Hawaiian Airlines, Inc. v. Norris, 512 U.S. 246 (1994)

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certiorari to the supreme court of hawaii

No. 92-2058. Argued April 28, 1994—Decided June 20, 1994*

Respondent Norris was terminated from his job as an aircraft mechanic by petitioner Hawaiian Airlines, Inc. (HAL), after refusing to sign a maintenance record, as required by his collective-bargaining agreement (CBA), for a plane he considered unsafe, and reporting his concerns to the Federal Aviation Administration. In separate state-court suits against HAL and its officers, also petitioners, he alleged, inter alia, that he had been wrongfully discharged in violation of the public policy expressed in the Federal Aviation Act and implementing regulations and in violation of Hawaii's Whistleblower Protection Act. The court dismissed these tort claims as pre-empted by the Railway Labor Act's (RLA's) mandatory arbitral mechanism for so-called "minor" disputes, which grow "out of grievances or out of the interpretation and application of agreements concerning [pay rates], rules, or working conditions," 45 U. S. C. 153 First (i). The State Supreme Court reversed, concluding that 153 First (i)'s plain language does not support pre-emption of disputes independent of a labor agreement, and interpreting the opinion in Consolidated Rail Corporation v. Railway Labor Executives' Assn., 491 U. S. 299, to limit RLA pre-emption to disputes involving contractually defined rights. The court rejected petitioners' argument that the claims were pre-empted because resort to the CBA was necessary to determine whether Norris was discharged for insubordination, pointing to Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U. S. 399, in which this Court held that the Labor-Management Relations Act, 1947 (LMRA), pre-empts state law only if a state-law claim is dependent on the interpretation of a CBA, and that purely factual questions about an employee's conduct and the employer's conduct and motives do not require interpreting such an agreement's terms.

Held: The RLA does not pre-empt Norris' state-law causes of action.

Pp. 252-266. (a) The minor disputes contemplated by the RLA are those that are grounded in a CBA. See, e. g., Consolidated Rail Corporation, 491 U. S., at 305. The RLA pre-emption standard for resolving such disputes that has emerged from the relevant cases, see, e. g., Atchison, T. & S. F. R. Co. v. Buell, 480 U. S. 557, is that a state-law cause of action

*Together with Finazzo et al. v. Norris, also on certiorari to the same court (see this Court's Rule 12.2).

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