Abudayyeh v. Envoy Air, Inc., 20-cv-00142

CourtUnited States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
PartiesMAYSOUN ABUDAYYEH, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff, v. ENVOY AIR, INC., Defendant.
Docket Number20-cv-00142
Decision Date03 August 2021

MAYSOUN ABUDAYYEH, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,

ENVOY AIR, INC., Defendant.

No. 20-cv-00142

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

August 3, 2021


Andrea R. Wood United States District Judge

Plaintiff Maysoun Abudayyeh is a former Passenger Service Agent (“PSA”) for Defendant Envoy Air, Inc. (“Envoy”), an airline operating throughout the United States. In late 2015, Envoy implemented an attendance-tracking system that required all employees to use their fingerprints or handprint to clock in and out of work. However, Abudayyeh alleges that Envoy failed to comply with the requirements set out in Illinois's Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”), 740 ILCS 14/1 et seq., before collecting her biometric identifiers (i.e., her fingerprints and handprint). Accordingly, she has brought the present action on behalf of herself and a putative class of similarly situated Envoy employees alleging violations of the BIPA. Envoy now has filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) or, alternatively, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 14.) For the reasons that follow, Envoy's motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.


The following facts are taken from the complaint as well as the declaration and exhibits Envoy submitted in connection with its motion to dismiss, which are properly considered in connection with Envoy's factual challenge to this Court's subject-matter jurisdiction. Silha v. ACT, Inc., 807 F.3d 169, 173 (7th Cir. 2015) (“In reviewing a factual challenge [to subject-matter jurisdiction], the court may look beyond the pleadings and view any evidence submitted to determine if subject matter jurisdiction exists.”).

Abudayyeh worked as a PSA for Envoy, a regional commercial airline, at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. (Compl. ¶¶ 5-6, 11, Dkt. No. 1-1.) She worked for Envoy from July 2000 through February 2017, and again from June 2017 through September 2017. (Id. ¶ 11.) On November 25, 2015, the National Mediation Board certified the Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO (“Union”) as the duly designated and authorized representative of Envoy's PSAs. (Compl. ¶ 25; Clemens Decl. ¶ 2, Dkt. No. 16.) Shortly thereafter, the Union and Envoy began negotiating an initial collective bargaining agreement. (Clemens Decl. ¶ 3.)

During their negotiations, Envoy and the Union entered into two interim agreements. First, on June 29, 2016, the two adopted an interim grievance procedure (“IGP”) for Envoy employees. (Clemens Decl. ¶ 4, Clemens Decl., Ex. 1, Dkt. No. 16-1.) Then, on April 26, 2017, Envoy and the Union entered into an interim agreement (“Interim Agreement”) setting rates of pay for PSAs and adopting four other, separate agreements concerning the purpose of the Interim Agreement, discipline and discharge, grievance procedures, and the establishment of the Envoy System Board of Adjustment. (Clemens Decl. ¶¶ 5-7, Clemens Decl., Ex. 2, Dkt. No. 16-2.) Finally, on August 15, 2019, Envoy and the Union executed their final collective bargaining agreement (“Final Agreement”) governing the terms and conditions of employment for Envoy's PSAs. (Compl. ¶ 27; Clemens Decl. ¶ 9; Clemens Decl., Ex. 4, Dkt. No. 16-4.) The Final Agreement incorporated a letter of agreement titled “Arbitration and Waiver of Certain Claims” requiring that disputes arising from the Final Agreement be resolved by the grievance and arbitration procedures set out there. (Compl. ¶ 26; Clemens Decl. ¶ 8; Clemens Decl., Ex. 3, Dkt. No. 16-3.)

Beginning in late 2015, Envoy implemented a biometric attendance-tracking system for its employees.[1] (Compl. ¶ 12.) In connection with its attendance-tracking system, Envoy required its employees to scan their fingerprints (and later, their handprints), which were collected and stored. (Id. ¶¶ 12-14.) For each workday, Envoy employees would clock in and clock out by placing their fingers or hands on a panel that would scan and verify their identities based on their biometric identifiers. (Id. ¶¶ 18-19.)

According to Abudayyeh, Envoy's collection and storage of Envoy employees' biometric information did not comply with the requirements of Illinois's BIPA. (Id. ¶ 4.) The BIPA is an informed consent statute enacted to protect individuals' privacy and control of their biometric identifiers and information. (Id. ¶ 3.) Abudayyeh claims Envoy violated the BIPA by not developing a publicly available retention schedule and guidelines for permanently destroying employees' biometric information; failing to inform Abudayyeh or its other employees in writing that their biometric information was being collected; failing to inform Abudayyeh or its other employees of the purpose and length of time for which their biometric information was being collected, stored, and used; and not obtaining prior written authorization from Abudayyeh or its other employees before collecting their biometric data. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 15-17, 20-24.) Consequently, Abudayyeh has sued Envoy on behalf of herself and a class of similarly situated Illinois Envoy employees who had their biometric information collected or captured between December 23, 2015 and July 18, 2019. (Id. ¶ 32.)


Envoy contends that the complaint must be dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction because Abudayyeh's BIPA claims amount to a minor dispute subject to mandatory and exclusive arbitration under the Railway Labor Act (“RLA”), 45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq. Alternatively, Envoy argues that the BIPA claims are preempted by the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (“ADA”), 49 U.S.C. § 41713, and therefore must be dismissed for failure to state a claim. The Court begins, as it must, by determining whether it has jurisdiction over the action.

I. Jurisdiction

Under Rule 12(b)(1), a party may make either a factual or facial challenge to subject-matter jurisdiction. Silha, 807 F.3d at 173. A facial challenge requires “only that the court look to the complaint and see if the plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a basis of subject[-]matter jurisdiction.” Apex Digit., Inc. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 572 F.3d 440, 443 (7th Cir. 2009). By contrast, “a factual challenge lies where the complaint is formally sufficient but the contention is that there is in fact no subject matter jurisdiction.” Id. at 444 (internal quotation marks omitted). Where, as here, a defendant mounts a factual challenge, “the court may look beyond the pleadings and view any evidence submitted to determine if subject[-]matter jurisdiction exists.” Silha, 807 F.3d at 173. Ultimately, the proponent of jurisdiction bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that jurisdiction exists. NLFC, Inc. v. Devcom Mid-Am., Inc., 45 F.3d 231, 237 (7th Cir. 1995). To challenge subject-matter jurisdiction, Envoy has introduced a declaration and exhibits to show that there were agreements governed by the RLA in place before the Final Agreement. It argues that because Abudayyeh's BIPA claims cannot be resolved without either applying or interpreting those agreements, the claims are subject to mandatory and exclusive arbitration under the RLA.

Congress passed the RLA with the purpose of promoting stability in labor-management relations in the rail and airline industries by “providing a comprehensive framework for resolving labor disputes.” Hawaiian Airlines, Inc. v. Norris, 512 U.S. 246, 248, 252 (1994). To that end, “the RLA establishes a mandatory arbitral mechanism for ‘the prompt and orderly settlement' of two classes of disputes.” Id. at 252 (quoting 45 U.S.C. § 151a). The Supreme Court supplied the labels “major disputes” and “minor disputes” to distinguish the two classes of disputes. Brotherhood of Ry., Airline & S.S. Clerks v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. Co., 847 F.2d 403, 405 (7th Cir. 1988). Major disputes are those that “arise[] from the creation of new contracts or modifications of existing contracts that affect any of the mandatory subjects of bargaining established in the RLA.” BLET GCA UP v. Union Pac. R.R. Co., 988 F.3d 409, 412 (7th Cir. 2021). By contrast, minor disputes “arise from the interpretation or application of existing agreements.” Id. “Thus, ‘major disputes seek to create contractual rights, minor disputes to enforce them.'” Hawaiian Airlines, 512 U.S. at 253 (quoting Consol. Rail Corp. v. Ry. Lab. Execs.' Ass'n (“Conrail”), 491 U.S. 299, 302 (1989)).

If a dispute is a minor dispute, “it must be resolved only through the RLA mechanisms, including the carrier's internal dispute-resolution processes and an adjustment board established by the employer and the unions.” Id. “The distinguishing feature of a minor dispute is that the dispute may be conclusively resolved by interpreting the existing [collective bargaining agreement].” Coker v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 165 F.3d 579, 583 (7th Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks omitted). Consequently, even if a plaintiff's claim “is grounded upon rights which stem from some source other than the [collective bargaining agreement] (such as state law), the claim will be preempted if it cannot be adjudicated without interpreting the [collective bargaining agreement], or if it can be conclusively resolved by interpreting [the collective bargaining agreement].” Brown v. Ill. Cent. R.R. Co., 254 F.3d 654, 658 (7th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation marks omitted). A state-law claim that constitutes a minor dispute is preempted by the RLA's mandatory arbitral mechanism. Coker, 165 F.3d at 583. “Given the RLA's strong preference for arbitration, [an airline] bears a ‘relatively light burden' in persuading the court that its action is pursuant to existing contractual authority and thus a minor dispute under the RLA.” BLET GCPA UP, 988 F.3d at 413 (quoting Conrai...

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