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MacMillan v. United Parcel Service, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Montana, Butte Division

April 19, 2019




         Defendant United Parcel Service, Inc. (“UPS”) moves to dismiss Plaintiff Timothy Edward MacMillan's Complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, UPS's motion is granted.

         I. Background[1]

         Plaintiff began working for UPS in 2006 as a feeder driver at its Butte, Montana center. In late April 2014, UPS suspended Plaintiff without written warning pending an investigation. On April 30, 2014, UPS terminated Plaintiff's employment because he had been taking personal time to make stops at a local casino for a soda during work hours. UPS advised Plaintiff in its termination letter that it considered his on-the-clock stops for food and drink to be “an act of proven dishonesty” and discharged him on that basis. (Doc. 1-1, at ¶ 24).

         Plaintiff's employment was subject to a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) negotiated between UPS and Plaintiff's union, the Teamsters Union Local No. 2 (“Union”). UPS recognizes the Union as the exclusive representative of all employees covered by the CBA. (Doc. 19-1, at 11). Article 28, Section 2 of the CBA establishes a grievance procedure for cases pertaining to a discharge or suspension from employment. (Doc. 19-1, at 114-115). This section of the CBA provides, in part, that all panel filings regarding a discharge or suspension “shall be referred immediately to the UPS Labor-Management Committee for determination in accordance with the grievance procedure.” (Doc. 19-1, at 114). In those cases where the UPS Labor-Management Committee “reaches a deadlock, either party may submit the matter to an impartial arbitrator for final decision.” (Doc. 19-1, at 115).

         Following his discharge, Plaintiff, through his Union, filed a grievance and requested reinstatement to his position. The parties have stipulated that Plaintiff's grievance “was heard and denied by the joint UPS/Union grievance panel in May 2014.” (Doc. 9, at 3). Nearly three years later, in April 2017, Plaintiff commenced this action against UPS. Plaintiff takes the position that the CBA did not provide for or require arbitration under the circumstances, and alleges he exhausted the CBA's grievance procedures prior to filing suit.

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint in state court, asserting state law claims against UPS for breach of contract, tortious violation of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff's breach of contract claim alleges that UPS breached Article 28, Section 2 of the CBA by failing to provide him with a written warning notice prior to his termination. Plaintiff further claims that in breaching its contractual duties, UPS tortiously violated the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Finally, Plaintiff's negligent infliction of emotional distress claim alleges that as a result of UPS's actions, he has suffered and continues to embarrassment, humiliation, and other forms of emotional distress. The Complaint expressly makes clear that “Plaintiff is not suing his Union for any breach of duty, but is only suing [UPS] based upon its violation of the terms of the contract grievance procedures in the CBA.” (Doc. 1-1, at ¶ 23).

         UPS removed the case to this Court based on federal question jurisdiction under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 141 to 197. UPS has since moved to dismiss the Complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) on the ground that Plaintiff's claims derive exclusively from the CBA and are thus preempted by Section 301. Alternatively, UPS argues Plaintiff's claims are preempted by the Montana Wrongful Discharge from Employment Act (“WDEA”), Mont. Code Ann. §§ 39-2-901 et seq.

         II. Legal Standard

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). Dismissal is proper under Rule 12(b)(6) when the complaint “either (1) lacks a cognizable legal theory or (2) fails to allege sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory.” Zixiang Li v. Kerry, 710 F.3d 995, 999 (9th Cir. 2013). Plaintiff must state a claim for relief that is “plausible on its face” to survive a motion to dismiss. Zixiang Li, 710 F.3d at 999 (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). At the motion to dismiss stage, the Court “take[s] all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true, construing them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Keates v. Koile, 883 F.3d 1228, 1234 (9th Cir. 2018) (citation omitted).

         However, “conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.” National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis v. California Board of Psychology, 228 F.3d 1043, 1049 (9th Cir. 2000) (citing Halkin v. VeriFone, Inc. 11. F.3d 865, 868 (9th Cir. 1993)). Additionally, “the court is not required to accept legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations if those conclusions cannot reasonably be drawn from the facts alleged. Clegg v. Cult Awareness Network, 18 F.2d 752, 754-55 (9th Cir. 1994). Finally, dismissal without leave to amend is appropriate when it is “clear that the complaint cannot be saved by further amendment.” Dumas v. Kipp, 90 F.3d 386, 389 (9th Cir. 1996).

         III. Discussion

         Section 301 of the LMRA states that “[s]uits for violation 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 of the parties.” 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). Section 301 thus “provides a statutory mechanism for vindicating contract rights under a collective bargaining agreement.” Lerwill v. Inflight Motion Pictures, Inc., 582 F.2d 507, 511 (9th Cir. 1978). “The preemptive force of section 301 is so powerful as to displace entirely any state cause of action for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization.” Burnside v. Kiewit Pacific Corp., 491 F.3d 1053, 1059 (9th Cir. 2007). Section 301 “preempts state law claims that are based directly on rights created by a collective bargaining agreement as well as claims that are substantially dependent on an interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement.” Niehaus v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., 173 F.3d 1207, 1211 (9th Cir. 1999). See also Allis-Chalmers v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 220 (1985) (preemption appropriate where resolution of a state claim is “inextricably intertwined with” or “substantially dependent upon” analysis of the terms of a CBA). The purpose of Section 301 preemption is to “ensure uniform interpretation of collective-bargaining agreements, and thus to promote the peaceable, consistent resolution of labor-management disputes.” Lingle v. Norge Division of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 413 (1988).

         The Ninth Circuit applies a two-step analysis to determine whether a state law claim is preempted by Section 301. Kobold v. Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, 832 F.3d 1024, 1032 (9th Cir. 2016). First, the court must determine “whether the asserted cause of action involves a right conferred upon an employee by virtue of state law, not by a CBA.” Kobold, 832 F.3d at 1032. “If the right exists solely as a result of the CBA, then the claim is preempted, and the analysis ends there.” Kobold, 832 F.3d at 1032 (citation omitted). But if the court determines that the right underlying the state law claim “exists independently of the CBA, ” the court moves to the second step ...

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