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Bald v. Kuakini Medical Center

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

April 10, 2017

SUSAN BALD, Plaintiff,
v.
KUAKINI MEDICAL CENTER, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DISMISSING PLAINTIFF'S CLAIM FOR INTENTIONAL INFLICTION OF EMOTION DISTRESS WITH LEAVE TO AMEND AND GRANTING DEFENDANT KUAKINI MEDICAL CENTER'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT AS TO PLAINTIFF'S CLAIM FOR WRONGFUL TERMINATION IN VIOLATION OF PUBLIC POLICY

         Plaintiff Susan Bald filed this action against Defendant in Hawaii state court alleging that she was fired from her job as a Healthcare Technician in violation of public policy. See ECF No. 1-2. Plaintiff asserts two state law claims in her Complaint: wrongful termination in violation of public policy and intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”). Defendant removed this action to this Court on the basis of preemption under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act. See ECF No. 1. On March 17, 2017, Defendant Kuakini Medical Center's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's Claim for Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy, came on for hearing. During the hearing on the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, the Court directed the parties to submit supplemental briefing on the issue of jurisdiction. See ECF Nos. 37, 38. After carefully considering the parties' submissions, the relevant legal authority, and the arguments of counsel at the hearing, the Court FINDS that it has jurisdiction, DISMISSES WITH LEAVE TO AMEND Plaintiff's claim for IIED, and GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         In her Complaint, Plaintiff asserts a claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy and a claim for IIED. ECF No. 1-2. Defendant removed this case from the Circuit Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawaii, on December 21, 2015. ECF No. 1. In the Notice of Removal, Defendant states that this action is properly removed “because some or all of Plaintiff's claims against Defendant clearly arise under federal law.” Id. at 2. Specifically, Defendant states that “some or all of Plaintiffs claims are preempted by § 301 of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185.” Id. Defendant states that to the extent Plaintiff's claims are not preempted, the Court has supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Id. at 3. In the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, Defendant argues that it is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy. ECF No. 30.

         DISCUSSION

         I. The Court Has Subject Matter Jurisdiction.

         Before the Court can address Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, the Court must address the issue of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court has a “continuing obligation to assess its own subject-matter jurisdiction, even if the issue is neglected by the parties.” United States v. Ceja-Prado, 333 F.3d 1046, 1049 (9th Cir. 2003). It is an “obligation to investigate and ensure [its] own jurisdiction.” Id.; see also, Dittman v. California, 191 F.3d 1020, 1025 (9th Cir. 1999) (stating that a federal court has an independent obligation to address sua sponte whether it has subject matter jurisdiction). As discussed below, the Court finds that it has subject matter jurisdiction because Plaintiff's claim for IIED is preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act. The Court dismisses Plaintiff's IIED claim with leave to amend.

         As noted above, Defendant removed this action based on its argument that “some or all” of Plaintiff's claims were preempted by Section 301. See ECF No. 1. In its Supplemental Brief, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's IIED claim is preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act. See ECF No. 37. Under the doctrine of complete preemption, a complaint that contains a state law claim that is preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act is presumed to allege a claim arising under federal law, and, thus, may be removed to federal court. See Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1987).

         Section 301 creates federal jurisdiction for claims for breach of a collective bargaining agreement.[1] Miller v. AT&T Network Sys., 850 F.2d 543, 545 (9th Cir. 1988). Section 301 preemption applies to cases whose resolution “is substantially dependent upon analysis of the terms of [a collective bargaining agreement].” Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 220 (1985). Section 301 preempts applications of state law “only if such application requires the interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement.” Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 413 (1988). Such preemption is intended to promote the uniform interpretation of collective bargaining agreements. Balcorta v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 208 F.3d 1102, 1108 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted). “The linchpin of preemption analysis is whether the terms of a collective bargaining agreement must be interpreted in order to evaluate a plaintiff's state law claim.” Hotel Emps. and Restaurant Emps. Local 2 v. Vista Inn Mgmt. Co., 393 F.Supp.2d 972, 984 (N.D. Cal. 2005) (citing Cramer v. Consol. Freightways, 255 F.3d 683, 691-92 (9th Cir. 2001)).

         Here, Plaintiff does not dispute that she was a member of the United Public Workers Union and that her employment with Defendant was covered by a collective bargaining agreement. Defendant asserts that Plaintiff's IIED claim is completely preempted by Section 301 because it requires an analysis of the collective bargaining agreement. To prevail on a claim for IIED, Plaintiff must show that (1) that the act causing harm was intentional; (2) that the act was unreasonable; and (3) that the actor should have recognized that the act was likely to result in harm. See Marshall v. Univ. of Haw., 821 P.2d 937, 947 (Haw. Ct. App. 1991). To be considered “unreasonable, ” the act must be “without just cause or excuse and beyond all bounds of decency” and “outrageous.” Ross v. Stouffer Hotel Co., 879 P.2d 1037, 1048 (Haw. 1994). To determine if an IIED claim is preempted, the Court must consider whether the collective bargaining agreement covers the allegedly outrageous conduct. See Humble v. Boeing Co., 305 F.3d 1004, 1013 (9th Cir. 2002) (“if the CBA does not ‘cover' the allegedly extreme and outrageous conduct, the intentional infliction claim will not preempted”); see also Alaska Airlines Inc. v. Schurke, 846 F.3d 1081, 1090 (9th Cir. 2017) (stating that the first step in Section 301 preemption analysis is “whether the CBA contains provisions that govern the actions giving rise to a state claim”).

         The only conduct alleged in the Complaint relates to Defendant's termination of Plaintiff. See ECF No. 1-2. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that she was terminated “for medical reporting, and recording observations of a patient, and providing clean bed linens for a patient.” Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's “conduct in terminating [] Plaintiff was wrongful, and contravened the letter and purpose of laws, regulations, rules[, ] and public policy.” Id. ¶ 9. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant “engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct against the Plaintiff by intentionally and/or recklessly and/or negligently permitting Plaintiff to be terminated.” Id. ¶ 13.

         In its Supplemental Brief, Defendant details the various provisions of the collective bargaining agreement that address termination of employees. See ECF No. 37 at 3-4. These provisions of the collective bargaining agreement set forth the standards and procedures for termination. See id. In assessing Plaintiff's IIED claim the Court would be required to determine whether Defendant's actions in terminating Plaintiff were “without just cause or excuse and beyond all bounds of decency” and “outrageous.” See Ross v. Stouffer Hotel Co., 879 P.2d 1037, 1048 (Haw. 1994). The terms of the collective bargaining agreement governing termination would need to be analyzed to determine if Defendant's actions in terminating Plaintiff were unreasonable. Because an interpretation of the terms in the collective bargaining agreement will be necessary, Plaintiff's IIED claim based on her termination is preempted. See Scott v. Machinists Auto. Trades Dist. Lodge No. 190 of N. Cal., 827 F.2d 589, 594 (9th Cir. 1987) (“state tort claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress are preempted when they arise out of the employee's discharge or the conduct of the defendants in the investigatory proceedings leading up to the discharge”); see also Price v. Molokai Gen. Hosp., No. CIV.09-00548 DAE-KSC, 2010 WL 715413, at *6 (D. Haw. Mar. 1, 2010) (holding that the plaintiff's claim for IIED based on termination was preempted). Plaintiff's IIED is preempted by Section 301 and is dismissed with leave to amend.

         II. Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

         Although Plaintiff's IIED claim is preempted by Section 301, the Court finds that it is appropriate to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367 (“in any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction, the district courts shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction”); Jackson v. Southern Cal. Gas Co., 881 F.2d 638, 644 (9th Cir. 1989) (holding that Section 301 does not preempt a state law claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy); Brown v. Brotman Med. Ctr., Inc., 571 Fed. App'x 572, 576 (9th Cir. 2014) (“a district court may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over claims that are brought in conjunction with claims that are preempted by the LMRA” (citing Ellis v. Gelson's Markets, 1 F.3d 1246 (9th Cir. 1993)). As detailed below, the evidence is undisputed that Defendant is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's claim for wrongful termination.

         A. The ...


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