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Coyne v. The Trustees of Dartmouth College

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

March 30, 2015

Tracy Coyne, Plaintiff
v.
The Trustees of Dartmouth College, Defendant. Opinion No. 2015 DNH 070

ORDER

STEVEN J. McAULIFFE, District Judge.

From August of 2013 through January of 2014, Dartmouth College employed plaintiff, Teresa Coyne, as an assistant lacrosse coach. After her employment was terminated, Coyne filed a three-count writ in state court, asserting that Dartmouth failed to pay her overtime wages to which she was entitled under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). She also advanced state common law claims for breach of contract and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Dartmouth timely removed the case to federal court, invoking the court's federal question jurisdiction (over the FLSA claim), as well as its supplemental jurisdiction (over the common law claims). Coyne now moves the court to remand her two common law claims to state court, asserting that the court lacks supplemental jurisdiction over them. Dartmouth objects.

For the reasons discussed, Coyne's motion to remand her state law claims is denied.

Standard of Review

In 1990, Congress enacted 28 U.S.C. § 1367, "which granted federal courts supplemental jurisdiction' or what had formerly been referred to as pendent jurisdiction' and ancillary jurisdiction." Vera-Lozano v. International Broadcasting, 50 F.3d 67, 70 (1st Cir. 1995). Subject to certain exceptions not relevant here, section 1367 provides that:

in any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction, the district courts shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of the United States Constitution. Such supplemental jurisdiction shall include claims that involve the joinder or intervention of additional parties.

28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) (emphasis supplied). See also 28 U.S.C. § 1441(c) (providing that if a removed civil action includes claims not within the court's original or supplemental jurisdiction, the court shall sever those claims "and shall remand the severed claims to the State court from which the action was removed"). As the party invoking the court's supplemental jurisdiction, Dartmouth bears the burden of demonstrating that such jurisdiction exists. See, e.g., Campbell v. Gen. Dynamics Gov't Sys. Corp., 407 F.3d 546, 551 (1st Cir. 2005); Viqueira v. First Bank, 140 F.3d 12, 16 (1st Cir. 1998).

In construing the scope of federal courts' supplemental jurisdiction under § 1367, the court of appeals for this circuit has held that, "a federal court may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a state claim whenever it is joined with a federal claim and the two claims derive from a common nucleus of operative fact' and the plaintiff would ordinarily be expected to try them both in one judicial proceeding.'" Pejepscot Indus. Park, Inc. v. Maine Cent. R.R., 215 F.3d 195, 206 (1st Cir. 2000) (quoting United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 725 (1966)). Consequently, "supplemental jurisdiction has [] been exercised where the facts underlying the federal and state claims substantially overlap or where presentation of the federal claim necessarily brings the facts underlying the state claim before the court. Conversely, supplemental jurisdiction should not be exercised when the federal and state claims rest on essentially unrelated facts." Chaluisan v. Simsmetal East LLC, 698 F.Supp.2d 397, 400 (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (citations and internal punctuation omitted).

While the pertinent standard can be stated with relative ease, its application can sometimes be vexing. This is one such case.

Discussion

In support of its view that the court may properly exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Coyne's state law claims, Dartmouth asserts that Coyne's claim under the FLSA substantially overlaps with her common law claims. To resolve plaintiff's FLSA claim and determine whether she was exempt (or not exempt) from the statute's overtime provisions, a thorough analysis of her job duties and responsibilities is required.

[T]here are three distinct types of findings involved in determining whether an employee is exempt. First, the court must make findings concerning the so-called historical facts' of the case, such as determining an employee's day-to-day duties. Second, the court must draw factual inferences from these historical facts, for instance, to conclude whether these day-to-day duties require invention, imagination, or talent' as required by applicable regulations. Finally, the trial court must reach the ultimate conclusion of whether an employee is exempt, based on both historical facts and factual inferences.

Reich v. John Alden Life Ins. Co., 126 F.3d 1, 7 (1st Cir. 1997) (citations omitted). Similarly, says Dartmouth, resolution of plaintiff's wrongful termination claims requires an examination of the nature of plaintiff's duties, how she performed them, when she performed them, and whether she performed them in a satisfactory manner. Thus, it asserts that, "[b]y its very nature, plaintiff's breach of contract claim is intertwined with her FLSA claim, ...


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