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Plant Supervisor’s Defamation Suit Preempted

A Roanoke U.S. District Court refuses to remand to state court this defamation suit filed by a supervisor at the Yokohama Tire plant in Salem who says a plant worker defamed him during a union grievance procedure by alleging the supervisor made “derogatory and discriminatory statements of a sexual nature” to the worker about another employee, and “made sexual overtures toward him.”

Because the supervisor’s claim arose out of a grievance procedure governed by a collective bargaining agreement, and such agreements are exclusively governed by § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, defendants assert that federal law completely preempts the supervisor’s state law defamation claims.

In determining whether plaintiff supervisor’s defamation claims are completely preempted by § 301, the central inquiry is whether his claims require interpretation of the CBA. In this case, the claims are inextricably intertwined with the CBA and neither the court nor a jury can resolve these claims without interpreting the parties’ rights and obligations pursuant to the grievance procedure under the CBA.

Here, Yokohama’s fault simply cannot be assessed without analyzing the grievance procedures, and Yokohama’s adherence to them, contained in the CBA.

Because a trier of fact could not evaluate either defendant’s liability for defamation without interpreting the grievance procedures set forth in the CBA, plaintiff’s claims are completely preempted by § 301, and this court has subject matter jurisdiction over the claims because they present a federal question. Numerous 4th Circuit decisions support this conclusion.

Section 301 of the LMRA completely preempts state law tort claims that require interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement. Plaintiff’s state defamation claims require an interpretation of the grievance procedures provided in the collective bargaining agreement between Yokohama and the United Steelworkers.

These claims were properly removed and this court has subject matter jurisdiction.

Martin v. Watkins v. Yokohama Tire Corp. (Turk) No. 7:10cv00423, Dec. 22, 2010; USDC at Roanoke, Va. VLW 011-3-019, 9 pp.

VLW 011-3-019

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