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Valle v. Clinical Reference Laboratory, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 13, 2019

TRACY L. VALLE, Plaintiff,


          Paula Xinis United States District Judge.

         Pending before the Court are Plaintiff's motion to remand (ECF No. 9) and Defendants' motions to dismiss the Amended Complaint (ECF Nos. 19, 23). The motions are fully briefed and no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the following reasons, the Court denies Plaintiff's motion and grants Defendants' motions (ECF Nos. 19, 23).[1]

         I. Background

         For purposes of this Opinion, the Court accepts the facts pleaded in the Amended Complaint as true and construes them most favorably to Plaintiff, Tracy Valle (“Valle”). See Aziz v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011). As of June 2015, Valle was “employed by Freeman Decorating Co.” and was also a member of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (“Union”). ECF No. 11 ¶¶ 2, 4. The Union entered into a collective-bargaining agreement negotiated by Defendant Trade Show Contractors Association of Washington, DC and Vicinity (“TSCA”), on behalf of its contractors, of which Freeman Decorating was one. Id. ¶ 2; ECF No. 23-2 at 39.

         This agreement, known as the Show Site Agreement (“SSA”) “governed Union members' work on trade shows within the geographical area of the Union.” ECF No. 11 ¶ 2. Under the SSA, Union members are “subject to unannounced random drug and alcohol testing during any working hours.” ECF No. 23-2 at 23. If a Union member tests positive for any of the controlled substances listed in the SSA, which includes phencyclidine (id. at 24), the SSA commands that the member is removed from the “Employer's payroll and is immediately suspended from employment and ineligible for dispatch by the Union to any Employer signatory.” Id. at 25.

         On June 30, 2015, Valle was working at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center on a job covered by the SSA. TSCA requested that Valle submit to a random drug test on location. ECF No. 11 ¶ 5. Valle complied, and the test was administered by Friends Multiservice, Inc., “an agent, servant or employee” of Defendant Clinical Reference Laboratory, Inc. (“CRL”). Id. ¶¶ 5, 6. Two weeks later, CRL's Medical Review Officer, Dr. Charles Briggs, notified Valle that her drug test results returned positive for phencyclidine. Id. ¶ 7. Valle challenged the validity of the results, telling Dr. Briggs that she had not taken the drug. Id. Valle followed up with TSCA shortly after and was informed that she “could not return to the Gaylord trade show site nor could she work on any other trade show site” covered by the SSA. Id. ¶ 8.

         Based on these events, Valle sued CRL, TSCA and the Union in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County on June 18, 2018, for breach of the SSA and wrongful discharge. ECF No. 1 ¶ 1; ECF No. 1-4 at 1-2. Defendant TSCA, with the consent of CRL and the Union, removed the action to this Court. As grounds for removal, TSCA maintained that federal question jurisdiction existed because the claims concerned breach of a collective bargaining agreement, and thus, are preempted under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”). ECF No. 1 ¶ 4. TSCA and CRL (collectively, “Defendants”) then moved to dismiss the action for failure to state a claim. ECF Nos. 2, 3.

         In response, Valle simultaneously amended the Complaint to eliminate the breach of contract claim, dismissed the Union as a defendant, and moved to remand the case to state court because the remaining wrongful discharge claim “lie[s] under Maryland law, not federal law.” ECF No. 9 ¶ 2; see also ECF Nos. 9-11. Defendants again moved to dismiss the wrongful discharge count as time-barred and for failure to state a claim. ECF Nos. 19, 23. The Court first considers Valle's remand motion.

         II. Motion to Remand

         A. Standard of Review

         State court actions that originally could have been brought in federal court may be removed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987); Mulcahey v. Columbia Organic Chems. Co., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994). Section 1441 permits removal pursuant to this Court's federal question jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). When removal is challenged, the defendant as the removing party bears the burden of “demonstrating the court's jurisdiction over the matter.” Strawn v. AT & T Mobility, LLC, 530 F.3d 293, 296 (4th Cir. 2008). Federal courts construe removal statutes strictly and resolve all doubts in favor of remand. See Md. Stadium Auth. v. Ellerbe Becket, Inc., 407 F.3d 255, 260 (4th Cir. 2005).

         B. Analysis

         According to Defendants, removal is proper because Valle's wrongful discharge claim is preempted under § 301 of the LMRA even ...

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