Bader v. Air Line Pilots Ass'n

Decision Date09 July 2015
Docket NumberNo. 14 C 6415,14 C 6415
Citation113 F.Supp.3d 990
Parties Douglas Bader, Charles Doyle, and Ralph J. Rina, Plaintiff, v. Air Line Pilots Association, International, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois

Kathy Dianne Bailey, Bailey Law, PC, Alexandria, VA, David A. Axelrod, David A. Axelrod & Associates P.C., Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff.

Granville Clayton Warner, Matthew E. Babcock, Suzanne Lynn Kalfus, Air Line Pilots Association, International, Herndon, VA, Andrew L. Goldman, Rami N. Fakhouri, Goldman Ismail Tomaselli Brennan

& Baum LLP, Chicago, IL, for Defendants.


HON. JORGE L. ALONSO, United States District Judge

Plaintiffs, Douglas Bader, Charles Doyle and Ralph Rina, have brought this action against their labor union, defendant Air Line Pilots Association, International ("ALPA"), claiming age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), breach of the duty of fair representation ("DFR") implied by the Railway Labor Act, breach of contract under state law, and tortious interference with a business expectancy under state law. ALPA has moved for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c), contending that plaintiffs' claims are legally insufficient, barred by the statute of limitations or preempted by federal law. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.


Plaintiffs were all Pilot Instructor/Evaluators ("I/Es") at Continental Airlines ("Continental") when Continental merged with United. United's longstanding practice, contrary to Continental's, is to require all I/Es to be "line-qualified," i.e., to be qualified to fly a revenue-producing flight carrying paying passengers. Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") regulations require all line-qualified pilots to be under the age of 65.

After the merger, ALPA and United negotiated a collective bargaining agreement, the United Pilots Agreement ("UPA"). The UPA, consistent with United's pre-merger practice, required all I/Es to be line-qualified. On December 18, 2012, ALPA and United implemented the line-qualification requirement via Letter of Agreement 18 (Compl., Ex. 2), which effectively terminated I/Es such as the plaintiffs, who had reached the FAA mandatory retirement age, after a 12–month grace period.


Rule 12(c) permits a party to move for judgment on the pleadings, which consist of the "the complaint, the answer, and any written instruments attached as exhibits." N. Ind. Gun & Outdoor Shows, Inc v. City of S. Bend, 163 F.3d 449, 452 (7th Cir.1998) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c) ). A motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) is governed by the same standards as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Hayes v. City of Chi., 670 F.3d 810, 813 (7th Cir.2012).

"A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) tests whether the complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted." Richards v. Mitcheff, 696 F.3d 635, 637 (7th Cir.2012). Under Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The short and plain statement under Rule 8(a)(2) must "give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (ellipsis omitted).

Under federal notice-pleading standards, a plaintiff's "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id . Stated differently, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ " Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955 ). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id . (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955 ). "In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint under the plausibility standard, [courts must] accept the well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true, but [they] ‘need[ ] not accept as true legal conclusions, or threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.’ " Alam v. Miller Brewing Co., 709 F.3d 662, 665–66 (7th Cir.2013) (quoting Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir.2009) ).

A. Union Liability for Money Damages Under ADEA

ALPA claims that judgment should be granted in its favor on plaintiffs' ADEA claim because labor unions cannot be liable for money damages under the ADEA.

ADEA's substantive provisions concerning discrimination are similar to those of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Compare 29 U.S.C. § 623 (section 4 of ADEA) with 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq . (Title VII). For its enforcement mechanism, however, rather than following Title VII, the ADEA incorporates provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. Section 7 of the ADEA, 29 U.S.C. § 626, states that "[t]he provisions of this chapter shall be enforced in accordance with the powers, remedies, and procedures provided in sections 211(b), 216 (except for subsection (a) thereof), and 217 of this title, and subsection (c) of this section"; that is, the ADEA selectively incorporates the remedial scheme of the FLSA into the ADEA.

The FLSA's penalties provision, 29 U.S.C. § 216, provides that employees may bring an action for money damages against an "employer"—but labor unions are expressly excluded from the definition of "employer," 29 U.S.C. § 203(d). Because this penalties provision is incorporated into the ADEA, ALPA argues that no money damages are available against a union under the ADEA.

Neither the United States Supreme Court nor the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has addressed this issue directly, and the lower courts that have addressed it are split. ALPA relies principally on Neuman v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., No. 79 C 1570, 1982 WL 313 (N.D.Ill. Apr. 30, 1982) and ALPA v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 713 F.2d 940, 957 (2d Cir.1983) (citing Neuman ) affirmed in part, reversed in part on other grounds sub nom., Trans World Airlines v. Thurston, 469 U.S. 111, 105 S.Ct. 613, 83 L.Ed.2d 523 (1985), which held that the ADEA does not allow money damages against labor unions because the FLSA, from which the ADEA takes its remedial structure, does not allow them.

In response, plaintiffs have cited a number of contrary decisions that have reasoned that the ADEA expressly prohibits discrimination by a labor union, 29 U.S.C. § 623(c) ; it incorporates the FLSA's remedial scheme selectively, not wholesale; and it additionally authorizes courts to "grant such legal or equitable relief as may be appropriate to effectuate the purposes of this chapter,"1 29 U.S.C. § 626(b). According to these cases, Congress cannot have intended—and it would not "effectuate the purposes of" the ADEA, which expressly prohibits discrimination by labor unions—to allow unions to discriminate against their own members without facing liability for money damages. See Tyr r ell v. City of Scranton, 134 F.Supp.2d 373, 386 (M.D.Penn.2001) ; EEOC v. Local 350, Plumbers & Pipefitters, 842 F.Supp. 417, 422 (D.Nev.1994) ; Boieru v. Cuy a hoga Cty. Library Union, No. C86–1298, 1988 WL 106953, at *1 (N.D.Ohio May 27, 1988) ; EEOC v. ALPA, 489 F.Supp. 1003 (D.Minn.1980)rev'd on other grounds, 661 F.2d 90 (8th Cir.1981).

ALPA replies that plaintiffs, by relying on these cases, are advocating an overly expansive reading of the ADEA that the Seventh Circuit rejected in Moskowitz v. Trustees of Purdue University, 5 F.3d 279, 283 (7th Cir.1993). However, that case is distinguishable, and its holding is not as broad as ALPA claims. In Moskowitz, the Seventh Circuit held that the "appropriate legal or equitable relief" language did not permit the award of consequential damages or other common law damages beyond the economic damages for lost wages prescribed by the FLSA. That conclusion clearly comports with the language and legislative history of the statute, which explicitly provides that "[a]mounts owing to a person as a result of a violation of this chapter shall be deemed to be unpaid minimum wages or unpaid overtime compensation for purposes of sections 216 and 217 of this title [i.e., the relevant sections of the FLSA]," 29 U.S.C.A. § 626. Congress not only incorporated §§ 216 and 217 by reference but it reproduced in section 626 words such as "wages" and "compensation." It is clear from the plain language of the ADEA that Congress intended to limit damages to lost or unpaid wages.

On the other hand, the ADEA does not explicitly import the requirement that a liable party be an "employer" in the same way; the word "employer" does not appear in § 626 (unlike the terms "wages" and "compensation"), and § 623(c) explicitly prohibits age discrimination by labor unions. If Congress intended to limit potentially liable parties under the ADEA to "employers," incongruently with § 623(c), it might at least have used the word in § 626, as the FLSA does in § 216. It is more reasonable to read the statute as providing that "ANY party [including labor unions] whose conduct is proscribed by the substantive provision[s] of the [ADEA] may be required to pay for the pecuniary injuries they cause," Local 350, Plumbers & Pipefitters, 842 F.Supp. at 422, than to read it to prohibit discrimination by labor unions without providing any meaningful remedies for it against them. Nor is that reading inconsistent with the Seventh Circuit's holding that the liable party may only be required to pay economic damages for lost wages rather than other types of common law damages. See Karen L. Peck, Union Liability Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 56 U. Chi. L.Rev. 1087, 1112–13 (1989) ...

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