
claim must either be treated as a § 301 claim or
dismissed as pre-empted by federal labor-contract law."
Id. at 220-21. However, "when the meaning of
contract terms is not the subject of dispute, the bare fact
that a collective-bargaining agreement will be consulted in
the course of state-law litigation plainly does not require
the claim to be extinguished." Livadas v.
Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107, 124 (1994).
is, "it would be inconsistent with congressional intent
under [§ 301] to pre-empt state rules that proscribe
conduct, or establish rights and obligations, independent of
a labor contract." Allis-Chalmers, 471 U.S. at
212. The Third Circuit has instructed that section 301
"cannot be read broadly to pre-empt nonnegotiable rights
conferred on individual employees as a matter of state
law." N.J. Carpenters v. Tishman Constr. Corp.,
760 F.3d 297, 306 (3d Cir. 2014). Accordingly, courts in this
district have held that NJLAD claims are separate and
independent from the terms of labor contracts. See
Coefield v. Jersey Central Power & Light Co., 532
F.Supp.2d 685, 693 (D.N.J. 2007) (collecting cases);
Naples v. N.J. Sports & Exposition Auth., 102
F.Supp.2d 550, 553 (D.N.J. 2000) ("District of New
Jersey courts have consistently determined that claims under
the NJLAD are separate and independent from the terms of
labor contracts."); Carrington v. RCA Glob.
Commc'ns, Inc., 762 F.Supp. 632, 641 (D.N.J. 1991)
("Following Lingle, courts have uniformly held
that state antidiscrimination laws are not preempted by
§ 301 of the LMRA because the right not to be
discriminated against 'is defined and enforced under
state law without reference to the terms of any collective
bargaining agreement,' even where the labor contract
itself prohibits discrimination.").
case, Plaintiffs' claims are neither founded directly on
rights established by the collective bargaining agreement,
nor dependent upon an analysis of the collective-bargaining
agreement ("CBA"). Plaintiffs claim they were
discriminated against in violation of state law, which
creates rights independent of the CBA. Resolution of the
NJLAD claims demands a court "inquire into the facts and
motivations of the parties relative to rights conferred by
state law, not under the CBA, and pre-emption is therefore
inapplicable to Plaintiffs NJLAD claims." Manos v.
United Food & Comm'l Workers Int'l Union, 9
F.Supp.3d 473, 481 (D.N.J. 2014).
sex, race, hostile work environment, and constructive
discharge claims do not challenge the validity of the CBA,
but whether Defendants discriminated against Plaintiffs by
its selective enforcement of rules and policies because of
their race and/ or age. The Plaintiffs do not dispute the
terms of the CBA or the Code of Conduct, or the Rules. While
the CBA may be consulted to identify regulations, Plaintiffs
do not challenge interpretations of the contract or dispute
that violations are counter to that provided therein. The
discretion exercised in the selective administration of
disciplinary action is the basis for the Plaintiffs claims.
Plaintiffs claim the rules were enforced more aggressively
because of their race and/or age. Thus, Plaintiffs claims in
this regard do not derive from the CBA or inevitably involve
interpretation of the agreement causing the State Law claims
to be inextricably intertwined with the LMRA.
Plaintiffs claims of disability discrimination are not
preempted by the LMRA or ERISA. Plaintiffs do not dispute the
terms, legality, or validity of Verizon's Medical
Restrictive Leave of Absence Policy Amendment or Early
Separation Incentive Plan. The allegations challenge whether
Verizon discriminated against Anderson and Badger in
implementing the policy and or plan and considers the factual
and motivational circumstances underscoring those decisions.
LMRA and ERISA do not preempt Plaintiffs' because
consideration of these claims "depend[s] on the actual
events which transpired... and not the meaning of any
provision of the [CBA]." Kube v. New Perm Motor
Express, Inc., 865 F.Supp. 221, 229 (D.N.J. 1994); see
also Coefield, 532 F.Supp.2d at 698. "[A]
defendants['] reference to a collective bargaining
agreement in mounting a defense to a state law claim does not
necessarily trigger preemption." Sealy v. Verizon
Commc'ns, Inc., No. 13-CV-7461CCC, 2014 WL 7331950,
at *3 (D.N.J. Dec. 15, 2014) citing Lingle 486 U.S.
at 406. To the extent Plaintiffs' NJLAD claims"
'involve attention to the same factual considerations
as the contractual determination, this parallelism does not
render the analysis of the state law claim dependent on the
analysis of the collective bargaining agreement."
Sealy, No. 13-CV-7461CCC, 2014 WL 7331950, at *3
quoting Lingle, 486 U.S. at 408 (internal citations
omitted). Defendants "cannot, merely by injecting a
federal question into an action that asserts what is plainly
a state-law claim, transform the action into one arising
under federal law...." Caterpillar Inc., 482
U.S. at 398.
this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction and must Remand
the case to the Law Division of the Superior Court of New
Jersey, Camden County vicinage. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
12(h)(3) ("If the court determines at any time that it