Ellenwood v. Exxon Shipping Co., Nos. 92-1473

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore BREYER, Chief Judge, COFFIN, Senior Circuit Judge, and CYR; COFFIN; Before BREYER, Chief Judge, COFFIN, Senior Circuit Judge, TORRUELLA, SELYA, CYR, BOUDIN and STAHL
Citation984 F.2d 1270
Parties, 60 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 41,964, 61 USLW 2440, 8 IER Cases 364, 2 A.D. Cases 415, 1 A.D.D. 414, 3 NDLR P 223 Theodore M. ELLENWOOD, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellees, v. EXXON SHIPPING CO., Defendant, Appellant. State of Maine, Intervenor. Theodore M. ELLENWOOD, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants, v. EXXON SHIPPING CO., Defendant, Appellee. State of Maine, Intervenor. . Heard
Docket Number92-1474,Nos. 92-1473
Decision Date05 October 1992

Page 1270

984 F.2d 1270
1993 A.M.C. 2994, 60 Empl. Prac. Dec. P
41,964, 61 USLW 2440,
8 IER Cases 364, 2 A.D. Cases 415, 1
A.D.D. 414,
3 NDLR P 223
Theodore M. ELLENWOOD, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellees,
v.
EXXON SHIPPING CO., Defendant, Appellant.
State of Maine, Intervenor.
Theodore M. ELLENWOOD, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants,
v.
EXXON SHIPPING CO., Defendant, Appellee.
State of Maine, Intervenor.
Nos. 92-1473, 92-1474.
United States Court of Appeals,
First Circuit.
Heard Oct. 5, 1992.
Decided Jan. 14, 1993.
Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied Feb. 23, 1993.

Page 1272

Peter Bennett with whom Daniel W. Bates, Portland, ME, was on brief for the Ellenwoods.

Thomas D. Warren, Deputy Atty. Gen., with whom Michael E. Carpenter, Atty. Gen., Augusta, ME, was on brief for the State of ME.

Robert M. Hayes, Portland, ME, with whom Charles G. Bakaly, Jr., Los Angeles, CA, Richard G. Moon, and Linda D. McGill, Portland, ME, were on brief for Exxon Shipping Co.

Before BREYER, Chief Judge, COFFIN, Senior Circuit Judge, and CYR, Circuit Judge.

COFFIN, Senior Circuit Judge.

Shortly after the Exxon Valdez struck a reef off the Alaskan coast in 1989, defendant Exxon Shipping Company adopted a new policy barring any employee who had ever participated in an alcohol rehabilitation program from holding designated jobs within the company. Pursuant to this policy, plaintiff Theodore Ellenwood, who had no connection to the Valdez incident, was removed from his position as chief engineer of another Exxon oil tanker, the Exxon Wilmington. Ellenwood voluntarily had entered, and successfully had completed, a month-long alcohol rehabilitation program a year before the Valdez accident. Despite his concerns about his drinking, Ellenwood never had had an on-the-job problem with alcohol. A psychiatrist who examined Ellenwood in connection with this case concluded, in fact, that he had never been an alcoholic. See Tr. Vol. V, at 133.

Relying primarily on the company's previous written policy that "[n]o employees with alcoholism will have their job security or future opportunities jeopardized due to a request for help or involvement in a rehabilitation effort," Ellenwood and his wife brought suit against Exxon alleging tort and contract claims as well as violations of state statutes prohibiting discrimination against the handicapped. 1 Ellenwood ultimately received a judgment for $677,648 on his contract and promissory estoppel causes of action.

In these appeals, both sides contend, inter alia, that the district court committed legal error in defining the actionable counts. Ellenwood claims the judge eliminated too many claims on various legal grounds, depriving him of additional relief, while Exxon claims that the court allowed too many counts to be tried. 2 We affirm most of the court's rulings. We conclude, however, that the district court overestimated the preemptive effects of admiralty law and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §§ 701-796i, and, accordingly, we must remand for trial on Ellenwood's state

Page 1273

statutory claims of handicap discrimination. 3

I. Preemption and the Rehabilitation Act 4

A. Background

Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 793, requires any contract with the federal government in excess of $2,500 to include a provision obligating the federal contractor to "take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment qualified individuals with handicaps." 29 U.S.C. § 793(a). Any handicapped individual who believes a contractor has failed to comply with this provision may file a complaint with the Department of Labor, which must conduct an investigation and take appropriate action. 29 U.S.C. § 793(b). Regulations promulgated pursuant to § 503 specify a detailed administrative enforcement mechanism for its breach. See 41 C.F.R. §§ 60-741.1-741.32 (1991). The Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) is empowered, for example, to seek injunctive relief in court, terminate or cancel a contract, or bar a contractor from receiving future contracts. 41 C.F.R. § 60-741.28(b)-(e) (1991). It also may seek such remedies as back pay and reinstatement for affected employees. See Dep't of Labor v. Texas Indus., Inc., 47 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 18, 28 (Dep't Labor 1988). See Howard v. Uniroyal, Inc., 719 F.2d 1552, 1559 (11th Cir.1983) (detailing enforcement procedures).

In a motion for summary judgment, Exxon, which is a federal contractor, argued that § 503 preempts virtually all of Ellenwood's state law claims, 5 and that Ellenwood's only recourse on matters related to his alcohol treatment is the claim he has filed with the OFCCP. The district court rejected this contention, finding no evidence that Congress intended the provision to eliminate conventional state law claims such as breach of contract, misrepresentation, defamation or infliction of emotional distress, because these claims "are in no way related to the federal Rehabilitation Act, any affirmative action clause in a government contract, or handicap discrimination." See Memorandum of Decision, Oct. 15, 1991, at 3. The court also ruled, however, that § 503 did preempt Count V's direct claim of discrimination on the basis of handicap in violation of various state statutes, and Count IV's common law claim that Ellenwood's discharge violated a public policy promoting responsible treatment of alcoholism.

Neither party is satisfied with this Solomonic division of the claims. Accordingly, on appeal, we are asked to consider both Ellenwood's claim that the district court erred in ruling that § 503 preempts Counts IV and V and Exxon's contrary assertion that the district court erred in finding that the federal statute does not preempt the contract and promissory estoppel claims on which Ellenwood received a jury verdict. The State of Maine joins Ellenwood in arguing that § 503 does not preempt a claim of handicap discrimination brought under its Human Rights Act, 2A Me.Rev.Stat.Ann. tit. 5, §§ 4571-72 (Supp.1992). We take up each plea for reversal in turn, following a brief review of the well established contours of preemption law.

B. Preemption Principles

The preemption doctrine is rooted in the Supremacy Clause, which invalidates state laws that "interfere with, or are contrary to, the laws of congress." Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1, 211, 6 L.Ed. 23 (1824). See also Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc., --- U.S. ----, ----, 112 S.Ct. 2608, 2617, 120 L.Ed.2d 407 (1992). A court's sole task in determining whether a

Page 1274

state statute is preempted is to ascertain whether Congress intended the federal law to have such effect. California Federal Savings & Loan Ass'n v. Guerra, 479 U.S. 272, 280, 107 S.Ct. 683, 689, 93 L.Ed.2d 613 (1987); Massachusetts Medical Society v. Dukakis, 815 F.2d 790, 791 (1st Cir.1987). Although Congress may articulate its intent explicitly, see, e.g., Jones v. Rath Packing Co., 430 U.S. 519, 532, 97 S.Ct. 1305, 1313, 51 L.Ed.2d 604 (1977), it does not always do so, and the challenge of preemption law is to identify occurrences of implied preemption. Preemption by implication may take place in different ways.

First, congressional intent to preempt state law may be inferred when the scheme of federal regulation in a particular area is sufficiently pervasive and complex "to make reasonable the inference that Congress 'left no room' for supplementary state regulation," California Federal Savings & Loan Ass'n, 479 U.S. at 281, 107 S.Ct. at 689 (quoting Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp., 331 U.S. 218, 230, 67 S.Ct. 1146, 1152, 91 L.Ed. 1447 (1947)); see also Dukakis, 815 F.2d at 791. Second, in areas where Congress has not entirely displaced state regulation, state law will be deemed preempted to the extent it actually conflicts with federal law. Such a conflict occurs either because " 'compliance with both federal and state regulations is a physical impossibility,' ..., or because the state law stands 'as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.' " California Federal Savings & Loan Ass'n, 479 U.S. at 281, 107 S.Ct. at 689 (quoting Florida Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Paul, 373 U.S. 132, 142-143, 83 S.Ct. 1210, 1217, 10 L.Ed.2d 248 (1963) and Hines v. Davidowitz, 312 U.S. 52, 67, 61 S.Ct. 399, 404, 85 L.Ed. 581 (1941)). See also O'Brien v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 972 F.2d 1, 3 (1st Cir.1992).

These alternative avenues to preemption do not mean that either route is to be chosen lightly. The Supreme Court recently reiterated the longstanding principle that " 'the historic police powers of the States [are] not to be superseded by ... Federal Act unless that [course is] the clear and manifest purpose of Congress.' " Cipollone, --- U.S. at ----, 112 S.Ct. at 2617 (quoting Rice, 331 U.S. at 230, 67 S.Ct. at 1152). Thus, the presumption is against preemption. Id. --- U.S. at ----, 112 S.Ct. at 2618.

C. Applying the Principles

1. State handicap discrimination statutes.

Section 503 contains no express language regarding preemption. Our task, therefore, is to determine whether there are other indicia of Congressional intent to render state discrimination laws ineffectual against federal contractors. Exxon essentially makes a two-pronged argument. First, it cites legislative history suggesting that Congress sought a uniform federal remedy for violations of § 503, which would be frustrated if contractors additionally were subject to varying state laws. Thus, according to Exxon, Congress must have intended to preempt state provisions.

Second, Exxon suggests that the detailed nature of the administrative scheme promulgated under § 503 demonstrates Congress's intent to foreclose other types of remedies against federal contractors. Exxon maintains that, while Congress has not fully occupied the field of handicap discrimination, with respect to federal contractors, it has " 'left no room' for supplementary...

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    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • December 7, 1994
    ...Yamaha "heralds the need for uniformity without an appreciation for the boundaries of its relevance." Ellenwood v. Exxon Shipping Co., 984 F.2d 1270, 1279 (1st Cir.1993). The argument simply proves too much. "All state laws, if given effect in admiralty cases, interfere to a degree with the......
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    • United States
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    • May 29, 2001
    ...state law would continue to play some role in maritime affairs through the `savings to suitors' clause." Ellenwood v. Exxon Shipping Co., 984 F.2d 1270, 1279 (1st Cir.1993) (citation 4. Offshore Logistics, Inc. v. Tallentire, 477 U.S. 207, 222-23, 106 S.Ct. 2485, 91 L.Ed.2d 174 (1986). 5. 2......
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    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • May 29, 2001
    ...state law would continue to play some role in maritime affairs through the `savings to suitors' clause." Ellenwood v. Exxon Shipping Co., 984 F.2d 1270, 1279 (1st Cir.1993) (citation 4. Offshore Logistics, Inc. v. Tallentire, All U.S. 207, 222-23, 106 S.Ct. 2485, 91 L.Ed.2d 174 (1986). 5. 2......
  • Mosquera-Perez v. I.N.S., MOSQUERA-PERE
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • June 11, 1993
    ...however, post-enactment legislative history is accorded less weight than contemporaneous commentary. Ellenwood v. Exxon Shipping Co., 984 F.2d 1270, 1277 n. 8 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 113 S.Ct. 2987, 125 L.Ed.2d 682 (1993); cf. Regional Rail Reorganization Act Cases, 419 U.S......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
56 cases
  • Calhoun v. Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A., No. 93-1736
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • December 7, 1994
    ...Yamaha "heralds the need for uniformity without an appreciation for the boundaries of its relevance." Ellenwood v. Exxon Shipping Co., 984 F.2d 1270, 1279 (1st Cir.1993). The argument simply proves too much. "All state laws, if given effect in admiralty cases, interfere to a degree with the......
  • Paul v. All Alaskan Seafoods, Inc., No. 45388-2-I.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • May 29, 2001
    ...state law would continue to play some role in maritime affairs through the `savings to suitors' clause." Ellenwood v. Exxon Shipping Co., 984 F.2d 1270, 1279 (1st Cir.1993) (citation 4. Offshore Logistics, Inc. v. Tallentire, 477 U.S. 207, 222-23, 106 S.Ct. 2485, 91 L.Ed.2d 174 (1986). 5. 2......
  • Paul v. All Alaskan Seafoods, Inc., No. 45388-2-I.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • May 29, 2001
    ...state law would continue to play some role in maritime affairs through the `savings to suitors' clause." Ellenwood v. Exxon Shipping Co., 984 F.2d 1270, 1279 (1st Cir.1993) (citation 4. Offshore Logistics, Inc. v. Tallentire, All U.S. 207, 222-23, 106 S.Ct. 2485, 91 L.Ed.2d 174 (1986). 5. 2......
  • Mosquera-Perez v. I.N.S., MOSQUERA-PERE
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • June 11, 1993
    ...however, post-enactment legislative history is accorded less weight than contemporaneous commentary. Ellenwood v. Exxon Shipping Co., 984 F.2d 1270, 1277 n. 8 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 113 S.Ct. 2987, 125 L.Ed.2d 682 (1993); cf. Regional Rail Reorganization Act Cases, 419 U.S......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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