Ward v. Circus Circus Casinos, 473 F.3d 994 (9th Cir. 2007)

During a meeting to distribute leaflets and inform other union members of the progress on contract negotiations, one employee, Al Williams, stood on a chair and spoke about union members’ defending their employment rights, which resulted in other participants’ chanting and shouting phrases such as “union, yes” and “we want a contract.” Soon thereafter, Circus Circus security guards interrupted the meeting and told the participants to leave – in response to which the employees locked arms in a circle around Williams to prevent the guards from getting near him. The guards then allegedly pushed through the participants, handcuffed Williams and pushed and knocked down other employees in the process. The employees sued in Nevada state court for assault and battery, false imprisonment and other related torts. Circus Circus removed the action to federal court and moved for summary judgment under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act. After Circus Circus filed its motion, the employees amended their complaint in order to characterize the “labor union meeting” as an “educational session” or “similar non-meeting event.” The Ninth Circuit reversed the summary judgment that the district court had granted in favor of Circus Circus, holding that the employees’ tort claims were not preempted by Section 301 and ordered the action remanded to state court.