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Jurisdiction: California Central District Court
Decision Date: 7/21/2017



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Briceno v. TWC-CA/SW Region-LA Briceno v. TWC-CA/SW Region-LA (C.D. Cal., 2017)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        MAURICIO BRICENO, et al Plaintiffs,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        TWC-CA/SW REGION-LA, et al Defendants.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        CASE NO. CV 17-02687-R

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        July 21, 2017

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        MAURICIO BRICENO, et al Plaintiffs, v. TWC-CA/SW REGION-LA, et al Defendants.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        CASE NO. CV 17-02687-R

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        July 21, 2017

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO REMAND

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand, which was filed on April 24, 2017. (Dkt. No. 17). Defendants filed an opposition on May 15, 2017. (Dkt. No. 22). Plaintiffs filed a reply on May 22, 2017. (Dkt. No. 23). Finding the matter suitable for a decision on the papers without the need for oral argument, this Court took the matter under submission on May 31, 2017.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                A defendant may remove a civil action from state court to federal court if original jurisdiction would have existed in the federal court at the time the complaint was filed. 28 U.S.C. 1441(a). "The burden of establishing federal subject matter jurisdiction falls on the party invoking removal. " Marin Gen. Hosp. v. Modesto & Empire Traction Co 581 F. 3d 941, 944 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing Toumajian v. Frailey 135 F. 3d 648, 652 (9th Cir. 1998)). There is a "strong presumption against removal jurisdiction, " and courts must reject it "if there is any doubt as to the

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        right of removal in the first instance. " Geographic Expeditions Inc v. Estate of Lhotka ex rel. Lhotka 599 F. 3d 1102, 1107 (9th Cir. 2010).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Plaintiffs allege fifteen causes of action in the Complaint. (Dkt. No. 1-1). In large part, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants subjected Plaintiffs to discrimination in the workplace because of Plaintiffs' age. The causes of action range from disability retaliation to failure to compensate and failure to accommodate. Each cause of action cites the Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"), California Labor Code, or California Government Code as the underlying bases of their claims.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Courts have frequently held that a plaintiff "may avoid federal jurisdiction by exclusive reliance on state law. " Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). Defendants contend that Plaintiffs have not relied solely on state law, but that their claims necessarily implicate the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), which preempts Plaintiffs' claims. "The pre-emptive force of 301 of the LMRA is so powerful as to displace entirely any state cause of action for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization. " Franchise Tax Bd. Of State of Cal. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust for S. Cal 463 U.S. 1, 23 (1983). Defendants contend that Plaintiffs' claims are preempted because they arise from their Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") and the claims require interpretation the CBA. In order to remand, this Court must determine whether the rights Plaintiffs contend were violated were created by the CBA and whether it is necessary to interpret the CBA to resolve Plaintiffs' claims.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Plaintiffs contend that their claims are based on rights outside of the CBA because they are guaranteed by the FEHA. The LMRA preempts only "claims founded directly on rights created by collective bargaining agreements. " Caterpillar 482 U.S. at 394. The right to be free from age-related discrimination in the workplace arises under the FEHA; not the CBA. Rights "that the FEHA claims assert are 'independent of collective bargaining agreements. '" Brown v. Brotman Medical Center Inc 571 Fed. App'x. 572, 575 (9th Cir. 2014) (citation omitted). Therefore, Plaintiffs' FEHA and other discrimination claims are not preempted because the rights were not created by the CBA.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Claims which are "substantially dependent on analysis of a CBA" are preempted by the

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Page 3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        LMRA. Id. Obviously, not all FEHA claims require interpretation of a CBA and are therefore not preempted. Jimeno v. Mobil Oil Corp 66 F. 3d 1514, 1526 (9th Cir. 1995). For example, state law claims prohibiting discrimination based on protected classifications are not preempted by the LMRA. Miller v. AT& T Network Sys 850 F.2d 543, 546 (9th Cir. 1988).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Defendants contend that Plaintiffs' Complaint contains allegations in each cause of action that Plaintiffs were wrongfully deprived of annual bonuses. Defendants further argue that the bonuses are a part of the CBA and because the CBA must be interpreted to resolve whether Plaintiffs deserved the annual bonuses, the claims arise under the LMRA. However, "the bare fact that a CBA will be consulted in the course of state-law litigation" does not transform the state claim into a federal claim. Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors 266 F. 3d 979, 990 (9th Cir. 2001). Preemption requires courts to do something more than consider, refer to, or apply a CBA. Balcorta v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp 208 F. 3d 1102, 1108 (9th Cir. 2000). While Plaintiffs' claims do refer to unpaid bonuses, it is only to show the result of the alleged discrimination in the workplace. To determine whether Plaintiffs were entitled to receive the bonuses, the Court need only apply the CBA regarding bonuses, not interpret the CBA.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                "When liability is governed by independent state law, the mere need to 'look to' the collective-bargaining agreement for damages computation is no reason to hold the state-law claim defeated by 301. " Livadas v. Bradshaw 512 U.S. 107 125 (194). However, if interpretation of a federal contract provision is required, Section 301 preempts the state law claim. Atchley v. Heritage Cable Vision Assocs 101 F. 3d 495, 500 (7th Cir. 1996). In Atchley federal contract interpretation was necessary because the claim depended on the meaning of contract terms in a collective bargaining agreement. Id. at 499. Here, the language of the CBA is clear and does not require any interpretation to determine the prerequisites for receiving a bonus. Plaintiffs do not contend that they were entitled to receive payment under the language of the CBA. Instead, Plaintiffs contend that the CBA is discriminatory because it punishes Plaintiffs for taking protected medical leave. Thus, Plaintiffs' claims do not require interpretation of the CBA, only its application.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Plaintiffs' claims stem from the core issue of discrimination in the workplace. Their right

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        to work in a place free from unlawful discrimination was not guaranteed by their CBA. Additionally, Plaintiffs' claims that they were discriminated against due to their age does not require interpretation of the CBA. At the very least, there is a doubt as to whether there is federal subject matter jurisdiction over these claims. When "there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance, " remand is favored. Geographic Expeditions 599 F. 3d at 1107. Accordingly, the Motion to Remand is granted.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (Dkt. No. 17) is GRANTED.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Dated: July 21, 2017.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                /s/_________        MANUEL L. REAL        UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

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