United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division
ORDER AND OPINION
HONORABLE MARGARET B. SEYMOUR SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT
James Jordan Austin (“Plaintiff”) sued Defendant
City of York (“Defendant”) in the Court of Common
Pleas for York County, South Carolina, alleging violations of
the South Carolina Wage Payment Act (“SCWPA”),
South Carolina Code Annotated §§ 41-10-10 et
seq. ECF No. 1-1. Defendant removed to federal court
based on federal question jurisdiction. ECF No. 1. Defendant
argues that Plaintiff is claiming rights under the Fair Labor
Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201
et seq., and accordingly there is federal
jurisdiction. Id. at 1. Plaintiff moved to remand.
ECF No. 10. Plaintiff asserts that there is neither federal
question jurisdiction nor diversity jurisdiction.
is a former employee of the City of York Fire Department. ECF
No. 1-1 at ¶ 5. Plaintiff seeks unpaid overtime
compensation payable pursuant to the SCWPA. Id. at
¶¶ 18-23. Plaintiff contends that during his
employment, he worked a shift schedule of “24 on/48
off, which consisted of twenty-four hours on duty, followed
by forty-eight hours off duty, irrespective of weekends or
holidays.” Id. at ¶ 10. Plaintiff's
shift schedule equated to Plaintiff working either
forty-eight or seventy-two hours per week. See Id.
at ¶ 11. Plaintiff alleges that in addition to his
regular wages, he was to be “compensated for overtime
at time-and-one-half for all hours worked over forty (40) in
a seven (7) calendar day work week.” Id. at
¶ 9. Plaintiff argues that for each seventy-two hour
work week, he is entitled to thirty-two hours of overtime,
and for each forty-eight hour work week, he is entitled to
eight hours of overtime. Id. at ¶ 12. Plaintiff
alleges Defendant never compensated him for overtime.
Id. at ¶ 14.
alleges Defendant violated South Carolina Code Annotated
§§ 41-10-40 and 41-41-50 by failing to render
payment for overtime worked. Id. at ¶ 20.
Plaintiff alleges Defendant's failure to render payment
for overtime worked is “willful, without justification,
and in violation of the duty of good faith and fair
dealing.” Id. at ¶ 22.
argues that remand is proper as he is pursuing relief solely
under the SWPCA. ECF No. 10-1 at 2. Defendant argues that
Plaintiff's SCWPA claim asserts rights that are preempted
by the FLSA; therefore, Plaintiff is asserting a federal
question and jurisdiction is proper. ECF No. 12. Removal from
state court is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Under
§ 1441, “any civil action brought in a State court
of which the district courts of the United States have
original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the
defendants . . . .” A federal court may have original
jurisdiction through federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331, or diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. §
1332. “A defendant or defendants desiring to remove any
civil action . . . shall file in the district court . . . a
pending notice or removal” within thirty days after
receipt of the initial pleading. 28 U.S.C. § 1446. Once
an action has been removed, a plaintiff may file a motion to
remand “on the basis of any defect other than lack of
subject matter jurisdiction . . . within 30 days after the
filing of the notice of removal . . . .” 28 U.S.C.
removing party has the burden of establishing federal
jurisdiction, and the court should construe any uncertainty
of federal jurisdiction in favor of remand. Mulcahey v.
Columbia Organic Chems. Co., Inc., 29 F.3d 148,
151 (4th Cir. 1994). First, the court must apply the
well-pleaded complaint rule. Caterpillar, Inc. v.
Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). Under the
well-pleaded complaint rule, “federal jurisdiction
exists only when a federal question is presented on the face
of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint.”
Id. A defense based on federal law is not sufficient
to establish federal question jurisdiction. E.g.,
Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc. v. Thompson, 478 U.S. 804,
809 (1986) (“A defense that raises a federal question
is inadequate to confer federal jurisdiction.”).
However, under the artful pleading doctrine, the court
determines whether a plaintiff has tried to avoid removal
jurisdiction by “artfully” framing federal law
claims as state law claims. Kennedy v. Orangeburg Cty.
Sheriff's Off., No. 08-0873, 2008 WL 4833022, at *1
(D.S.C. Oct. 31, 2008). While a plaintiff “may avoid
federal jurisdiction by exclusive reliance on state law,
” a plaintiff “may not defeat removal by artfully
pleading to omit necessary federal questions.”
Id.; Rivet v. Regions Bank of Louisiana,
522 U.S. 470, 475 (1998). If “federal law completely
preempts a plaintiff's state-law claim, ” then
there is a necessary federal question. Rivet, 522
U.S. at 475 (citing Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v.
Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 65-66 (1987)). In Rivet,
the Supreme Court explained that “once an area of state
law has been completely preempted, any claim purportedly
based on that pre-empted state law claim is considered, from
its inception, a federal claim, and therefore arises under
federal law.” 522 U.S. at 476 (citing Caterpillar
Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 393 (1987)).
are three ways a federal law may preempt state law:
“express preemption, ” “field preemption,
” or “conflict preemption.” Anderson v.
Sara Lee Corp., 508 F.3d 181, 191 (4th Cir. 2007). Under
“conflict preemption, ” the court determines (1)
whether it is “impossible to comply with both state and
federal law, ” or (2) “whether the state law
stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment of the full
purposes and objectives of federal law.” Id.
at 191-92 (citing Worm v. Am. Cyanamid Co., 970 F.2d
1301, 1305 (4th Cir. 1992)) (internal quotations omitted). In
Anderson, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found
that the FLSA is an “unusually elaborate enforcement
scheme” and “Congress prescribed exclusive
remedies in the FLSA for violations of its mandates.”
Id. at 192, 194. Two specific FLSA mandates are: (1)
“that covered workers be paid a minimum wage,
see [29 U.S.C.] § 206, ” and (2)
“that they receive overtime compensation, see
[29 U.S.C. § 207].” Id. at 192; see
also McMurray v. LRJ Rest. Inc., No. 10-1435, 2011 WL
247906, at *2 (D.S.C. Jan. 26, 2011). Accordingly, the FLSA
preempts any state law claim for minimum wage or overtime pay
as any state claim “stands as an obstacle to the
accomplishment of the full purposes and objectives of the
FLSA.” Anderson, 508 F.3d at 193. However, a
plaintiff may have a claim independent of the FLSA if the
state law provides “workers with more beneficial
minimum wages and maximum workweeks than those mandated by
Plaintiff is seeking overtime wages, a right established by
an FLSA mandate. See 29 U.S.C. § 207. Plaintiff
does not assert that the SCWPA provides more beneficial
overtime benefits, nor does Plaintiff assert that the SCWPA
even provides for overtime benefits. The court concludes
Plaintiff's claim is preempted by the FLSA and removal is
proper under federal question jurisdiction.
foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's motion to ...