9th Circuit: Labor Management Relations Act Does Not Preempt Claims Against Ambulance Service

The Ninth Circuit on Tuesday reversed an Eastern District of California decision to dismiss a labor rights case by an individual against her former employer, Medic Ambulance Service Inc., effectively remanding the matter to state court.

Plaintiff Meghan Silva originally filed suit in a state court against Medic over allegations that her employer violated California Labor Code § 226.7 by requiring her to remain on call during break periods. The defendant removed the case to the district court, arguing that the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) preempts at least one of the plaintiff’s claims; the court sided with the defendant despite a motion to remand by Silva, finding that her claims were preempted. Later, the court dismissed Silva’s suit with prejudice, so she appealed the denial of her motion to remand.

The standard for preemption under the LMRA is that a claim must be “founded directly on rights created by (a) collective-bargaining agreement()” or “substantially dependent on analysis of a collective-bargaining agreement.” The district court applied this standard to Silva’s case, reasoning that her claims rose under her collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with her employer, not under state labor code. The Ninth Circuit, however, sided with Silva’s analysis.

“Silva’s claims are not preempted by the LMRA because they rise or fall on her allegation that Medic violated California Labor Code section 226.7 by requiring her to remain on call during rest periods,” the court found. “Consequently, the claimed right to relief is based on California law, not the CBA.”

The court noted that the CBA “may be relevant” in inquiring about the specific terms of Medic’s alleged on-call requirement, but “Silva can establish that Medic required her to remain on call during rest periods without resort(ing) to the CBA’s provisions.

Although ultimately concurring with the outcome, Judge Johnnie Rawlinson opined that Silva’s appeal should not have reached the circuit panel.

“The people of the State of California have enacted a statute making it clear that Plaintiff Meghan Silva … has no viable statutory claim,” Rawlinson said. “Therefore, there is no longer a case or controversy, and Silva lacks Article III standing to pursue this appeal. … We should dismiss this appeal and not address the merits of the remand decision.”

Weinberg Roger & Rosenfeld P.C. represents Silva. CDF Labor Law LLP represents Medic.