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Rueli v. Baystate Health Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

January 9, 2015

CATHERINE RUELI, et al., Plaintiffs,


MARK G. MASTROIANNI, District Judge.


Nurses ("Plaintiffs"), working for Baystate Health, Inc. and Baystate Visiting Nurses Association and Hospice, Inc. (together "Defendants"), filed a complaint in Hampden County Superior Court to recover unpaid wages for hours of overtime worked. Plaintiffs' and Defendants' employment contract is memorialized in a Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA"), which, among other provisions, sets forth a policy requiring employees request permission from Defendants prior to working hours that would entitle them to overtime compensation.

In their complaint, Plaintiffs allege that they regularly must work additional hours in order to finish their work. Plaintiffs do not, however, allege that they followed the CBA protocol for requesting overtime. Plaintiffs assert that, since they worked these extra hours and Defendants have not paid them, Defendants have violated MASS. GEN. LAWS ch. 149, § 148 ("ch. 149") and MASS. GEN. LAWS ch. 151, § 1B ("ch. 151").

Defendants removed the case to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1441, and 1446, alleging Plaintiff's claims are preempted by federal law. Plaintiffs now move to remand the case back to state court, arguing their claims are not preempted.

For the reasons stated herein, the court denies Plaintiffs' motion.


On December 11, 2013, Plaintiffs[1] filed a complaint in Hampden County Superior Court (Dkt. No. 8, State Court Record 1), specifically a "Class Action to recover unpaid wages and overtime that are owed to employees of Defendants."[2] (Dkt. 1-1, State Court Record 4.) Plaintiffs claim Defendants have violated ch. 149[3] by failing to pay Plaintiffs unpaid wages, and also that Defendants have violated ch. 151[4] by failing to compensate Plaintiffs for overtime hours worked. (Id. at 7.) Plaintiffs have requested a jury trial to resolve all of their claims.[5] (Id.)

Plaintiffs are employed as "visiting nurses." (Id. at 5). In their complaint, they allege they have not been paid for all the hours they have worked. (Id.) Specifically, due to the "volume of work assigned to them, [Plaintiffs] are regularly required to work outside of their regularly scheduled shifts." (Id.) Plaintiffs explain that "this unpaid work frequently consists of computer work in preparation for a visit with a [patient], and computer work following up after a visit." (Id. at 6.) Since the work has been performed while Plaintiffs have been "logged onto [Defendants'] computer system, " Plaintiffs contend that "Defendants are... aware of the work" which Plaintiffs perform "outside of their regularly scheduled shifts for which they are not compensated."[6] (Id.)

On February 13, 2014, the case was removed to this court. (Dkt. No. 1, Notice of Removal.) As grounds in support thereof, Defendants argue Plaintiffs' state-law claims are preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("§ 301") because the resolution of these claims depend, at least in part, upon the meaning of Plaintiffs' and Defendants' CBA. (Id. at 3.) See generally 29 U.S.C. § 185. Accordingly, Defendants asserted that Plaintiffs' state law claims cannot be resolved without interpreting the CBA to determine issues including: (1) whether additional wages are owed, (2) whether additional compensation provided by the CBA offsets any deficiency created by other uncompensated time, (3) how many compensable hours each employee worked, (4) whether an employee followed proper procedure in requesting payment for hours worked outside his or her regular shift, (5) whether such payment was "unreasonably withheld, " and (6) the employee's regular rate. (Id. at 5.)

On March 17, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a motion to remand the case back to state court, asserting that removal is improper because interpretation of the CBA is not necessary to resolve their claims. On March 4, 2014, Defendants filed an opposition to Plaintiff's motion to remand (Dkt. No. 15.) On April 21, Plaintiffs filed a reply to that opposition (Dkt. No. 18.) After being rescheduled several times, a hearing was held on December 12, 2014.


Under the Doctrine of Complete Preemption, "if a federal cause of action completely pre-empts a state cause of action, any complaint that comes within the scope of the federal cause of action necessarily arises under federal law." Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 393 (1987) (quoting Franchise Tax Board of Cal. v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust for Southern Cal., 463 U.S. 1, 24 (1983)) (internal quotation marks and corresponding citation omitted). Therefore, "any claim purportedly based on... pre-empted state law is considered, from its inception, a federal claim." Caterpillar, Inc., 482 U.S. at 393. If one or more of a plaintiff's claims are preempted by federal law and are therefore removable to federal court, the entire case is removable. See Cavallaro v. UMass Mem. Healthcare, Inc., 678 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2012).

"Section 301 preempts a state-law claim, whether founded upon the state's positive or common law, if a court, in passing upon the claim, would be required to interpret the [parties'] collective bargaining agreement."[7] Flibotte v. Pennsylvania Truck Lines, 131 F.3d 21, 26 (1st Cir. 1997). "In practice, [the preemption] test boils down to whether the asserted state-law claim plausibly can be said to depend upon the meaning of one or more provisions within the collective bargaining agreement." Id . If it does so depend, then there is federal jurisdiction to resolve the federal ...

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