LOCATION:Colorado Springs, Colorado
DOCKET NO.: 92-1920
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1993-1994)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
CITATION: 512 US 107 (1994)
DECIDED: Jun 13, 1994
ARGUED: Apr 26, 1994
H. Thomas Cadell, Jr. – on behalf of the Respondent
Malcolm L. Stewart – as amicus curiae, supporting the Petitioner
Richard G. McCracken – on behalf of the Petitioner
Media for Livadas v. Bradshaw
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 13, 1994 in Livadas v. Bradshaw
William H. Rehnquist:
The opinion of the Court in No. 92-1920, Livadas against Bradshaw will be announced by Justice Souter.
David H. Souter:
This case comes to us on writ of certiorari to the Ninth Circuit.
When the petitioner here, Karen Livadas, was discharged from her job as a grocery clerk, she asked the store manager for the immediate payment of all wages owed to her a right which was guaranteed to employees by California law.
The manager refused explaining that it was company policy to make payments by check mailed from a central office and a check, in the amount of, did arrived three days later.
Livadas sent file a claim with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement asserting her right under a second state law provision the three days penalty wages from her employer reflecting the delay in payment.
The Division sent back a form letter stating that no action would be taken on the penalty claim because the policy of the State Labor Commissioner, who is the respondent here, was to decline to enforce claims on behalf of workers like Livadas whose terms of employment are governed by collective bargaining agreements containing arbitration clauses.
Enforcing their claims, the Commissioner explained entail the interpretation or application of collective bargaining agreements by a state tribunal and that would be inconsistent with state and federal policy favoring arbitrary resolution of collective bargaining disputes.
Livadas brought suit in Federal Court claiming that the Commissioner’s policy was preempted by a federal law because it denied employees benefits solely on the basis of their exercise of National Labor Relations Act rights to bargain collectively.
The District Court ruled in Livadas’ favor and ordered the Commissioner to abandon the policy, but the Court of Appeals reversed.
We now reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
We have held before that state rules denying benefits to employees based on the exercise of federal labor law rights pose special dangers of frustrating congressional purpose and this case is fundamentally no different.
The policy challenged to present its employees with an appetizing choice.
They may bargain collectively and each agreements containing arbitration clauses or they may have their state law rights enforced by the Commissioner, but not both.
The respondent offered several explanations to the policy, none of which alters our preemption conclusion.
First, the Commissioner suggested that the policy is actually required by distinct provision of federal labor law, Section 301 of the Management Relations Act, which displaces state law causes of action alleging breaches of collective bargaining agreement duties, but we have consistently declined to give that provision the broad sweep the Commissioner seeks for it here.
The Commissioner advances a number of additional reasons why the policy is sensible and why the distinction it draws between Union represented employees and others is reasonable.
We note, however, that several of these rationales do not fit neatly with state law as written, or with the Commissioner’s policy as previously stated.
In any event, preemption analysis depends on the impairment of federal objectives and not on the legitimacy of the state’s interest or the soundness of its classifications.
Finally, we hold that Livadas is entitled to seek relief under 42 U.S. Code 1983 because her claim that the respondent has abridged a right guaranteed to her by a law of the United States is covered by the text in the aims of that remedial statute.
Our opinion is unanimous.