Livadas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107 (1994)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

No. 92-1920. Argued April 26, 1994—Decided June 13, 1994

California law requires employers to pay all wages due immediately upon an employee's discharge, Labor Code 201; imposes a penalty for refusal to pay promptly, 203; and places responsibility for enforcing these provisions on the Commissioner of Labor. After petitioner Livadas's employer refused to pay her the wages owed upon her discharge, but paid them a few days later, she filed a penalty claim. The Commissioner replied with a form letter construing Labor Code 229 as barring him from enforcing such claims on behalf of individuals like Livadas, whose employment terms and conditions are governed by a collective-bargaining agreement containing an arbitration clause. Livadas brought this action under 42 U. S. C. 1983, alleging that the nonenforcement policy was pre-empted by federal law because it abridged her rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The District Court granted her summary judgment, rejecting the Commissioner's defense that the claim was pre-empted by 301 of the Labor-Management Relations Act, 1947 (LMRA). Although acknowledging that the NLRA gives Livadas a right to bargain collectively and that 1983 would supply a remedy for official deprivation of that right, the Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that no federal right had been infringed because Livadas's case reduced to an assertion that the Commissioner had misinterpreted state law, namely 229.

Held: 1. The Commissioner's policy is pre-empted by federal law. Pp. 116-132. (a) This case is fundamentally no different from Nash v. Florida Industrial Comm'n, 389 U. S. 235, 239, in which the Court held that a state rule predicating benefits on refraining from conduct protected by federal labor law was pre-empted because it interfered with congressional purpose. The Commissioner's policy, which requires Livadas to choose between Labor Code and NLRA rights, cannot be reconciled with a federal statutory scheme premised on the centrality of collective bargaining and the desirability of arbitration. Pp. 116-118. (b) The Commissioner's answers to the foregoing conclusion flow from two significant misunderstandings of law. First, the assertion that the nonenforcement policy must be valid because 229 is consistent


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