Cefarrati v. JBG Props., Inc., Civil Action No. 14–408 EGS

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Citation75 F.Supp.3d 58
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 14–408 EGS
PartiesRaymond Cefarrati, Plaintiff, v. JBG Properties, Inc., and Potomac Creek Associates, LLC, Defendants.
Decision Date06 November 2014

75 F.Supp.3d 58

Raymond Cefarrati, Plaintiff
JBG Properties, Inc., and Potomac Creek Associates, LLC, Defendants.

Civil Action No. 14–408 EGS

United States District Court, District of Columbia.

Signed November 6, 2014

75 F.Supp.3d 60

Ralph Edward Avery, Avery Law Firm, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

George W. Ingham, Hogan Lovells US LLP, McLean, VA, Paul C. Skelly, Hogan Lovells US LLP, Washington, DC, for Defendants.


EMMET G. SULLIVAN, United States District Judge

Raymond Cefarrati brings this lawsuit alleging that defendants JBG Properties, Inc. (“JBG”) and Potomac Creek Associates, LLC (“Potomac Creek”) were unjustly enriched when he performed work beyond the scope of his job duties as Chief Engineer on a property-development project. Pending before the Court is plaintiff's motion to remand the case to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and the defendants' motion to dismiss. Upon consideration of the motions, the responses and replies thereto, the applicable law, and the entire record, the Court

75 F.Supp.3d 61

DENIES plaintiff's motion to remand and GRANTS defendants' motion to dismiss.

I. Background

A. Factual Background

Mr. Cefarrati was employed by JBG as the Chief Engineer on a project to redevelop property in the Southwest quadrant of the District of Columbia until his resignation on July 5, 2013. Compl. ¶¶ 2, 3, 5. The property—to be redeveloped as the L'Enfant Plaza Complex—was owned by Potomac Creek, a wholly owned subsidiary of JBG. Id. ¶ 3. A collective-bargaining agreement (“the CBA”) between JBG and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 99–99A, AFL–CIO was in force during the duration of Mr. Cefarrati's employment. Id. ¶ 6; see CBA, ECF No. 4–1.

1. The Collective Bargaining Agreement.1

Section 1.5 of the CBA sets the scope of employment for the Union's members:

The jurisdiction of the Union shall extend over and include the operation, maintenance and repair of the following whenever such operation, maintenance or repair comes under the Employer's property management responsibility: (a) All boilers, their accessories and appurtenances. (b) All fired or unfired pressure vessels and vacuum systems. (c) All refrigeration and air-conditioning machinery and their associated equipment including maintenance and repair of cold storage spaces. (d) All plumbing and piping including water, gas, heating, steam and sanitation systems. (e) All electrical appliances and fixtures including lamping. (f) All emergency power equipment. (g) All electric motors, generators, circuits and switchgear. (h) All machinery and equipment used in the production and for the health and comfort of the Employer's business and personnel. (i) Any and all equipment under the supervision of the Chief Engineer.

CBA, ECF No. 4–1 § 1.5.

The Chief Engineer has “complete charge of all employees at a given location covered under this collective bargaining unit.” Id. § 1.6(a); see also id. § 4.2 (the “Chief Engineer shall have charge of and be responsible directly to his/her Employer or designated assistant only for the proper installation, operation, care, maintenance, and repairs to the plant and all additions thereto”). The Chief Engineer is also responsible for issuing “orders and instructions for engine room, boiler room, mechanical repairs and maintenance work” and for “hir[ing] and discharg[ing] all other help covered by [the CBA].” Id. § 4.1.

The CBA also contains provisions regarding its own scope. It provides that “[t]he Employer shall not enter into any agreement with any employee covered by this Agreement, the terms of which conflict with the terms of this Agreement.” Id. § 4.5. The CBA also “embodies the entire Agreement between the Employer and the Union.... No provision shall be construed in any manner so as to restrict the Employer from the complete operation and management of his/her business and

75 F.Supp.3d 62

plants or in the direction of the working forces.” Id. § 4.15.

Finally, the Agreement specifies the procedures for addressing any grievances that may arise. See id. §§ 6.2, 6.3. First, “[a]ll grievances shall be presented in writing to Human Resources as soon as practical after the occurrence.” Id. § 6.2. Step 1 of the grievance process entails a “meeting ... between the Employer's Representative(s) and the Shop Steward.” Id. A “written reply to the grievance” is then produced by the Employer. Id. “If this reply is unsatisfactory, the Shop Steward may appeal the decision to Step 2.” Id. Step 2 consists of “[a] meeting ... between the Employer's Representative(s) and the Business Representative or a designated representative of the Union.” Id. Afterwards, “[t]he Employer shall make a reply to the Union in writing.” Id. If these steps are unsuccessful, “either party may ... refer the matter to binding arbitration.” Id. § 6.3.

2. Mr. Cefarrati's Allegations.

Mr. Cefarrati alleges that he engaged in “activities [that] were beyond the scope of [his] job as Chief Operating Engineer and constituted a de facto new job.” Compl. ¶ 10; see also id. ¶ 15 (“Plaintiff's activities were in excess of, and different in kind from, his job as Chief Operating Engineer and required hundreds of hours of work in addition to his service as Chief Operating Engineer.”). Such activities included “attend[ing] numerous meetings with parties involved in the demolition, redevelopment and renovation work”; “escort[ing] interested parties through the existing Complex to help them understand the ‘as built’ condition of the premises”; “inspect[ing] finished work”; and “undert[aking] numerous other activities to ensure that the redevelopment and renovation of the Complex went smoothly.” Id. Mr. Cefarrati further alleges that these activities substantially benefited the defendants. See id. ¶¶ 11–14. In sum, Mr. Cefarrati claims, “[d]efendants saved many thousands of dollars they would have spent in attempting sub-optimal, and upon occasion, infeasible approaches to the redevelopment and renovation.” Id. ¶ 16.

In light of this work allegedly performed beyond the scope of his employment, Mr. Cefarrati “informed Defendants that he believed he was being required to perform work that was in excess of, and different in kind from, his duties as Chief Operating Engineer and that fairness required that he receive appropriate compensation” for this additional work. Id. ¶ 17. The defendants “failed to provide such compensation,” id. and Mr. Cefarrati did not press the complaint any further.

B. Procedural Background

Mr. Cefarrati filed suit for unjust enrichment in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on February 25, 2014. Defendants removed the case to this Court on March 14, 2014. See Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1. That same day, they moved to dismiss the case, arguing that plaintiff's claims for unjust enrichment are preempted by Section 301 of the Labor–Management Relations Act of 1947 (“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). See Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 4 at 8. Defendants further argue that plaintiff's claims should be dismissed because Mr. Cefarrati failed to exhaust the CBA-mandated grievance and arbitration procedures and, alternatively, because the claims are barred by the statute of limitations. See id. at 14, 16.

Mr. Cefarrati moved to remand the case to the Superior Court on March 21, 2014, arguing that there is no federal-question jurisdiction over his claims. See Mot. to Remand, ECF No. 5 at 3. Plaintiff filed his opposition to the Motion to Dismiss on April 16, 2014. See Opp. to Mot. to Dismiss,

75 F.Supp.3d 63

ECF No. 10. The defendants filed their combined opposition to the motion to remand and reply in support of their motion to dismiss on April 30, 2014. See Opp. to Mot. to Remand, ECF No. 11. Mr. Cefarrati filed his reply in support of his motion to remand on May 11, 2014. See Reply in Supp. of Mot. to Remand, ECF No. 13. The motions are now ripe for adjudication.

II. Standard of Review

A. Motion to Remand

The right to remove cases from state to federal court is derived from 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Int'l Union of Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers v. Ins. Co. of the W., 366 F.Supp.2d 33, 36 (D.D.C.2005). “The party opposing a motion to remand bears the burden of establishing that subject matter jurisdiction exists in federal court.” Id. Further, “ ‘the removal statute is to be strictly construed.’ ” Id. (quoting Kopff v. World Research Grp., LLC, 298 F.Supp.2d 50, 54 (D.D.C.2003) ). Consequently, “the court must resolve any ambiguities concerning the propriety of removal in favor of remand.”Johnson–Brown v. 2200 M St. LLC, 257 F.Supp.2d 175, 177 (D.D.C.2003).

Defendants may only remove state-court actions that originally could have been filed in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) ; Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392, 107 S.Ct. 2425, 96 L.Ed.2d 318 (1987). Absent diversity of citizenship,...

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