Palmer v. Kraft Foods Global, PICS Case No. 14-0208 (E.D. Pa. Jan 29, 2014) Baylson, J. (11 pages).

U.S DISTRICT COURT - EASTERN

The Legal Intelligencer

CIVIL PROCEDURE

Collective Bargaining Agreement • Removal • Federal Question Jurisdiction

Palmer v. Kraft Foods Global, PICS Case No. 14-0208 (E.D. Pa. Jan 29, 2014) Baylson, J. (11 pages).

The court granted plaintiff's motion to remand a discrimination matter to state court after defendants had removed the case to federal court based on federal question jurisdiction.

Plaintiff worked as a machine operator for defendant Nabisco from 1979 until June 2002. She was also a member of her local union. On June 1, 2002, plaintiff's hand was crushed on the job, resulting in permanent injuries to her right hand. Plaintiff returned to work in 2005. Nabisco placed her in a new position as a warehouse material handler on a temporary bid basis. Because of her injury, plaintiff could not perform the task of "flour blowing," which involved attaching a heavy hose to a machine that filled supply containers with flour. After receiving a medical note from plaintiff's doctor, Nabisco permitted plaintiff to work as a material handler from 2005 to 2008, without having to perform the flour blowing task. In 2008, Nabisco began requiring plaintiff to perform the flour blowing task at certain times. Plaintiff filed a complaint for disability discrimination in September 2008. In 2009, plaintiff applied for a permanent material handler job, asking for accommodation with the flour blowing duty. Nabisco informed plaintiff it could not accommodate her on a permanent position after she had requested an accommodation on a temporary basis for the past several years.

Plaintiff commenced this action in the Philadelphia court of common pleas, raising only state law claims. Defendant removed the case to federal court based on federal question jurisdiction. Plaintiff moved to remand the case to state court. Because plaintiff alleged only violations of the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance, the court held the complaint did not raise a federal question under the well-pleaded complaint rule.

Defendant argued an independent corollary to the well-pleaded complaint rule, known as the complete preemption doctrine, converted the complaint into one stating a federal claim. Defendant claimed the terms of the collective bargaining agreement applied to this case, creating a federal question under 29 U.S.C. §185(a). The court held defendant failed to show a connection between the collective bargaining agreement and plaintiff's claims. The complaint did not allege the terms of that agreement, nor did defendant quote any text from it on the record. Defendant submitted an affidavit of one of its human resources managers saying the collective bargaining agreement limited the accommodations defendant could make for plaintiff and that plaintiff's request would violate seniority procedures under that agreement. However, the court held these assertions were not enough to meet defendant's burden to establish federal jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. Plaintiff's claims had to be inextricably intertwined with the collective bargaining agreement to warrant removal. Defendant offered only indirect references to the collective bargaining agreement, which were insufficient to establish federal question jurisdiction. The district court remanded the case to the court of common pleas.