United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
TIMOTHY J. KELLY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court are Plaintiff Gamal Brown's Motion to Remand or
Amend his Complaint, ECF No. 7, and Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss, ECF No. 5. For the reasons set forth below,
Brown's motion is (1) denied as to remand, and (2) denied
without prejudice as to the amendment of his complaint. The
Court will order Brown to file a motion to amend that
complies with the Local Rules within 30 days. As a result,
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is denied as moot.
purposes of these motions, the Court assumes the truth of the
facts set forth in Brown's complaint. On June 1, 2015,
Brown was hired by the Defendant Potomac Electric Power
Company (“Pepco”) as a Substation Technician
Trainee. ECF No. 1 (“Removal Not.”), Ex. A
(“Compl.”) ¶ 4. This position required Brown
to hold a valid driver's license. Compl. ¶ 33. The
position was also covered by a collective bargaining
agreement (the “CBA”), and by virtue of his being
hired, Brown became a member of a union. See Id.
¶¶ 22, 24-25, 32, 34-35; Removal Not., Ex. E
(“Davis Decl.”), Ex. 1 (CBA). The CBA regulated
the bargaining, CBA § 2.01, promotion, id. at
§ 8.09, and discharge, id. at §§
16.01-16.05, of covered employees.
August 4, 2016, Brown applied for a promotion to the position
of “Helper-Transformer Tester NERC, ” another
position covered by the CBA. Davis Decl. ¶ 7; CBA at 85.
He was given a conditional offer for that position on October
3, 2016. Compl. ¶¶ 5-6. One of the conditions of
Brown's promotion was that he obtain a Department of
Transportation (“DOT”) medical card within six
months. Id. ¶ 7. Obtaining this card required
passing a DOT physical, including a drug test. Id.
October 14, 2016, Brown appeared for his drug test, provided
a urine sample which was insufficient to enable the full
range of tests to be completed, and left the testing site
before providing a second sample. Id. ¶¶
7, 10-12. Around 3:30 p.m. that same day, Brown was advised
by Pepco's Senior Recruiter to return to the testing site
and complete the test. Id. ¶ 14.
returned to the testing site later that day and entered a
bathroom stall with a male observer to provide the urine
sample. Id. ¶ 17. The observer used
“vulgar terms” to communicate that he needed to
observe the urine leave Brown's body and enter the
receptacle. Id. Brown then exited the stall and left
the testing site, telling a Pepco representative that he felt
“sexually harassed” and offering to redo the
sample at a later date. Id. ¶ 18. Around 5:00
p.m., Pepco advised Brown that because he had failed to
complete the drug test, he would be ineligible for the
promotion. Id. ¶ 21.
October 27, 2016, Brown, after a meeting with representatives
of Pepco and his union, was placed on “Crisis
Suspension, ” a disciplinary procedure outlined in
Article 16 of the CBA, as a result of the incomplete drug
test. Compl. ¶ 22. During the course of this suspension,
Pepco discovered that Brown had not held a valid driver's
license since January 2016, and was therefore placed on
“Decision Making Leave, ” the final disciplinary
step before discharge pursuant to CBA Article 16. Compl.
¶ 33. After failing to negotiate the terms of a
voluntary resignation, Brown was discharged on March 28,
2017. Id. ¶¶ 35-37.
April 28, 2017, Brown filed this action in the Superior Court
for the District of Columbia, alleging a violation of the
District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C. Code §
2-1401.0 et seq., and a common law breach of
contract claim. See Compl. ¶¶ 38-48. The
breach of contract claim asserts that Pepco had a contractual
duty to promote Brown if he possessed a valid driver's
license and obtained a DOT medical card within six months of
his hire date. Id. ¶¶ 40-48. It goes on to
allege that Pepco breached this purported contract in a
number of ways, including by failing to give Brown the
agreed-upon six months to obtain his DOT medical card and
failing to treat Brown's departure from the drug testing
center as a cancellation, which would have permitted him to
take the test again. Id. ¶¶ 42-47. The
complaint also alleges that Pepco breached its contract by
relying on Brown's “Decision Making Leave”
status “as the basis for . . . any action . . .
relating to [Brown] and his promotion and/or retention”
because that status “was limited by it[s] terms to
issues related to timely arrival at work.” Id.
9, 2017, Pepco removed the case to federal court pursuant to
28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1446 on the ground that
Brown's breach of contract claim arises under federal
law. Removal Not. at 1-2. Specifically, Pepco argued that the
claim is preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management
Relations Act (“LMRA”), 29 U.S.C. § 141
et seq., which courts have held has such preemptive
force that it converts certain state-law claims into ones
arising under federal law. Removal Not. at 2. Pepco then
moved to dismiss the complaint, ECF No. 5 (“Def.'s
MTD”), while Brown moved to remand the case back to
Superior Court or, in the alternative, to amend his
complaint, ECF No. 7 (“Remand Mot.”); see
also ECF No. 11 (“Remand Opp.”).
defendant may remove a state court action to federal court
only if the action could have been filed in federal court in
the first instance.” Dist. No. 1, Pac. Coast Dist.,
Marine Eng'rs Beneficial Ass'n v. Am. Mar.
Officers, 75 F.Supp.3d 294, 300 (D.D.C. 2014) (citing 28
U.S.C. § 1441(a)). “Courts must strictly construe
removal statutes, resolving any ambiguities regarding the
existence of removal jurisdiction in favor of remand.”
Id. at 300-01 (quoting Busby v. Capital One,
N.A., 932 F.Supp.2d 114, 127 (D.D.C. 2013)). “The
party seeking removal of an action bears the burden of
proving that jurisdiction exists in federal court.”
Animal Legal Def. Fund v. Hormel Foods Corp., 249
F.Supp.3d 53, 56 (D.D.C. 2017) (quoting Downey v.
Ambassador Dev., LLC, 568 F.Supp.2d 28, 30 (D.D.C.
diversity of citizenship, federal question jurisdiction is
required to establish that a case could have originally been
filed in federal court. Caterpillar Inc. v.
Williams,482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). “The presence
or absence of federal-question jurisdiction is governed by
the ‘well-pleaded complaint rule, ' which provides
that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question
is presented on the face of the ...