Pike v. Burlington Northern R. Co., No. 95-235

Docket NºNo. 95-235
Citation903 P.2d 1352, 273 Mont. 390
Case DateSeptember 29, 1995
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Montana

Page 1352

903 P.2d 1352
273 Mont. 390, 151 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2205,
69 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 878, 64 USLW 2234,
131 Lab.Cas. P 58,060
Kathryn PIKE, Plaintiff/Appellant,
v.
BURLINGTON NORTHERN RAILROAD COMPANY, Defendant/Respondent.
No. 95-235.
Supreme Court of Montana.
Submitted on Briefs Aug. 24, 1995.
Decided Sept. 29, 1995.

Elizabeth A. Best, Best Law Offices, Great Falls, for Appellant.

Jeff Hedger, Kroschel & Yerger, Billings, for Respondent.

Page 1353

NELSON, Justice.

Kathryn Pike (Pike) appeals from the March 9, 1995 order of the Twelfth Judicial District Court, Hill County, granting Burlington Northern Railroad's (BN) motion under Rule 12(b)(1), M.R.Civ.P., and dismissing her complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. We reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

The sole issue to be decided in this appeal is whether Pike's state law and federal claims of sex discrimination are preempted by the Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. § 151, et seq.?

Background

Pike was employed as a carman at BN's diesel shop from May 1977, until August 10, 1992. The Brotherhood Railway Carmen's Division, Transportation Communications International Union (the Union) and BN were parties to a collective bargaining agreement which was in force at the time of the events alleged in Pike's complaint. She was a member of the Union.

Pike claims her employment was wrongfully terminated on August 10, 1992. She alleges that when BN closed its Havre diesel shop, the five carmen who were employed were given an option to transfer to other locations or to exercise their seniority in the Montana district. Pike, apparently the only female carman, contends she had been advised she would not be placed in a carman position because she was not qualified to operate an all terrain vehicle. Pike alleges that this reason was merely a pretext and that she was actually denied her position and terminated because of her gender in violation of the provisions of the Montana Human Rights Act, §§ 49-1-102, MCA, et seq., and Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000(e), et seq.

In dismissing her complaint, the District Court ruled that Pike's dispute with BN fit within the definition of a "minor" dispute under the RLA, 45 U.S.C. § 151, et seq. Relying principally on Consolidated Rail Corp. v. Railway Labor Executives' Ass'n (1989), 491 U.S. 299, 109 S.Ct. 2477, 105 L.Ed.2d 250, the District Court determined that Pike's was a "minor" dispute because it did not seek to create contractual rights but to enforce them; it concerned the interpretation or application of a collective bargaining agreement; and it was inextricably intertwined with the grievance machinery of the collective bargaining agreement or the RLA.

Having made that determination, the court, again relying on Conrail, concluded Pike's discrimination claims were subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the National Railroad Adjustment Board (NRAB) and the court's subject matter jurisdiction over her claims was preempted by the RLA. It is from this decision that Pike appeals.

Standard of Review

The District Court concluded, as a matter of law, it did not have subject matter jurisdiction over Pike's sex discrimination claims. Our review of the legal conclusions of a trial court is plenary; we simply determine whether the court's interpretation of the law is correct. Steer, Inc. v. Department of Revenue (1990), 245 Mont. 470, 474-75, 803 P.2d 601, 603. In this case, we hold that the District Court erred in its legal conclusion that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction over Pike's state law and federal sex discrimination claims.

Issue

Did the District Court err in determining that Pike's state law and federal claims of sex discrimination are preempted by RLA, 45 U.S.C. § 151, et seq.?

Discussion

BN argues that the District Court correctly categorized Pike's discrimination claims as falling within the definition of a "minor" dispute, and thus, subject to the mandatory and exclusive arbitration procedures of the RLA. While BN does not dispute Pike's right to make a substantive statutory discrimination claim under Title VII, it argues that her

Page 1354

claim is, nevertheless, a "minor" dispute over which the court has no subject matter jurisdiction. Moreover, BN maintains that Pike is substantively preempted from pursuing her state law claim even in arbitration because those claims are "inextricably intertwined with the express and implied provisions of the collective bargaining agreement ... [and] ... [s]he must pursue the [state law] claim under the substantive provisions of the [collective bargaining agreement] and the RLA or Title VII."

Pike, on the other hand, maintains the RLA does not preempt claims for unlawful discrimination, and because her right to be free from unlawful discrimination derives from statute, that right cannot be bargained away as part of a collective bargaining agreement. Pike also argues that, under the District Court's analysis, an unlawful discrimination claim cannot be classified as either a "minor" or a "major" dispute, in any event, and that since her claims derive from statute, as opposed to contract, her state law claim is not preempted by the RLA.

Since the District Court determined that Pike's claims were preempted by the RLA, it is instructive to commence our resolution of the issue in dispute with a brief discussion of that Act and the interpretative case law. Congress' purpose in enacting the RLA was to promote stability in labor-management relations by providing a comprehensive framework for resolving labor disputes. Hawaiian Airlines, Inc., v. Norris (1994) --- U.S. ----, 114 S.Ct. 2239, 2243, 129 L.Ed.2d 203, ---- (citing Atchison, T. & S.F.R. Co. v. Buell (1987), 480 U.S. 557, 562, 107 S.Ct. 1410, 1414, 94 L.Ed.2d 563, 571 and 45 U.S.C. § 151a.) There are two classes of disputes distinguished in the RLA. The first class of disputes are deemed "major" disputes and arise "out of the formation or change of collective bargaining agreements covering rates of pay, rules, or working conditions." Atchison, 480 U.S. at 562-63, 107 S.Ct. at 1414-15 (quoting Detroit & T.S.L.R. Co. v. Transportation Union (1969), 396 U.S. 142, 145 n. 5, 90 S.Ct. 294, 296 n. 5, 24 L.Ed.2d 325, 329 n. 5). The second class of disputes, "minor" disputes, are those "growing out of grievances or out of the interpretation or application of agreements concerning rates of pay, rules, or working conditions." Atchison, 480 U.S. at 563, 107 S.Ct. at 1414. "Major" disputes seek to create contractual rights, while "minor" disputes seek to enforce them. Conrail, 491 U.S. at 302, 109 S.Ct. at 2479 (citing Elgin, J. & E.R. Co. v. Burley (1945), 325 U.S. 711, 723, 65 S.Ct. 1282, 1289-90, 89 L.Ed. 1886, 1894).

A "minor" dispute, which is how the District Court characterized Pike's claims, must be dealt with through the railroad's internal dispute resolution processes. If not settled there, then it must be settled through compulsory and binding arbitration under the exclusive jurisdiction of NRAB or before an adjustment board established by the employer and the union representing the employee. Conrail, 491 U.S. at 303-304, 109 S.Ct. at 2480-2481. Judicial review of the arbitration decision is extremely narrow. Union Pacific R. Co. v. Sheehan (1978), 439 U.S. 89, 91, 99 S.Ct. 399, 401, 58 L.Ed.2d 354, 357.

Accordingly, if Pike's sex discrimination claims are properly categorized as a "minor" dispute, and thus subject to the mandatory arbitration provisions of the RLA, then the District Court was correct in its conclusion that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction over her lawsuit. However, our review of federal case authority, and most recently, the United States Supreme Court's decision in Hawaiian Airlines, leads us to conclude Pike's sex discrimination claims are not properly classified as either a "minor" or "major" dispute which are preempted by the RLA. Rather, we agree with Pike that her state law and federal rights to be free from unlawful sex discrimination are independent of the collective bargaining agreement, derive from statute, and cannot be bargained away as part of a collective bargaining agreement. Thus, her claims are not preempted by the RLA.

Pike relies primarily on Alexander v. Gardner-Denver Co. (1974), 415 U.S. 36, 94

Page 1355

S.Ct. 1011, 39 L.Ed.2d 147, and its progeny, although that case did not arise under the RLA. In Gardner-Denver, the petitioner (Alexander), alleging that he was unlawfully discharged because of his race, filed a grievance under the collective bargaining agreement to which his employer and his union were parties. Following adverse rulings in his arbitration hearing and before the EEOC, Alexander filed a complaint in federal district court alleging race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Gardner-Denver, 415 U.S. at 38-43, 94 S.Ct. at 1015-1017.

In reversing lower court rulings that Alexander was bound by the arbitration decision and had no right to sue under Title VII, the United States Supreme Court held that an...

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5 practice notes
  • Heurtebise v. Reliable Business Computers, Docket No. 102019
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • 16 Julio 1996
    ...a collective bargaining agreement does not extend to federal statutory claims of discrimination. E.g., Pike v. Burlington Northern R Co., 273 Mont. 390, 398, 903 P.2d 1352, 1357 (1995). One overriding rationale for this rule is that civil rights are individual personal rights, while union b......
  • Favel v. American Renovation and Const. Co., No. 01-514.
    • United States
    • 26 Noviembre 2002
    ...it did not have jurisdiction over this case is a conclusion of law." Winslow, ¶ 13 (citing Pike v. Burlington N.R.R. Co. (1995), 273 Mont. 390, 392-93, 903 P.2d 1352, 1353). "We review a district court's conclusions of law to determine whether the court's interpretation of the law......
  • Dannels v. BNSF Ry. Co., DA 19-0343
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • 23 Marzo 2021
    ...in Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck , 471 U.S. 202, 220, 105 S. Ct. 1904, 1916, 85 L.Ed.2d 206 (1985) ); Pike v. Burlington N. R.R. Co. , 273 Mont. 390, 398-401, 903 P.2d 1352, 1357-59 (1995) (citing Hawaiian Airlines ).11 483 P.3d 512 ¶54 As a matter of state law, implied by law in every cont......
  • Winslow v. Montana Rail Link, Inc., No. 99-483.
    • United States
    • 27 Noviembre 2000
    ...Court's determination that it did not have jurisdiction over this case is a conclusion of law. Pike v. Burlington N.R.R. Co. (1995), 273 Mont. 390, 392-93, 903 P.2d 1352, 1353. We review a district court's conclusions of law to determine whether the court's interpretation of the law is corr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • Heurtebise v. Reliable Business Computers, Docket No. 102019
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • 16 Julio 1996
    ...a collective bargaining agreement does not extend to federal statutory claims of discrimination. E.g., Pike v. Burlington Northern R Co., 273 Mont. 390, 398, 903 P.2d 1352, 1357 (1995). One overriding rationale for this rule is that civil rights are individual personal rights, while union b......
  • Favel v. American Renovation and Const. Co., No. 01-514.
    • United States
    • 26 Noviembre 2002
    ...it did not have jurisdiction over this case is a conclusion of law." Winslow, ¶ 13 (citing Pike v. Burlington N.R.R. Co. (1995), 273 Mont. 390, 392-93, 903 P.2d 1352, 1353). "We review a district court's conclusions of law to determine whether the court's interpretation of the law......
  • Dannels v. BNSF Ry. Co., DA 19-0343
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • 23 Marzo 2021
    ...in Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck , 471 U.S. 202, 220, 105 S. Ct. 1904, 1916, 85 L.Ed.2d 206 (1985) ); Pike v. Burlington N. R.R. Co. , 273 Mont. 390, 398-401, 903 P.2d 1352, 1357-59 (1995) (citing Hawaiian Airlines ).11 483 P.3d 512 ¶54 As a matter of state law, implied by law in every cont......
  • Winslow v. Montana Rail Link, Inc., No. 99-483.
    • United States
    • 27 Noviembre 2000
    ...Court's determination that it did not have jurisdiction over this case is a conclusion of law. Pike v. Burlington N.R.R. Co. (1995), 273 Mont. 390, 392-93, 903 P.2d 1352, 1353. We review a district court's conclusions of law to determine whether the court's interpretation of the law is corr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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