85 F.3d 356 (8th Cir. 1996), 95-3080, Luecke v. Schnucks Markets, Inc.

Docket Nº:95-3080.
Citation:85 F.3d 356
Party Name:Michael LUECKE, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. SCHNUCKS MARKETS, INC., a Missouri Corporation, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:June 04, 1996
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Page 356

85 F.3d 356 (8th Cir. 1996)

Michael LUECKE, Plaintiff-Appellant,


SCHNUCKS MARKETS, INC., a Missouri Corporation, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 95-3080.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

June 4, 1996

Submitted Jan. 9, 1996.

Rehearing and Suggestion for Rehearing En Banc Denied July 24, 1996.

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John McEachern, argued, St. Louis, Missouri, for appellant.

Brian Brink, argued, St. Louis, Missouri, for appellee.

Before WOLLMAN, CAMPBELL, [*] and MURPHY, Circuit Judges.

LEVIN H. CAMPBELL, Senior Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff-appellant Michael Luecke appeals from a district court order granting summary judgment to defendant-appellee Schnuck Markets, Inc. ("Schnuck") on the ground that plaintiff's state law defamation action is preempted by section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA). Based on our reading of the Supreme Court's rule in Lingle v. Norge Div., Magic Chef, 486 U.S. 399, 108 S.Ct. 1877, 100 L.Ed.2d 410 (1988), and related cases, we reverse.


Luecke, a Schnuck employee and member of Local 88 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, injured his hand while working on November 10, 1992. He reported to a medical facility selected by Schnuck to have his hand bandaged, and then was asked to disrobe completely in order to give a urine sample, pursuant to Schnuck's new unilaterally adopted drug and alcohol policy (effective September 14, 1992). The policy, which was written and disseminated to employees, provided in relevant part: "[I]f an Associate has an 'on the job accident' which results in a lost time situation there will be a blood test and/or urinalysis test as a routine part of the investigation of the circumstances present at the time of the accident." Schnuck says it adopted the policy pursuant to article 5 of its collective-bargaining agreement, which grants management the right to direct its work force.

Luecke says that he offered to produce a urine sample with his clothes removed except for the part of his shirt around his bandaged wrist. This apparently was unacceptable to medical personnel. Luecke left without giving a urine sample. That afternoon, Jenise Kramer, a Schnuck manager, called Luecke's house and was told that he was not there. Luecke says that Kramer then informed his wife, without knowing who she was, that Luecke had "refused" to take a drug test, and that his employment would be terminated within 24 hours if he did not take one. Kramer offers a somewhat different version of this conversation in an affidavit; she says that after medical personnel informed her that Luecke had refused to take a drug test, she tried to contact him at home and spoke with someone "who eventually identified herself as being Mr. Luecke's wife." Kramer left a message whose "substance" was that

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after being involved in a work-related accident, Luecke had "failed to have a drug test," and "if he failed to take a drug test as soon as possible, his employment could be terminated."

Kramer and Luecke spoke on November 11, and the following day, Luecke took a drug test. As the results were negative, no discipline followed. Thereafter, Kramer and other Schnuck employees are said by Luecke to have published within and without the company the allegedly false statement that Luecke had "refused" to take a drug test.

In October 1994 Luecke sued Schnuck in state court, alleging defamation based upon Kramer's communication to Luecke's wife, and Kramer's and other employees' publication of Luecke's alleged refusal to take a drug test. Schnuck removed the action to federal court, arguing that plaintiff's claim arose under section 301 of the LMRA, which confers federal jurisdiction over actions for a breach of a contract between an employer and a labor organization. Schnuck then moved to dismiss the action, or in the alternative, for summary judgment, contending that plaintiffs' claim was preempted, was time-barred, and failed to state a cause of action. The district court granted summary judgment to Schnuck, finding that plaintiff's state law defamation claim was preempted by section 301 of the LMRA. This appeal followed.

II. Discussion

We review a grant of summary judgment de novo to determine whether the record shows "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In so doing, we construe the facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant, plaintiff.

The dispositive question is that of subject matter jurisdiction. In removing the case to federal court, the defendant asserted federal question jurisdiction on the theory that the LMRA preempted plaintiff's state law defamation claim. 1 Plaintiff countered that the claim was not preempted and that the case should be returned to the state court.

For federal question jurisdiction, the federal question generally must appear on the face of the complaint. See Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392, 107 S.Ct. 2425, 2429, 96 L.Ed.2d 318 (1987). An exception to this rule, often applied in labor cases, holds that when "an area of state law has been completely pre-empted, any claim purportedly based on that pre-empted state law is considered, from its inception, a federal claim, and therefore arises under federal law." Id. at 393, 107 S.Ct. at 2430 (emphasis supplied). Applying this exception, the district court held that plaintiff's defamation claim was "inextricably intertwined" with the terms of Schnuck's collective-bargaining agreement with its employees, and was therefore preempted by section 301 of the LMRA. See id. at 394, 107 S.Ct. at 2431 ("Section 301 governs claims founded directly on rights created by collective-bargaining agreements, and also claims 'substantially dependent on analysis of a collective-bargaining agreement.' ") (internal citation omitted). The district court held that the statements challenged by Luecke "involve the ongoing employment relationship between plaintiff and defendant and concern a work-related injury and its subsequent investigation. As such, they are governed by the grievance procedures set forth in the collective-bargaining agreement." The court also quoted from an early settlement letter to Schnuck from Luecke's attorney, who referred to the statements in question as occurring "[a]s a result of...

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