Crosby v. Cooper B-Line, Inc., No. 13-1054 (7th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
Part of Crosby’s finger was amputated while using a “kicking method” of removing metal from bundles. His employer, Cooper, discouraged that method as dangerous. Crosby claimed medical and temporary total disability benefits under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. When he returned, Crosby stated that he would continue using the “kicking method.” Cooper suspended him for three days and stated that any future safety policy violation would result in immediate termination. The president of Crosby’s union, Zimmerman, filed a grievance on Crosby’s behalf. After returning from suspension, Crosby was given additional training during which, he alleges, Cooper introduced new safety rules and procedures. Within hours of Crosby’s return to work, Cooper’s safety specialist accused him of violating a new safety rule by tossing a pallet. Crosby denied doing so. Zimmerman notified Crosby that Cooper had decided to fire him and suggested that Crosby ask Cooper to call the decision a “permanent layoff with no recall rights,” so that Crosby would be eligible for unemployment benefits and a neutral job reference. Cooper accepted on the condition that Crosby dismiss the grievance. Crosby later claimed that the settlement was a sham and that he was fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Cooper removed his retaliatory discharge suit to federal court, claiming that the suit was a disguised action under the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 185, which preempts state‐law claims that require interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Cooper asserted that the suit should be dismissed for failure to exhaust remedies under the CBA. The Seventh Circuit reversed the district court and remanded to state court, rejecting the claim of complete preemption.