United States District Court, D. New Jersey
TAIRU GARDRIE, SHERMAN HILL, SHAWN SANDERS, and ROBERT WALKER, Plaintiffs,
VERIZON NEW JERSEY INC., ERIK SHEEHAN, and CAROL SHIELDS, Defendants.
H. RODRIGUEZ U.S.D.J.
Joseph H. Rodriguez This 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
Sherman Hill and Robert Walker have brought suit against
their employer Verizon New Jersey Inc. ("Verizon")
and Verizon managers Erik Sheehan and Carol Shields alleging
that Defendants created and maintained a discriminatory work
environment and failed to provide equal opportunities to
African-American employees. 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 supporting their African-American coworkers in a separate
lawsuit also alleging workplace discrimination.
filed their three-count Complaint with this Court on May 20,
2015. The first cause of action alleged disparate treatment
and hostile work environment based on race in violation of
New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination
("NJLAD"). Next, Plaintiffs asserted a claim for
unlawful retaliation in violation of NJLAD for
Plaintiffs' legally protected complaints. The third cause
of action alleged breach of a collective bargaining
agreement. The face of the Complaint stated that federal
jurisdiction was "pursuant to the Labor Management
Relations Act ["LMRA"], § 301, 29 U.S.C.A.
§ 185." 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 TaxBd. of Cal. v.
Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust for S. CaL, 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 Nafl 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. NJ. 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).
this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction and must dismiss
the case. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3) ("If the
court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.")
result, the claims of Sherman Hill and Robert Walker are