Workplace Word® - The Ninth Circuit Reiterates State Law Applies to Non-Preempted Claims under the Labor Management Relations Act


by Karl O. Riley

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (“Ninth Circuit”) recently provided much needed clarification of the standard for when a unionized employee’s claim may be preempted under § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”) in Matson v. United Parcel Service, Inc., No. 13-36174.  In addition to the claim wholly arising under the collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) (as opposed to state law), true interpretation of the CBA is necessary before preemption may occur.  Simply “looking to” or “referring to” the CBA, even as a basis for the defense, is insufficient to sustain preemption.  This high standard will likely decrease the number of unionized employee claims that are preempted or arbitrated, potentially leading to more liability for employers because state law, rather than federal law, will apply to the employee’s claims.

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