Matson v. UPS, 840 F.3d 1126 (9th Cir. 2016)

Mary Matson, a member of the Teamsters Union, worked as a “combination worker” unloading and sorting packages at UPS’s Boeing Field International hub in Seattle. During her employment, Matson allegedly complained that because of her gender she was subject to unfair and demeaning treatment in the workplace.  UPS subsequently fired Matson for “proven dishonesty,” relying upon results of an investigation into whether Matson had falsified delivery records. Matson filed a grievance, and a joint Teamsters/UPS labor panel affirmed her discharge. Matson then filed suit against UPS alleging that her termination was unlawfully motivated by race and gender discrimination and in retaliation for her prior complaints; that she was subjected to a gender-based hostile work environment — a claim largely, but not exclusively, based on the way UPS assigned work; and that UPS had committed various common law torts. UPS removed the state court action to federal court and moved for summary judgment, which was granted on the merits, except with respect to Matson’s gender discrimination, retaliation and gender-based hostile work-environment claim, which UPS asserted was preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”) on the grounds that the question of whether UPS assigned work based on factors other than gender required interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement (the “CBA”).  The district court rejected UPS’s LMRA preemption argument, and the case proceeded to trial.

The jury sided with UPS on Matson’s claims that her termination was motivated by gender and retaliation, but it awarded Matson $500,000 on the hostile work-environment claim. After UPS’s post-trial motion, the district court ordered a new trial based on LMRA preemption of that part of the hostile environment claim related to the assignment of work – i.e., accepting the argument that it had previously rejected. UPS won the second trial in which the jury considered whether there was proof of a hostile work environment based on conduct other than the assignment of work, and Matson appealed. In this opinion, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the judgment, holding that because Matson’s hostile work-environment claim could be resolved without interpretation of the CBA, the LMRA did not preempt the claim. The Court of Appeals remanded for reconsideration of the amount of damages owed to Matson. See also Gonzales v. CarMax Auto Superstores, LLC, 840 F.3d 644 (9th Cir. 2016) (amount in controversy requirement was satisfied where the potential cost of complying with injunctive relief was considered along with plaintiff’s claim for damages).