486 U.S. 399 (1988), 87-259, Lingle v. Norge Division of Magic Chef, Inc.

Docket Nº:No. 87-259
Citation:486 U.S. 399, 108 S.Ct. 1877, 100 L.Ed.2d 410, 56 U.S.L.W. 4512
Party Name:Lingle v. Norge Division of Magic Chef, Inc.
Case Date:June 06, 1988
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 399

486 U.S. 399 (1988)

108 S.Ct. 1877, 100 L.Ed.2d 410, 56 U.S.L.W. 4512

Lingle

v.

Norge Division of Magic Chef, Inc.

No. 87-259

United States Supreme Court

June 6, 1988

Argued March 23, 1988

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

After petitioner notified her employer (respondent) that she had been injured in the course of her employment and requested compensation for her medical expenses pursuant to the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act, she was discharged for filing an allegedly false worker's compensation claim. The union representing petitioner filed a grievance pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement that protected employees from discharge except for "just" [108 S.Ct. 1878] cause and that provided for arbitration of disputes between the employer and any employee concerning the effect or interpretation of the agreement. While arbitration was proceeding, petitioner filed a retaliatory discharge action in an Illinois state court, alleging that she had been discharged for exercising her rights under the Illinois worker's compensation laws. Respondent removed the suit to the Federal District Court on the basis of diversity of citizenship, and filed a motion to dismiss the case as preempted by § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947. The court dismissed the complaint as preempted, concluding that the retaliatory discharge claim was "inextricably intertwined" with the collective bargaining provision prohibiting discharge without just cause, and that allowing the state law action to proceed would undermine the arbitration procedures in the collective bargaining contract. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: Application of petitioner's state tort remedy was not preempted by § 301. An application of state law is preempted by § 301 only if such application requires the interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement. Pp. 403-413.

(a) If the resolution of a state law claim depends upon the meaning of a collective bargaining agreement, the application of state law (which might lead to inconsistent results, since there could be as many state law principles as there are States) is preempted and federal labor law principles -- necessarily uniform throughout the Nation -- must be employed to resolve the dispute. Teamsters v. Lucas Flour Co., 369 U.S. 95; Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202. Pp. 403-404.

(b) Under Illinois law governing the tort of retaliatory discharge for filing a worker's compensation claim, the employee must show both that he was discharged or threatened with discharge and that the employer's motive was to deter the employee from exercising rights under the

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Workers' Compensation Act or to interfere with the exercise of those rights. Neither of those elements requires a court to interpret any term of a collective bargaining agreement. Similarly, the factual inquiry as to whether the employer had a nonretaliatory reason for the discharge does not turn on the meaning of any provision of a collective bargaining agreement. Although the state law analysis might involve attention to the same factual considerations as the contractual determination of whether petitioner was fired for just cause, such parallelism does not render the state law analysis dependent upon the contractual analysis. As long as the state law claim can be resolved without interpreting the collective bargaining agreement itself, the claim is "independent" of the agreement for § 301 preemption purposes. Pp. 406-410.

(c) The result in this case is consistent both with the policy of fostering uniform, certain adjudication of disputes over the meaning of collective bargaining agreements and with cases that have permitted separate fonts of substantive rights to remain unpreempted by other federal labor law statutes. Interpretation of collective bargaining agreements remains firmly in the arbitral realm; judges can determine questions of state law involving labor-management relations only if such questions do not require construing collective bargaining agreements. There is nothing novel about recognizing that substantive rights in the labor relations context can exist without interpreting collective bargaining agreements. Pp. 410-413.

823 F.2d 1031, reversed.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

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STEVENS, J., lead opinion

[108 S.Ct. 1879] JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

In Illinois, an employee who is discharged for filing a worker's compensation claim may recover compensatory and punitive damages from her employer. The question presented in this case is whether an employee covered by a collective bargaining agreement that provides her with a contractual remedy for discharge without just cause may enforce her state law remedy for retaliatory discharge. The Court of Appeals held that the application of the state tort remedy was preempted by § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 61 Stat. 156, 29 U.S.C. § 185. 823 F.2d 1031 (CA7 1987) (en banc). We disagree.

I

Petitioner was employed in respondent's manufacturing plant in Herrin, Illinois. On December 5, 1984, she notified respondent that she had been injured in the course of her employment and requested compensation for her medical expenses pursuant to the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act. On December 11, 1984, respondent discharged her for filing a "false worker's compensation claim." Id. at 1033.

The union representing petitioner promptly filed a grievance pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement that covered all production and maintenance employees in the Herrin plant. The agreement protected those employees, including petitioner, from discharge except for "proper" or "just" cause, App. 13-14, and established a procedure for the arbitration of grievances, id. at 10-11. The term grievance

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was broadly defined to encompass

any dispute between . . . the Employer and any employee, concerning the effect, interpretation, application, claim of breach or violation of this Agreement.

Id. at 10. Ultimately, an arbitrator ruled in petitioner's favor and ordered respondent to reinstate her with full backpay. See id. at 25-26.

Meanwhile, on July 9, 1985, petitioner commenced this action against respondent by filing a complaint in the Illinois Circuit Court for Williamson County, alleging that she had been discharged for exercising her rights under the Illinois workers' compensation laws. App. 2-4; see Kelsay v. Motorola, Inc., 74 Ill.2d 172, 384 N.E.2d 353 (1978); Midgett v. Sackett-Chicago, Inc., 105 Ill.2d 143, 473 N.E.2d 1280 (1984); see also Ill.Rev.Stat., ch. 48, ¶ 138.4(h) (1987). Respondent removed the case to the Federal District Court on the basis of diversity of citizenship, and then filed a motion praying that the court either dismiss the case on preemption grounds or stay further proceedings pending the completion of the arbitration. Record, Doc. No. 7. Relying on our decision in Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202 (1985), the District Court dismissed the complaint. It concluded that the

claim for retaliatory discharge is "inextricably intertwined" with the collective bargaining provision prohibiting wrongful discharge or discharge without just cause,

and that allowing the state law action to proceed would undermine the arbitration procedures set forth in the parties' contract. 618 F.Supp. 1448, 1449 (SD Ill.1985).

The Court of Appeals agreed that the state law claim was preempted by § 301. In an en banc opinion, over the dissent of two judges, it rejected petitioner's argument that the tort action was not "inextricably intertwined" with the collective bargaining agreement because the disposition of a retaliatory discharge claim in Illinois does not depend upon an interpretation of the agreement; on the contrary, the court concluded that "the same analysis of the facts" was implicated under both procedures. 823 F.2d at 1046. It took note of, and

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declined to follow, contrary decisions in the Tenth, Third, and Second Circuits.1 We granted certiorari to resolve the conflict in the Circuits. 484 U.S. 895 [108 S.Ct. 1880] (1987).

II

Section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 61 Stat. 156, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a), provides:

Suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce as defined in this Act, or between any such labor organizations, may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the parties.

In Textile Workers v. Lincoln Mills, 353 U.S. 448 (1957), we held that § 301 not only provides federal court jurisdiction over controversies involving collective bargaining agreements, but also "authorizes federal courts to fashion a body of federal law for the enforcement of these collective bargaining agreements." Id. at 451.2

In Teamsters v. Lucas Flour Co., 369 U.S. 95 (1962), we were confronted with a straightforward question of contract interpretation: whether a collective bargaining agreement implicitly prohibited a strike that had been called by the union. The Washington Supreme Court had answered that question by applying state law rules of contract interpretation.

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We rejected that approach, and held that § 301 mandated resort to federal rules of law in order to ensure uniform interpretation of collective bargaining agreements, and thus to promote the peaceable, consistent resolution of labor-management disputes.3

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[108 S.Ct. 1881] In Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202 (1985), we considered...

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