Circuit 1 confirms federal pre-emption of claims under Massachusetts wage law – jobs and hr

United States: Circuit One Confirms Federal Preemption of Massachusetts Wage Act Claims

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On June 10, 2021, the First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit by a plaintiff alleging, among other things, non-payment of wages under the Massachusetts Wage Act. In Rose c. RTN Federal Credit Union, the First Circuit ruled that the Labor Relations Act (LMRA) had preempted the complainant’s wage claims because she was a member of a union and because her employer, RTN Federal Credit Union, had entered into an agreement collective (CBA) with the union that regulated his wages and overtime.

Context of the case

The plaintiff, Andrea Rose, was employed by RTN as a Member Services Representative, a position covered by the CBA between RTN and the Office and Professional Employees International Union, AFL-CIO, Local 6. Rose usually worked at the branch. from RTN in Hudson, Massachusetts. , but the credit union periodically assigned her to its branch in Dedham, Massachusetts. Rose alleged that her assignment at the Dedham branch increased her usual commute by about an hour each way, and that RTN’s failure to compensate her for the extra travel time violated the Massachusetts Wage Act. Rose also alleged that RTN violated a Massachusetts regulation, 454 Mass. Regs code. 27.04 (4) (b), which provides that an employee who “regularly works at a fixed location” is to be compensated for additional time and expense incurred in traveling to a location other than his “usual place of work”. Rose took legal action against RTN for unpaid wages and expenses, as well as unpaid overtime for all work weeks in excess of 40 hours because of her extra commute time.

The Labor Management Relations Act

The question in the First Circuit was whether the LMRA had preempted Rose’s state law claims, and more specifically whether it could assert its state law claims separately from the CBA.

The LMRA is a body of federal labor law that governs the interpretation of collective agreements between employers and unions. Generally, if a claimant’s state-based employment claims require the interpretation of one or more provisions of a collective agreement, the claims fall within the scope of the LMRA and are therefore preempted by federal law. But not all employment disputes are preempted by the LMRA. This is because where state law establishes a substantive right, obligation, or prohibition independent of any ACA, the LMRA is not involved and the state law claim can be pursued.

Court upholds rejection of plaintiff’s claim under the Wages Act

In Pink, the First Circuit dismissed the Massachusetts Wage Act claim against RTN because adjudicating the claim would require interpretation of a provision of the collective agreement between RTN and the union. The collective agreement in question contained a provision governing “temporary transfers” of employees between branches.

The First Circuit explained that lawsuits involving an analysis or calculation of what is owed to an employee will “almost always” rely on interpretations and applications of the CBA in question, and will therefore be preempted by the LMRA. According to the first circuit, if RTN legally compensated Rose for her travel time, overtime or minimum wage, there would need to be an analysis of the ABC’s provisions governing “working hours”, “bonus time”, “overtime” and “” classification and wages. As a result, the First Circuit upheld the district court’s ruling that Rose was required to pursue her claims through the CBA’s grievance and arbitration provision.

Remember for employers

Employers with workplaces and unionized employees may want to keep in mind the potential issues of federal preemption raised by employee legal claims that involve the provisions of a collective agreement. Often, but certainly not always, employment claims filed by union members for non-payment of wages, overtime or other benefits and compensation, including workers’ compensation issues, will be pre-empted by LMRA if the ABC governs these terms of employment. Employers facing a legal action by a union member-employee may wish to carefully review the terms of the collective agreement to determine whether, and to what extent, the claims raised may be subject to action. a pre-emption defense of the LMRA.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.


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