Lingle v. Norge Division of Magic Chef, Inc

Citation486 U.S. 399,108 S.Ct. 1877,100 L.Ed.2d 410
Decision Date06 June 1988
Docket NumberNo. 87-259,87-259
PartiesJonna R. LINGLE, Petitioner v. NORGE DIVISION OF MAGIC CHEF, INC
CourtUnited States Supreme Court
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" 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 pre-empted by § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947. The court dismissed the complaint as pre-empted, 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 pre-empted by § 301. An application of state law is pre-empted 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 pre-empted 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, 82 S.Ct. 571, 7 L.Ed.2d 593; Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 105 S.Ct. 1904, 85 L.Ed.2d 206. Pp. 403-406.

(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 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 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 pre-emption 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 unpre-empted 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 (CA7 1987), reversed.

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

Paul Alan Levy, Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Charles C. Jackson, Chicago, Ill., for respondent.

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 pre-empted by § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 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 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, 23 Ill.Dec. 559, 384 N.E.2d 353 (1978); Midgett v. Sackett-Chicago, Inc., 105 Ill.2d 143, 85 Ill.Dec. 475, 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 pre-emption 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, 105 S.Ct. 1904, 85 L.Ed.2d 206 (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 pre-empted 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 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. 226, 98 L.Ed.2d 185 (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, 77 S.Ct. 912, 1 L.Ed.2d 972 (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, 77 S.Ct., at 915.2

In Teamsters v. Lucas Flour Co., 369 U.S. 95, 82 S.Ct. 571, 7 L.Ed.2d 593 (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 interpreta- tion. 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

In Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 105 S.Ct. 1904, 85 L.Ed.2d 206 (1985), we considered whether the Wisconsin tort remedy for bad-faith handling of an insurance claim could be applied to the handling of a...

To continue reading

Request your trial
1895 cases
  • Schobert v. CSX Transp. Inc.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • November 30, 2020
    ...not require a court to interpret or construe an existing collective bargaining agreement. See Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc. , 486 U.S. 399, 411, 108 S.Ct. 1877, 100 L.Ed.2d 410 (1988). The question here is how to distinguish between a "minor dispute" that is precluded by the Rail......
  • Roberts v. Beaulieu of America, Inc.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • June 25, 1996
    ...time. As we observed in Lingle [v. Norge Division of Magic Chef, Inc., 823 F.2d 1031 (7th Cir.1987) (en banc), rev'd, 486 U.S. 399, 108 S.Ct. 1877, 100 L.Ed.2d 410 (1988), on remand, 857 F.2d 422 (7th Cir.1988)], liability without fault (and with limited recovery) for injuries in the course......
  • Greenfield v. Schmidt Baking Co., Inc., 23574
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • March 19, 1997
    ...107 S.Ct. at 2433, 96 L.Ed.2d at 331. The Supreme Court also addressed § 301 pre-emption inLingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 108 S.Ct. 1877, 100 L.Ed.2d 410 (1988). In Lingle, an employee who was covered by a CBA was discharged shortly after filing a worker's compensat......
  • Mencer v. Kraft Foods Global, Inc., Case No. 2:09-cv-783.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • February 4, 2010
    ...specifically show that the termination was in direct response to the filing of a claim."). In Lingle v. Norge Division of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 108 S.Ct. 1877, 100 L.Ed.2d 410 (1988), the Supreme Court held that the tort of retaliatory discharge for filing a workers' compensation ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 firm's commentaries
  • In A Twist, The New Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Act May Not Apply For Union Employees
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • November 25, 2014
    ...can be resolved without interpreting a collective bargaining agreement will be deemed "independent" of the agreement and not preempted. 486 U.S. 399, 409-10 (1988). Subsequently, in Livadas v. Bradshaw, the Court extended that line of reasoning to say that a state-law claim will not be pree......
36 books & journal articles
  • Race Discrimination
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Archive Texas Employment Law. Volume 2 - 2016 Part V. Discrimination In Employment
    • July 27, 2016
    ...if the issue to be resolved requires the interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement. Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 413 (1988); Alvarez v. United Parcel Serv. Co. , 398 F. Supp. 2d 543, 552 (N.D. Tex. 2005) (plaintiff’s claims for emotional distress and neg......
  • Wrongful Discharge
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Archive Texas Employment Law. Volume 1 - 2014 Part I. The Employment Relationship
    • August 16, 2014
    ...In International Union v. Johnson Controls, Inc. , 786 S.W.2d 265, 265-66 (Tex. 1990) (citing Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc. , 486 U.S. 399 (1988)), for example, the Texas Supreme Court held that arbitration decisions made pursuant to a CBA do not preempt an employee’s independent......
  • Privacy issues in the workplace
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Texas Employment Law. Volume 1 Part VI. Workplace torts
    • May 5, 2018
    ...bargaining agreement if the agreement contains provisions relevant to the claims. See Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc ., 486 U.S. 399 (1988) (holding that Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (“Section 301”) preempts state law claims where resolution of the state law cl......
  • Disability Discrimination
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Archive Texas Employment Law. Volume 1 - 2014 Part V. Discrimination in employment
    • August 16, 2014
    ...state law, the claim will be preempted by the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947. See Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc , 486 U.S. 399, 406- 07 (1988); Reece v. Houston Lighting & Power Co. , 79 F.3d 485, 487-88 (5th Cir. 1996); Thomas v. LTV Corp. , 39 F.3d 611, 621 (5th Cir. 199......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT