Ellison v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., Civil No. 94-00891 ACK.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Hawaii)
Writing for the CourtKAY
Citation938 F. Supp. 1503
PartiesJeffrey M. ELLISON, Plaintiff, v. NORTHWEST AIRLINES, INC., and Wendell A. Nelson, Defendants.
Decision Date08 May 1996
Docket NumberCivil No. 94-00891 ACK.

938 F. Supp. 1503

Jeffrey M. ELLISON, Plaintiff,
v.
NORTHWEST AIRLINES, INC., and Wendell A. Nelson, Defendants.

Civil No. 94-00891 ACK.

United States District Court, D. Hawaii.

May 8, 1996.


938 F. Supp. 1504

Jeffrey M. Ellison, Honolulu, HI, pro se.

Dana S. Ishibashi, Honolulu, HI, for plaintiff.

Clayton A. Kamida, Torkildson Katz Jossem Fonseca Jaffe Moore & Hetherington, Honolulu, HI, for defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

KAY, Chief Judge.

BACKGROUND

On November 23, 1994, plaintiff Jeffrey M. Ellison, formerly an aircraft mechanic employed by defendant Northwest Airlines, Inc. ("Northwest"), filed a complaint against defendants Northwest and Wendell A. Nelson, his direct supervisor at Northwest (collectively, "Defendants"), alleging harassment, discrimination and wrongful termination.

On January 22, 1996, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. On April 18, 1996, Plaintiff filed an opposition. On May 6, 1996, the Court heard Defendants' motion. All parties appeared through counsel. Upon considering the papers filed by the parties, the arguments at the hearing, and the record, the Court hereby GRANTS Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

FACTS

In 1981, plaintiff Ellison began working as an aircraft mechanic for defendant Northwest at its Minneapolis facility. In 1988, Plaintiff transferred to Northwest's Honolulu facility, where he worked on the flight line as an aircraft mechanic until July 17, 1992. On that day, according to the affidavit of Plaintiff's supervisor at that time Wendell Nelson, Nelson suspended Plaintiff and sent him home because of insubordinate conduct, use of abusive language towards Nelson and Plaintiff's crew chief Danny Marcom, and conduct that day which otherwise interfered with the performance of other employees.

Nelson scheduled an insubordination meeting with Plaintiff to take place July 20, 1992. Plaintiff however failed to appear for this meeting, allegedly because he was experiencing an emotional breakdown at the time and could not do so. Ellison Affid. at ¶ 11. Nelson then rescheduled the meeting for July 27, 1992 and sent Plaintiff a notice to this effect by certified mail.

On July 23, 1992, Plaintiff was taken to the emergency room at Queen's Medical Center and admitted for treatment in the psychiatric ward under the care of Dr. Mutsuoki Kai. Plaintiff stayed there for 8 days.

On July 27, 1992, Plaintiff failed to appear for the rescheduled meeting. Instead, union representative Danny Chong gave Nelson a letter dated July 24, 1992 from Dr. Harry Chingon, writing for Dr. Mutsuoki Kai, stating that Plaintiff was under the care of Dr. Kai and could not attend the meeting on July 27, 1992. See Plaintiff's Concise Stmt., Exh. 15 (letter dated July 24, 1992).

Also on July 27, 1992, Nelson sent Plaintiff (1) a notice entitled "Level 2 Reminder — Insubordination," reminding Plaintiff he already had an active level 1 reminder on file for insubordination and cautioning him to modify his behavior; and (2) a notice entitled "Medical Statement" informing Plaintiff that

938 F. Supp. 1505
"in order to return to active employment with Northwest Airlines, your physician must sign a statement acknowledging you have fully recovered from your illness" and that "until that time, ... you will be compensated for medical leave." Plaintiffs Concise Stmt., Exhs. 16 (level 2 reminder) and 17 (notice re medical statement)

On August 7, 1992, Nelson received a letter dated July 30, 1992 from Dr. Kai, stating in relevant part as follows:

Plaintiff has been at Queen's Medical Center under my care from July 24 to this morning. Diagnosis is 1. Adjustment Disorder with mixed emotional disturbances due to stresses at his job, 2. Chronic Dyspepsia, 3. Hypothyroidism.
Yesterday he had an endoscopy by Gerald Hyatt, M.D., re: his so called stomach ulcer or a chronic dyspepsia.
He will be followed by George Seberg, M.D. his internist.
He will see a psychiatrist of his choice.
He will return to his job on Monday, August 3rd. The above statement is almost exactly identical with my hand-written letter addressed to you that I handed to him this morning.
Now I would like to add that he had some predischarge anxiety after he finished talking with me. As he was anxious about his return to the job on Monday, I suggested him to consult his future psychiatrist quickly about it.

Defendants' Concise Stmt., Exh. A.

Upon his release from Queen's Medical Center, Plaintiff sought the assistance of Dr. Alvin Murphy, who, on July 31, 1992, issued a note stating: "To Whom it May Concern ... Plaintiff is seen for the first time today. He is clearly disabled and unable to work. The period of disability is unclear at present." Defendants' Concise Stmt., Exh. C. According to his affidavit, Nelson did not receive a copy of this note or know of Plaintiff's diagnosis as "disabled and unable to work" until August 25, 1992, at the first step grievance hearing on Plaintiff's termination on August 12, 1992. Nelson Affid. at ¶ 7. Plaintiff does not claim he communicated the contents of the note to Defendants prior to August 25, 1992.

By "Notice of Discharge" dated August 12, 1992, Nelson advised Plaintiff that he was terminated as of 8:00 a.m. that day. Defendants' Concise Stmt., Exh. B. The Notice states that the discharge was based on (1) the July 17, 1992 incident of insubordination; (2) Plaintiffs failure to appear for the July 27, 1992 rescheduled meeting and to contact Nelson since;1 and (3) Plaintiff's failure to report for his scheduled work shift since August 3, 1992. See id. Nelson states in his affidavit that he "believed Ellison had no valid reason for not appearing for work, since Dr. Kai's letter which was dated July 30, 1992 but allegedly not received by Nelson until August 7, 1992 stated that Plaintiff would be able to return to work on August 3, 1992." Nelson Affid. at ¶ 6.

Ellison's August 12, 1992 termination was grieved by his union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, under its collective bargaining agreement with Northwest. Plaintiff was represented during this grievance process by union representatives Nan Otto and Danny Marcom. See Defendants' Reply, Exh. A (Ellison Depo.) at 297-98. On or about March 30, 1993, Plaintiff wrote Timothy Mahoney, in house labor counsel for Northwest, stating that he "would like to meet with Mahoney to discuss his termination and disability, and to be placed back on active status under the Americans With Disabilities Act." Defendants' Concise Stmt. at ¶ 9.

On or about April 8, 1993, Mahoney replied to Plaintiff, stating that because Plaintiffs termination from Northwest was "not related to any disability," Northwest was under no obligation to reinstate his employment. Defendants' Concise Stmt. at 10.

On April 20-21, 1993 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, an arbitration hearing on Plaintiff's

938 F. Supp. 1506
grievance was held before the System Board of Adjustment ("SBA")

On June 7, 1993, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed a charge of discrimination against Northwest with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission and the Honolulu office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging discrimination on the basis of disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Defendants' Concise Stmt., Exh. G. The charge does not name Wendell Nelson as a respondent. Id.

On October 3, 1993, the SBA rendered its Opinion and Award regarding Plaintiffs union grievance, finding that (1) the Level 2 Reminder dated July 27, 1992 was issued for just cause; but (2) Plaintiff's discharge was not for just cause. Plaintiff's Concise Stmt., Exh. 9 (opinion and award) at 23. The SBA ordered that Plaintiff be reinstated without backpay conditioned on a favorable fitness evaluation. Plaintiff's Concise Stmt., Exh. 9 (opinion and award) at 23. The SBA ordered that Plaintiff undergo a fitness for duty evaluation by a physician designated by Northwest. Id. Plaintiff could also designate his own physician to conduct an evaluation. If the physicians' evaluations disagreed, the parties were instructed to agree on a third physician, whose evaluation would be final and binding. Id. If Plaintiff finally was found unfit for service, he would be placed on unpaid medical leave for 90 days. If at the end of that period Plaintiff still had not been certified as fit for service, he would be terminated and such termination would be deemed for just cause. Id. at 24.

As a result of the SBA's decision, Nelson wrote Plaintiff on October 19, 1993 and informed him that evaluations with Dr. Charles Hipp and Dr. Hung had been scheduled for November 19, 1993. Plaintiff's Concise Stmt., Exh. 10. By letter dated December 9, 1993, Dr. Hipp wrote Timothy Caskey, manager of labor relations for Northwest, stating: "Both Dr. Hung and I feel that Mr. Ellison is not capable of working as an aircraft mechanic due to his underlying medical problem and functional limitations. It is unlikely he will be able to return to work as an aircraft mechanic in the foreseeable future." Plaintiffs Concise Stmt., Exh. 11. On December 16, 1993, therefore, Timothy Mahoney, labor counsel for Northwest, wrote Nan Otto, general chairwoman of Plaintiff's union, and informed her that Plaintiff would be placed on 90-day medical leave to expire March 15, 1994, at which time he would be terminated and such termination would be deemed for just cause. Plaintiff's Concise Stmt., Exh. 12. At the expiration of this period, by letter dated March 18, 1994, Nelson informed Plaintiff that pursuant to the SBA decision, Plaintiff was terminated effective March 15, 1994. Plaintiff's Concise Stmt., Exh. 13.

In addition to pursuing his union grievance, Plaintiff was also pursuing a workers' compensation claim, in which he was represented by attorney Lowell Chun-Hoon. Defendants' Reply, Exh. A (Ellison Depo.) at 16:9-11. On November 30, 1993, Plaintiff...

To continue reading

Request your trial
11 practice notes
  • Payan v. Aramark Management Services Ltd., No. 05-15978.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • August 2, 2007
    ...Lozano v. Ashcroft, 258 F.3d 1160, 1164 (10th Cir.2001) (same); Carrasco, 18 F.Supp.2d at 1076 (same); Ellison v. Northwest Airlines, 938 F.Supp. 1503, 1509 (D.Haw.1996) ("The [c]ourt need not decide however whether 3, 5 or 7 days is the appropriate period of time, although it finds that th......
  • Beaulieu v. Northrop Grumman Corp., CIV. No. 99-537 ACK.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Hawai'i
    • September 28, 2000
    ...employer for employee injuries outside of those related to sexual harassment or sexual assault. See Ellison v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 938 F.Supp. 1503 (D.Hawai'i 1996); H.R.S. § 386-5 ("the rights and remedies herein granted to an employee or the employee's dependents on account of a wor......
  • Baird v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., No. CIV. 97-00721 ACK.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Hawaii)
    • May 29, 1998
    ...personal injury claims, and therefore fall within the limits outlined in H.R.S. § 657-7. Page 1210 Ellison v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 938 F.Supp. 1503, 1515 (D.Haw.1996); Au v. Au, 63 Haw. 210, 626 P.2d 173 (1981). Section 657-7 states that "an action for the recovery of compensation for ......
  • U.S. ex rel. Hinden v. Unc/Lear Services, Inc., No. CIV.02-00107 ACK/BMK.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Hawaii
    • March 15, 2005
    ...in Hawaii, Plaintiff's claim would be subject to a two-year limitations period. HRS § 657-7; Ellison v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 938 F.Supp. 1503, 1516 (D.Haw.1996) (claim of retaliatory or wrongful discharge is subject to the statute of limitations in HRS § 657-7); Linville v. State of Ha......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
11 cases
  • Payan v. Aramark Management Services Ltd., No. 05-15978.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • August 2, 2007
    ...Lozano v. Ashcroft, 258 F.3d 1160, 1164 (10th Cir.2001) (same); Carrasco, 18 F.Supp.2d at 1076 (same); Ellison v. Northwest Airlines, 938 F.Supp. 1503, 1509 (D.Haw.1996) ("The [c]ourt need not decide however whether 3, 5 or 7 days is the appropriate period of time, although it finds that th......
  • Beaulieu v. Northrop Grumman Corp., CIV. No. 99-537 ACK.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Hawai'i
    • September 28, 2000
    ...employer for employee injuries outside of those related to sexual harassment or sexual assault. See Ellison v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 938 F.Supp. 1503 (D.Hawai'i 1996); H.R.S. § 386-5 ("the rights and remedies herein granted to an employee or the employee's dependents on account of a wor......
  • Baird v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., No. CIV. 97-00721 ACK.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Hawaii)
    • May 29, 1998
    ...personal injury claims, and therefore fall within the limits outlined in H.R.S. § 657-7. Page 1210 Ellison v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 938 F.Supp. 1503, 1515 (D.Haw.1996); Au v. Au, 63 Haw. 210, 626 P.2d 173 (1981). Section 657-7 states that "an action for the recovery of compensation for ......
  • U.S. ex rel. Hinden v. Unc/Lear Services, Inc., No. CIV.02-00107 ACK/BMK.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Hawaii
    • March 15, 2005
    ...in Hawaii, Plaintiff's claim would be subject to a two-year limitations period. HRS § 657-7; Ellison v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 938 F.Supp. 1503, 1516 (D.Haw.1996) (claim of retaliatory or wrongful discharge is subject to the statute of limitations in HRS § 657-7); Linville v. State of Ha......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT