("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq. (1994). The matter is before the court on American's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). For reasons set forth below, the court grants American's motion.
I. Current Case
The Federal Aviation Administration's ("FAA") "Age 60 Rule", 14 C.F.R. § 121.383(c), provides that no person may serve as a pilot if that person has reached his/her sixtieth birthday. The "Age 60 Rule", however, does not prevent former pilots from serving as flight officers after their sixtieth birthdays.
(Complaint P 10.) Plaintiffs, twelve retired American captains, wanted to continue their careers after their sixtieth birthdays in the flight officer (flight engineer) position. (Complaint P 11; Pls.' Reply to Def.'s Mot. at 1.) American, however, refused to downbid plaintiffs to the flight officer position, thus forcing plaintiffs to retire.
(Complaint PP 12-13.)
Plaintiffs claim American's refusal to downbid them to the flight officer position was because of age and, thus, violates the ADEA. (Complaint P 19.) In response, American moves this court for judgment on the pleadings. In Johnson v. American Airlines, 745 F.2d 988 (5th Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 472 U.S. 1027, 87 L. Ed. 2d 631, 105 S. Ct. 3500 (1985), the Fifth Circuit allowed American's policy of hiring only future captains as flight officers to stand. Consequently, American argues that, in light of Johnson, the doctrine of res judicata [claim preclusion] or collateral estoppel [issue preclusion] bars plaintiffs' claim.
II. Earlier Suit
In Johnson, twenty-two ex-captains for American, represented by plaintiffs' attorney, sued American for violating the ADEA. See 745 F.2d at 990-991. Their action arose at the intersection of the FAA's "Age 60 Rule" and American's up-or-out policy. See id. at 991. The plaintiffs, American flight crew members, desired employment as flight officers after their sixtieth birthdays since they could no longer serve as pilots under the "Age 60 Rule". Id. at 991. American's up-or-out policy, however, requires that all flight officers be capable of advancing to pilot positions. Id.; See also EEOC, 48 F.3d at 165 (citation omitted). Therefore, pilots over the age of sixty can not downbid to flight officer because American requires that all flight officers be able to advance to the pilot position. In other words, a sixty year old flight officer can not advance to the pilot position under the Age 60 Rule and American's up-or-out policy. Id.; See also EEOC, 48 F.3d at 165 (citation omitted). Based on this policy, American, allegedly in violation of the ADEA, refused to downbid the sixty-year-old, ex-captains to the flight officer position. See id.
In response, American claimed its up-or-out policy was a bona fide occupational qualification ("BFOQ").
See id. At trial, American presented evidence of the various effects of employing sixty-year-old, ex-captains as flight officers when they could no longer advance to the captain position because of the "Age 60 rule". See id. The jury found in favor of American, concluding that American's policy was in fact a BFOQ and, therefore, American's actions did not violate the ADEA. See id. The Johnson plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in instructing the jury.
See id. The Fifth Circuit, however, held that the district court did not commit reversible error and affirmed the jury's verdict. See 745 F.2d at 995 ("We conclude that American's reasons for its policy qualify as a BFOQ defense.").
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
The court reviews a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings under the same standard as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. See Frey v. Bank One, 91 F.3d 45, 46 (7th Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 136 L. Ed. 2d 841, 117 S. Ct. 954 (1997); Alexander v. City of Chicago, 994 F.2d 333, 335 (7th Cir. 1993); Thomason v. Nachtrieb, 888 F.2d 1202, 1204 (7th Cir. 1989). Thus, the court accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See United States v. Wood, 925 F.2d 1580, 1581 (7th Cir. 1991) (citation omitted); See also Zinermon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113, 118, 108 L. Ed. 2d 100, 110 S. Ct. 975 (1990) (motion to dismiss); Colfax Corp. v. Illinois State Toll Highway Auth., 79 F.3d 631, 632 (7th Cir. 1996) (motion to dismiss) (citation omitted). The court will not grant the motion unless "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff cannot prove any facts that would support his claim for relief." Frey, 91 F.3d at 46; Thomason, 888 F.2d at 1204.
The court, however, need not strain to find inferences favorable to plaintiffs which are not apparent on the face of the complaint; on the other hand, it will resolve ambiguities in plaintiffs favor. See Early v. Bankers Life and Casualty Co., 959 F.2d 75, 79 (7th Cir. 1992) (motion to dismiss); Coates v. Illinois State Bd. of Educ., 559 F.2d 445, 447 (7th Cir. 1977) (motion to dismiss). Additionally, the court "may not look beyond the pleadings, and all uncontested allegations to which the parties had an opportunity to respond are taken as true."
Alexander, 994 F.2d at 335. The court, however, "may take into consideration documents incorporated by reference to the pleadings." Wood, 925 F.2d at 1582 (citation omitted). Lastly, the court may take judicial notice of matters of public record. See Henson v. CSC Credit Servs., 29 F.3d 280, 284 (7th Cir. 1994); Wood, 925 F.2d at 1582.
The main issue before the court is whether the doctrine of res judicata
bars plaintiffs from litigating this ADEA suit. In this ADEA suit, plaintiffs seek appraisal of their rights regarding American's refusal to downbid sixty-year-old captains to the flight officer position. If Johnson precludes plaintiffs' claim, however, then the court will not reappraise plaintiffs' rights. Because Johnson, the alleged preclusive action, was a federal court case, federal principles determine what preclusive effects, if any, it has on the present plaintiffs' action. See EEOC v. Harris Chernin, Inc., 10 F.3d 1286, 1289 n.4 (7th Cir. 1993) (citing Barnett v. Stern, 909 F.2d 973, 977 (7th Cir. 1990)) ("where the earlier action is brought in federal court, the federal rules of res judicata apply."); In re Energy Coop., Inc., 814 F.2d 1226, 1230 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 928, 98 L. Ed. 2d 254, 108 S. Ct. 294 (1987); accord Porn v. National Grange Mut. Ins. Co., 93 F.3d 31, 33-34 (1st Cir. 1996). Furthermore, under the doctrine of res judicata or collateral estoppel, district judges treat decisions by other district judges and other circuits as controlling. See Colby v. J.C. Penney Co., 811 F.2d 1119, 1124 (7th Cir. 1986) (explaining that different outcomes in different courts may place a defendant under inconsistent obligations).
In a classic discussion of the federal principles of issue and claim preclusion, the Supreme Court explained:
A fundamental precept of common-law adjudication, embodied in the related doctrines of collateral estoppel [or issue preclusion] and res judicata [or claim preclusion], is that a 'right, question, or fact distinctly put in issue and directly determined by a court of competent jurisdiction . . . cannot be disputed in a subsequent suit between the same parties or their privies. . . .' Under collateral estoppel [or issue preclusion], once an issue is actually and necessarily determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, that determination is conclusive in subsequent suits based on a different cause of action involving a party to the prior litigation.