United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
May 7, 2004.
MARGARET ANTHONY, and all other plaintiff's similarly situated, Plaintiff's
AMR CORPORATION, d/b/a AMERICAN AIRLINES and ASSOCIATION OF PROFESSIONAL FLIGHT ATTENDANTS, Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: RONALD GUZMAN, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Margaret Anthony has sued on behalf of herself and all
other persons similarly situated AMR Corp, d/b/a American Airlines
("American") and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants ("the
APP A") for violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as
amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e ("Title
VII"), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621
et seq. ("ADEA") when they entered a seniority integration
agreement ("SIA") after American purchased TWA's assets from Chapter ll
bankruptcy. The following motions are pending: American's motion to
dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. ("Rule") 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) and
the APP A's motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) or, in the
alternative, for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56. For the reasons
set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies without prejudice in
part American's motion to dismiss and denies the APP A's motion without
In January 2001, American agreed to purchase almost all of the assets
of TWA through a process that involved TWA's filing for bankruptcy.
(APFA's Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss at 3.) The acquisition closed after court
approval on April 9, 2001. (Id.) On April 10, 2001, TWA L.L.C.,
a separate corporation, was established. (Id.) TWA L.L.C.
conducted business that was formerly conducted by TWA and employed
Plaintiff and other former TWA flight attendants. (Id.) After
TWA L.L.C. was formed, the bargaining terms (including seniority dates)
covering Plaintiff and the other flight attendants remained the same as
they were with TWA. (Id.) The bargaining representative for both
TWA and TWA L.L.C.'s flight attendants was the International Association
of Machinists, and the bargaining representative for American's flight
attendants is the APFA. (Id.)
The APFA and American began negotiating as to the integration of TWA
L.L.C. into American and reached an integration agreement ("SIA") on
December 17, 2001. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff alleges that she was
advised in December 2001 that her seniority dates would be June 18, 1970
and July 31, 1970 after TWA L.L.C. integrated with American, although
Defendants maintain that the only seniority date quoted to TWA L.L.C.
flight attendants was the one found in the SIA. (See Am. Compl.
¶ 12; APFA's Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss at 6.) The provisions of the SIA
stated that the terms of the American-APFA CBA would apply to TWA L.L.C.
flight attendants after integration. (APFA's Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss at
4.) The American-APFA CBA gives seniority based on the date that a flight
attendant is added to American's payroll. (Id.) However, under
the SIA, the applicable seniority date for former TWA L.L.C. flight
attendants is April 10, 2001 the date that TWA L.L.C. was formed, (Id. at 5.)
Plaintiff alleges that her seniority number was 952 prior to the SIA,
and that it became 22,656 after the SIA because prior service at TWA and
TWA L.L.C. did not create an entitlement to seniority credit at American.
(Am. Compl. ¶ 19.) As a result of Plaintiff's placement on the
seniority list, she was among the flight attendants who were laid off by
American in July 2002. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22.) In her amended
complaint, Plaintiff alleges that the SIA was entered into with an intent
to discriminate against women and older employees. (Id. ¶
24.) Plaintiff seeks to have the SIA invalidated and to be given full
seniority credit at American for her years of employment with TWA.
(Id at 7-8.)
A. American's Motion to Dismiss as to AMR Corp, for Failure to
State a Claim
On behalf of AMR, American moves to dismiss the complaint as to AMR
Corp, for failure to state a claim. A court may only dismiss a complaint
for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if "it is
clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could
be proved consistent with the allegations." Hishon v. King &
Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); see Ledford v. Sullivan,
105 F.3d 354, 356 (7th Cir. 1997).
Defendants argue and Plaintiff concedes that she erred in naming AMR
Corp. as a defendant because she failed to name AMR in her EEOC charge.
Accordingly, the Court grants American's motion to dismiss as to AMR
Corp. AMR Corp. is hereby terminated as a defendant. Only Defendants
American and the APFA remain. B. Defendants' Motions to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter
Defendants have moved to dismiss Anthony's putative class action claims
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. When moving to dismiss pursuant
to Rule 12(b)(1), a defendant may opt for a facial attack, i.e.,
a challenge of the court's subject matter jurisdiction based on the
sufficiency of the complaint's allegations, or a factual attack,
i.e., a challenge of the factual basis for the court's subject
matter jurisdiction. Cedars-Sinai Med Ctr. v. Watkins,
11 F.3d 1573, 1583 (Fed. Cir. 1993). If a defendant makes a facial attack, the
"allegations are taken as true and construed in a light most favorable to
the complainant." Id. "If the Rule 12(b)(1) motion denies or
controverts the pleader's allegations of jurisdiction, however, the
movant is deemed to be challenging the factual basis for the court's
subject matter jurisdiction." Id. When making a factual attack,
"the allegations in the complaint are not controlling, and only
uncontroverted factual allegations are accepted as true for purposes of
the motion." Id. (citations omitted). "The Court may weigh the
evidence in order to satisfy itself that jurisdiction exists; as such,
disputes over material facts will not preclude the court from deciding
jurisdictional issues." Bd. of Trs. of Pipe Fitters' Welfare Fund
Local 597 v. Adams, No. 97 C 5592, 1998 WL 259543, at *2 (RD. Ill.
May 7, 1998).
In support of their motions to dismiss, Defendants launch a factual
attack on jurisdiction and argue that Plaintiff's claims are precluded by
the Railway Labor Act ("the RLA") because they require an interpretation
of the CB A for their resolution. Defendants maintain that Plaintiff's
Title VII and ADEA claims can be conclusively resolved by interpreting
Article 13 of the CB A, which contains the relevant seniority provisions.
(See APPA's Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss at 11.) However, Plaintiff
asserts that she does not contest the meaning of the CB A, which "quite
clearly establishes the seniority of Plaintiff." (Pl.'s Mem. Opp. Defs.'
Mot. Dismiss at 6.) Instead, Plaintiff claims that the seniority
provision is on its face discriminatory in terms of age and sex.
In 1936, Congress extended coverage of the RLA to the airline industry.
Adams v. United Airlines, Inc., 578 F. Supp. 26, 28 (N.D. Ill.
1983). The purpose of the RLA is to promote stability in labor-management
relations by providing a comprehensive framework for resolving labor
disputes. Hawaiian Airlines, Inc. v. Norris, 512 U.S. 246, 252
(1994). Under the RLA, disputes are separated into two classes
major and minor. Id. The RLA establishes mandatory arbitral
mechanisms for both classes of disputes. Id. While major
disputes relate to the formation of collective bargaining agreements,
minor disputes arise out of grievances involving the interpretation or
application of collective bargaining agreements. Id. Thus, major
disputes are those that seek to create contractual rights, while minor
disputes are those that seek to enforce them. Id. at 253.
In their motions to dismiss, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's claim
should be classified as minor because it involves an interpretation of
the CBA. If Plaintiff's claim is in fact minor, then this Court lacks
subject matter jurisdiction because minor disputes are subject to
mandatory and exclusive arbitration under the RLA. See Brown v. III.
Cent. R.R. Co., 254 F.3d 654, 658 (7th Cir. 2001). However, although
Defendants have correctly stated the law in terms of minor disputes,
there exists other binding precedent that more fully describes the
landscape of the law. Although federal courts do not have subject matter
jurisdiction over disputes that are "grounded in the CBA," they are not
precluded from hearing claims based on independent federal statutes (such
as Title VII or the ADEA) where "the provisions of a CBA are relevant but not
dispositive." Brown, 254 F.3d at 664. In fact, the Seventh
Circuit has explicitly held that "`[w]hen the meaning of contract terms
is not the subject of dispute, the bare fact that a collective bargaining
agreement will be consulted in the course of . . . litigation plainly
does not require the claim to be extinguished.'" Brown, 254 F.3d
at 664 (quoting Loewen Group Int'l, Inc. v, Haberichter,
65 F.3d 1417, 1421 (7th Cir. 1995)).
In Tice v. American Airlines, Inc., the Seventh Circuit
affirmed the dismissal of an ADEA claim based on the fact that the
complaint boiled down to a disagreement over the meaning of a bumping
rights provision in a CBA. 288 F.3d 313, 316 (7th Cir. 2002).
Specifically, in that case, the plaintiff's claimed certain bumping
rights under the agreement, while the airline denied that they had those
rights. Id. The Seventh Circuit noted that "the question is
whether the plaintiff's' suit is dependent on their preferred
interpretation of the agreement, in which event they should be in
arbitration; and the answer to that question is yes." Id. at
315. The court went on to clarify, however, that a plaintiff's claim can
proceed in federal court if it is brought under an independent federal
statute and "the meaning of the collective bargaining agreement bears
tangentially though materially on the issue." Id. at 318.
Similarly, in Brown v. Illinois Central Railroad Co., the
Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an ADA claim which was
inextricably intertwined with an interpretation of seniority provisions
found in a CBA. 254 F.3d at 668. The Seventh Circuit stressed the fact
that the plaintiff's ADA claim was precluded in that case because
interpretation of the seniority provisions could dispose of the entire
claim as a matter of law. Id. However, the court was careful to
point out that the claim would not have been precluded if either the
parties did not dispute the interpretation of the
relevant CBA provisions (and [plaintiff] had
merely argued that he was entitled to a certain
reasonable accommodation under the ADA
notwithstanding anything to the contrary
in the CBA), or if the disputed provisions of the
CBA were relevant but not dispositive of
[plaintiff's] claim. . . .
Id. (footnote omitted).
Accordingly, although the defendants have made the general assertion
that Plaintiff's claims are dependent upon interpreting Article 13 of the
CBA, they have failed to point to specific contested issues of
interpretation that are necessary to resolve Plaintiff's claims under
Title VII and the ADEA. As a result, this case is distinguishable from
both Tice and Brown because interpreting the seniority
provisions will not dispose of the discrimination claims. Both Plaintiff
and the defendants agree that the relevant seniority provisions do not
give Plaintiff seniority based upon her length of service at TWA
thus there is no dispute as to the interpretation or application of the
CBA. In her complaint, Plaintiff does not argue that she is contractually
entitled to seniority based upon her service at TWA; instead, she argues
that the unequivocally established seniority she has been given violates
Title VII and the ADEA.*fn1 Unless the defendants can specifically point
to contested issues of interpretation which would resolve Plaintiff's
claims, they cannot prevail on their motions to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction. As such, Defendants' motions to dismiss are denied
C. Defendant AFFA's Alternative Motion for Summary
In the alternative, Defendant APPA has moved for summary judgment.
However, in filing its motion for summary judgment, the APFA has failed
to comply with the required local procedures for filing summary judgment
motions in the Northern District of Illinois. See LR 56.1(a);
Stewart v. McGinnis, 5 F.3d 1031, 1033 n.2 (7th Cir. 1993)
(explaining that the local rules in the Northern District of Illinois
require a summary judgment movant to serve and file "a statement of
material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine
issue"). As a result of this failure to comply with the local rules
governing motions for summary judgment, the Court denies the APFA's
summary judgment motion without prejudice. See Bordelon v. Chicago
Sch. Reform Bd. of Trs., 233 F.3d 524, 527 (7th Cir. 2000) ("Given
their importance, we have consistently and repeatedly upheld a district
court's discretion to require strict compliance with its local rules
governing summary judgment."), CONCLUSION
For the foregoing reasons, the Court grants in part and denies without
prejudice in part American's motion to dismiss [doc. no. 22-1] and denies
the APFA's motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment
without prejudice [doc. no. 17-1]. AMR Corp, is hereby terminated as a
party. Only Defendants American and the APFA remain.