Southwest Gulfcoast, Inc. v. Allan, No. BJ-333

CourtCourt of Appeal of Florida (US)
Writing for the CourtZEHMER; JOANOS; CAWTHON, VICTOR M.
Citation12 Fla. L. Weekly 2316,513 So.2d 219
Parties12 Fla. L. Weekly 2316 SOUTHWEST GULFCOAST, INC., d/b/a Southwest Forest Industries, Appellant, v. Earl ALLAN, Jr., Appellee.
Decision Date24 September 1987
Docket NumberNo. BJ-333

Page 219

513 So.2d 219
12 Fla. L. Weekly 2316
SOUTHWEST GULFCOAST, INC., d/b/a Southwest Forest Industries, Appellant,
v.
Earl ALLAN, Jr., Appellee.
No. BJ-333.
District Court of Appeal of Florida,
First District.
Sept. 24, 1987.

Page 220

G. Thomas Harper of Haynsworth, Baldwin, Miles & Bowden, Jacksonville, for appellant.

Jack G. Williams of Bryant, Higby & Williams, Panama City, for appellee.

ZEHMER, Judge.

This is an interlocutory appeal pursuant to rule 9.130, Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure. Southwest Gulfcoast, Inc., doing business as Southwest Forest Industries, seeks review of a circuit court order denying its motion to dismiss appellee's complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The question before us is whether Allan's cause of action, based on section 440.205, Florida Statutes (1983), alleging he was wrongfully discharged by Southwest Forest for filing a workers' compensation claim, is preempted by section 301 of the federal Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.A., section 185. The decision in this case will undoubtedly have significant impact on the manner in which the Florida workers' compensation law can be enforced, as well as state/federal relations in respect to the administration of that law. For the reasons hereafter expressed, we affirm the appealed order upon the conclusion that section 301 has not preempted state enforcement of section 440.205.

Allan's complaint, filed March 28, 1985, alleged that he was an employee and that Southwest Forest was an employer within the meaning of section 440.205, Florida Statutes. 1 In January 1985 Allan injured his back during the course of his employment with Southwest Forest and made a claim for workers' compensation benefits under chapter 440. Allan further alleged that until February 25, 1985, he was under the care of a physician and prohibited by that physician from returning to work; that upon being released to return to work on February 26 he was informed by Southwest Forest that he was "suspended from work for allegedly engaging in physical activities while under a doctor's care with which SWF did not agree"; and that on March 4, 1985, "SWF wrongfully and unlawfully discharged Allan in retaliation for Allan pursuing his Workmens [sic] Compensation Claim." The first count claimed compensatory damages. The second count alleged additional facts to support the contention that Southwest Forest acted willfully, wantonly, and with reckless indifference to Allan's rights, and demanded punitive damages. A third count alleged a conspiracy claim against Southwest Forest and NYCO, a corporation engaged in private

Page 221

investigation work, arising out of the latter's surveillance of Allan while off work during February 1985. 2

Southwest Forest filed an answer admitting the employer/employee relationship but denying most of the substantive allegations of wrongdoing. Additional defenses alleged were that: (1) The complaint fails to state a cause of action upon which relief may be granted (without specifying explicit grounds and substantial matters of law to be argued); (2) Southwest Forest had in no way violated Allan's rights under section 440.205 but, rather, Allan "gave false information to the Defendant during its investigation of this matter," and thus Allan "was discharged for good and sufficient cause" and not "to deter or prevent Allan or other employees from filing legitimate claims under the workers' compensation statute"; and (3) any award of damages should be mitigated by the workers' compensation benefits paid by Southwest Forest or any wages earned by him after discharge.

On July 22, 1985, allegedly as the result of further information developed during discovery, Allan filed a motion for leave to amend his complaint for the purpose of asserting a class action on behalf of some twenty former employees of Southwest Forest who were discharged after being injured on the job and claiming or attempting to claim workers' compensation benefits. The motion alleged that these former employees were discharged for making such claims, rather than for the "pretexual [sic] reason assigned" by Southwest Forest for their discharge. Although Southwest Forest strongly opposed this motion in a detailed legal memorandum, the motion was eventually granted, on October 15, 1985, the same day the appealed order was rendered.

On September 26, 1985, Southwest Forest filed its motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, specifying as the sole ground that plaintiff's "tort action" is preempted by federal law. The motion alleged that Allan is "a party to the collective bargaining agreement" between the unions and Southwest Forest and "must resort to the contractually agreed upon grievance arbitration mechanism as the exclusive means of resolving this dispute," so that Allan's "action is preempted by federal law holding that an employee claiming a breach by his employer of the collective bargaining agreement's just cause provisions is bound by the terms of that agreement as to the method of enforcing his contractual rights." The motion was accompanied by a detailed legal memorandum, a copy of the alleged collective bargaining agreement, the grievance complaint filed by the electrical workers' union regarding Allan's discharge and requesting his reinstatement, and the employer's complaint report made in response. 3 The employer's report indicates that Allan's superintendent denied the requested relief, stating as the reason therefor that Allan reported an injury on the job and was subsequently off work and received workers' compensation benefits, but that "information available to us indicates that he claimed disability benefits under false pretense, and gave false information to us concerning his injury and conduct while he was away from work." No further explanation of the false information appears in the record.

In opposition to this motion, Allan filed an affidavit stating he was not a member of the union and had not been a member since his resignation from the union in 1982. On October 14, 1985, Southwest Forest filed an amended answer which included as an additional defense the grounds of its motion to dismiss. The court denied the motion to dismiss without explanation in the order dated October 15, which Southwest Forest has appealed.

Page 222

Appellant's brief raises three points. First, Southwest Forest contends that the state court lacks jurisdiction based on federal preemption. Second, it argues that Allan's action should be dismissed because he failed to exhaust his contractual remedies. Third, Southwest Forest argues that doctrines of preemption and exhaustion of remedies apply even though Allan was not a member of the union.

Appellee makes no issue of the third point. We assume, without necessarily deciding, that for purposes of this appeal Allan's employment was covered by the collective bargaining agreement referred to in Southwest Forest's motion to dismiss, and we do not, therefore, discuss that issue further.

Southwest Forest's second point was not raised in its motion to dismiss and was not ruled on in the appealed interlocutory order. Moreover, this appeal is perfected under rule 9.130, Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, which authorizes review of the denial of the motion to dismiss only for lack of jurisdiction. Appellant's second point, therefore, is not properly before us on this appeal and may not be considered.

Appellant's jurisdictional point is premised primarily on the provisions of section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act 4 and the Supreme Court's decision in Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 105 S.Ct. 1904, 85 L.Ed.2d 206 (1985). Southwest Forest contends that Allan is covered by the collective bargaining agreement (labor agreement) between the Electrical Workers' Union and Southwest Forest, which agreement provides the terms of Allan's employment and contains restrictions on Southwest Forest's right to discipline and discharge him from employment, as well as grievance and arbitration provisions for formal protest and resolution of disputes over the propriety of any discharge. Specifically, the labor agreement provides that discharge from employment must be "based on just and sufficient cause." Thus, Southwest Forest contends, any complaint regarding Allan's discharge is a matter to be adjusted as a grievance under the agreement, and Allan's state action "in tort" under section 440.205 is preempted by section 301 as construed by the Supreme Court in Allis-Chalmers.

We recognize that several recent court decisions have interpreted Allis-Chalmers to mean that section 301 preempts a state's judicially created common law action against an employer to redress an employee's discharge in retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim where the employment relationship is governed by a collective bargaining agreement that provides for grievance and arbitration procedures subject to the Labor Management Relations Act. E.g., Lingle v. Norge Division of Magic Chef, Inc., 823 F.2d 1031 (7th Cir.1987) (en banc); Vantine v. Elkhart Brass Manufacturing Co., 762 F.2d 511 (7th Cir.1985); Northwest Industrial Credit Union v. Salisbury, 634 F.Supp. 191 (W.D.Mich.1986); Cox v. United Technologies, 240 Kan. 95, 727 P.2d 456 (1986); Brinkman v. Montana, 729 P.2d 1301 (Mont.1986). Those cases effectively stand for the proposition that an employee's wrongful discharge, regardless of the reason therefor, is necessarily predicated only upon the interpretation of provisions in the employment contract relating to discharge and must, therefore, be treated as a matter of federal law, regardless of the presence of state law provisions that may bear on the rights of the parties and the legality of their conduct.

On the other hand, a number of recent court decisions have held to the contrary, reasoning that the employee's claim for wrongful discharge under the particular facts of the...

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5 practice notes
  • Blair v. Allied Maintenance Corp.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Tennessee
    • May 20, 1988
    ...Time Corp., 549 F.Supp. 770, 772 (N.D.Ala.1982) (intentional infliction of emotional distress); Southwest Gulfcoast, Inc. v. Allan, 513 So.2d 219, 228 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1987) (retaliatory discharge); Gonzalez v. Prestress Eng'g Corp., 115 Ill.2d 1, 104 Ill.Dec. 751, 756, 503 N.E.2d 308, 313 ......
  • Sucart v. Office of the Comm'r, Nos. 3D13–1928
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • December 18, 2013
    ...of the agreement.” Kresse v. City of Hialeah, 539 So.2d 534, 535 (Fla. 3d DCA 1989); see also Sw. Gulfcoast, Inc. v. Allan, 513 So.2d 219, 227 (Fla. 1st DCA 1987), receded from in part on other grounds, Fisher v. Int'l Longshoremen's Ass'n, 827 So.2d 1096 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002) (holding that t......
  • Kresse v. City of Hialeah, No. 88-1071
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • March 7, 1989
    ...Division of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 108 S.Ct. 1877, 100 L.Ed.2d 410 (1988), which, along with Southwest Gulfcoast, Inc. v. Allan, 513 So.2d 219 (Fla. 1st DCA 1987), is controlling here, the Supreme Court squarely held that an action under an Illinois statute virtually identical to s......
  • Allan v. SWF Gulf Coast, Inc., No. 87-1991
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • December 15, 1988
    ...The trial court denied the motion to dismiss and appellee appealed to this court. In that appeal, Southwest Gulfcoast Inc. v. Allan, 513 So.2d 219 (Fla. 1st DCA 1987), the jurisdictional ruling was affirmed. The appellate opinion suggests that section 440.205, Florida Statutes, operates ind......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • Blair v. Allied Maintenance Corp.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Tennessee
    • May 20, 1988
    ...Time Corp., 549 F.Supp. 770, 772 (N.D.Ala.1982) (intentional infliction of emotional distress); Southwest Gulfcoast, Inc. v. Allan, 513 So.2d 219, 228 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1987) (retaliatory discharge); Gonzalez v. Prestress Eng'g Corp., 115 Ill.2d 1, 104 Ill.Dec. 751, 756, 503 N.E.2d 308, 313 ......
  • Sucart v. Office of the Comm'r, Nos. 3D13–1928
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • December 18, 2013
    ...of the agreement.” Kresse v. City of Hialeah, 539 So.2d 534, 535 (Fla. 3d DCA 1989); see also Sw. Gulfcoast, Inc. v. Allan, 513 So.2d 219, 227 (Fla. 1st DCA 1987), receded from in part on other grounds, Fisher v. Int'l Longshoremen's Ass'n, 827 So.2d 1096 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002) (holding that t......
  • Kresse v. City of Hialeah, No. 88-1071
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • March 7, 1989
    ...Division of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 108 S.Ct. 1877, 100 L.Ed.2d 410 (1988), which, along with Southwest Gulfcoast, Inc. v. Allan, 513 So.2d 219 (Fla. 1st DCA 1987), is controlling here, the Supreme Court squarely held that an action under an Illinois statute virtually identical to s......
  • Allan v. SWF Gulf Coast, Inc., No. 87-1991
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • December 15, 1988
    ...The trial court denied the motion to dismiss and appellee appealed to this court. In that appeal, Southwest Gulfcoast Inc. v. Allan, 513 So.2d 219 (Fla. 1st DCA 1987), the jurisdictional ruling was affirmed. The appellate opinion suggests that section 440.205, Florida Statutes, operates ind......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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