Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, AFL-CI

Decision Date09 October 1979
Docket Number78-1098 and 78-1141,AFL-CIO and A,A,AFL-CI,Nos. 78-1056,AFL-CIO,s. 78-1056
Citation196 U.S.App.D.C. 443,606 F.2d 1350
Parties20 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. 976, 24 Wage & Hour Cas. (BN 292, 20 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 30,234, 20 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 30,285, 196 U.S.App.D.C. 443, 87 Lab.Cas. P 33,832, 87 Lab.Cas. P 33,837 NORTHWEST AIRLINES, INC. v. TRANSPORT WORKERS UNION OF AMERICA,ppellant, Air Line Pilots Association, International. NORTHWEST AIRLINES, INC. v. TRANSPORT WORKERS UNION OF AMERICA,Appeal of AIR LINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION, INTERNATIONAL. NORTHWEST AIRLINES, INC., Appellant, v. TRANSPORT WORKERS UNION OF AMERICA,ir Line Pilots Association, International.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit

Stephen B. Moldof, New York City, with whom Robert S. Savelson, New York City, and Donald J. Capuano, Washington, D. C., were on the brief, for appellant/cross-appellee, Air Line Pilots Ass'n, Intern.

Asher W. Schwartz, New York City, for appellant/cross-appellee, Transport Workers Union of America.

Henry E. Halladay, Minneapolis, Minn., with whom David A. Ranheim, Robert G. Bayer, Minneapolis, Minn., and Philip A. Lacovara, Washington, D. C., were on the brief, for appellee/cross-appellant, Northwest Airlines, Inc.

Vella M. Fink, Atty., E. E. O. C., Washington, D. C., with whom Charles L. Reischel, Asst. Gen. Counsel, E. E. O. C., Washington, D. C., was on the brief for amicus curiae urging dismissal.

William R. Hayden, Washington, D. C., entered an appearance for Air Line Pilots Ass'n, Intern. in No. 78-1056.

Before WRIGHT, Chief Judge, and ROBINSON, Circuit Judge, and RICHEY, * District Judge.

Opinion for the Court filed by Judge CHARLES R. RICHEY.

CHARLES R. RICHEY, District Judge:

In this case, we are called upon to determine whether an employer who violates both the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 possesses, under either law, a right of contribution from a union which allegedly participated in the wrong. We affirm the district court's ruling that no such right exists under the Equal Pay Act, but with respect to the title VII issue, we remand for further proceedings necessary to determine the suitability of the plaintiff's claim. Before reviewing the issues raised by this appeal, we briefly examine the background of this litigation.


The origin of Northwest Airlines' (the Airlines) suit against the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) and the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) lies in a previous action instituted by Mary P. Laffey. Ms. Laffey, representing a class comprising all Northwest Airlines female cabin attendants, successfully sued her employer, the Airlines, on the grounds that it had violated both the Equal Pay Act of 1963, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)(1), and title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a). Laffey v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 366 F.Supp. 763 (D.D.C.1973) and 374 F.Supp. 1382 (D.D.C.1974), Aff'd in part and vacated in part, 185 U.S.App.D.C. 322, 567 F.2d 429 (1976), Cert. denied, 434 U.S. 1086, 98 S.Ct. 1281, 55 L.Ed.2d 792 (1978). After the entry of the district court's judgment in favor of Ms. Laffey's class, the Airlines moved to amend its answer to assert a crossclaim for contribution or indemnification from the ALPA. Although the ALPA had appeared in the Laffey trial as a non-aligned party, it never actively participated in the proceedings. The Airlines also moved to assert a third-party complaint against the TWU, the original certified bargaining representative of the plaintiff class until the ALPA assumed representation in the middle of the suit. The Airlines' motions, both filed almost one and a half years after the completion of the Laffey trial, were denied by the district court. This Court affirmed that ruling as within the sound discretion of the trial court. 185 U.S.App.D.C. at 369-71, 567 F.2d at 476-78.

After the district court denied the two motions, the Airlines filed a separate suit against the TWU and the ALPA. It sought "a declaration and adjudication that TWU and ALPA are also liable, in turn and respectively, by virtue of their participation in the negotiation, execution and implementation of the collective bargaining contracts which provided for discrimination. . . . " Complaint P 11, C.A. No. 75-0223 (D.D.C. filed Feb. 18, 1975). Specifically, the Airlines sought a declaratory judgment holding the unions liable for the violations of the Equal Pay Act and title VII originating in the collective bargaining agreements which they had helped negotiate. In due course, the unions moved to dismiss the Airlines' complaint for failure to state a claim and for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Ruling on this motion, the district court declared invalid the Airlines' claim under the Equal Pay Act, but upheld the claim under title VII. With respect to the Equal Pay Act claim, the court followed a line of precedent refusing to imply a cause of action for contribution or indemnification; the district court held that the cause of action sought by the Airlines was inconsistent with the intended purpose of the law. Yet, the court found that the implication of a cause of action for contribution was consistent with the underlying purpose of title VII. It also held that subject matter jurisdiction for such a claim existed under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, because the Airlines was asserting a federal common law right. Relying on this conclusion, the court noted that the Airlines' lack of compliance with section 2000e-5(e) of title 42, U.S.Code, was not a bar. This provision requires an aggrieved party to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before commencing suit in the federal courts. In sum, the district court found that the Airlines was bringing a suit, not under title VII, but under federal common law. The court, however, qualified its conclusions regarding the plaintiff's right of contribution:

At this time, the Court holds only that there is a federal common law right to contribution for monetary liability imposed under title VII, at least under some circumstances, and it will reach the question as to the precise parameters of this right when the pertinent facts have been developed and properly placed before the Court.

Memorandum Opinion, slip op. at 17, C.A. No. 75-0223 (D.D.C. July 7, 1977).

The district court later amended its order to include a certification for interlocutory appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). By order of January 6, 1978, this Court granted the parties' petitions for leave to appeal. Shortly thereafter, the district court, under Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b), entered a final judgment dismissing the Airlines' claim for reimbursement under the Equal Pay Act. Order, C.A. No. 75-0223 (D.D.C. Jan. 11, 1978).

We are thus presented with the question of Northwest Airlines' right to contribution under 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)(1) and 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a).


We affirm the district court's conclusion regarding contribution under the Equal Pay Act, because we find such a right inconsistent with both the statute's language and purpose.

The Equal Pay Act ("the Act") proscribes discrimination in wages on the basis of sex where substantially similar work is performed. In the statute's express terms, no right of contribution is mentioned, nor is there any provision for monetary liability on the part of unions, for the benefit of employees. Yet, the Act's bar extends, in two distinct statutory subsections, to both employers and unions alike:

(1) No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions . . . .

(2) No labor organization, or its agents, representing employees of an employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall cause or attempt to cause such an employer to discriminate against an employee in violation of paragraph (1) of this subsection.

29 U.S.C. §§ 206(d)(1) & (2) (1976). The Act provides for suits by aggrieved employees, but, by its express terms, it only allows such suits against employers:

Any employer who violates the provisions of section 206 or section 207 of this title shall be liable to the employee or employees affected in the amount of their unpaid minimum wages, or their unpaid overtime compensation as the case may be, and in an additional equal amount as liquidated damages. Action to recover such liability may be maintained against Any employer (including a public agency) in any Federal or State court of competent jurisdiction by any one or more employees for and in behalf of himself or themselves and other employees similarly situated. . . .

29 U.S.C. § 216(b) (1976) (emphasis added). See Tuma v. American Can Co., 367 F.Supp. 1178, 1181-82 (D.N.J.1973). Unions, however, are not insulated from all redress under the Act. Section 216(c) of title 29, U.S.Code, empowers the Secretary of Labor "to supervise the payment of . . . wages . . . owing to any employee or employees under section 206 or section 207 of this title." This power certainly includes the authority to seek redress against unions which violate the Act. 1 E. g., Hodgson v. Sagner, Inc., 326 F.Supp. 371 (D.Md.1971), Aff'd per curiam sub nom. Hodgson v. Baltimore Regional Joint Board, 462 F.2d 180 (4th Cir. 1972). The relevant statutes thus do not expressly create either a cause of action against unions for the benefit of employees, or one for contribution for the benefit of...

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