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Vernon Jones v. United Airlines

December 13, 2012

VERNON JONES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED AIRLINES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Marvin E. Aspen

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MARVIN E. ASPEN, District Court Judge:

Plaintiff Vernon Jones ("Plaintiff") filed suit against Defendant United Airlines ("Defendant"), alleging discrimination based on age in violation of the Age Discrimination Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621--34, as well as race and national origin in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e--2 et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Presently before the court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 22), Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 26), Defendant's motion to strike Plaintiff's amended complaint (Dkt. No. 59), and Plaintiff's request for leave to amend (Dkt. No. 65). For the reasons stated below, we grant Defendant's motion for summary judgment and motion to strike, and deny Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and request for leave to amend.

BACKGROUND

I. Plaintiff's Employment with Defendant

Plaintiff began working as a flight attendant with Defendant United Airlines in 1995. (Def. 56.1 Stat. ¶ 2.) In 1996, he transferred to the position of international flight attendant, based out of Narita Airport in Tokyo, Japan, where he remained until Defendant terminated his employment on October 29, 2010. (Id. ¶¶ 2, 60.) In the years preceding Plaintiff's termination, Defendant recorded a number of infractions and penalties on Plaintiff's disciplinary record. These included a warning letter in July 2005 for his "poor dependability record," a ten-day suspension in May 2006 for numerous violations of Defendant's Articles of Conduct, a 30-day suspension in December 2007 for missing four scheduled trips, and a violation of Japanese immigration laws in October 2008. (Id. ¶¶ 21--24.) This last infraction resulted in a "Level Four warning, the highest level of discipline prior to discharge in United's progressive discipline policy." (Id. ¶ 24.) On March 29, 2009, after receiving the Level Four warning, Plaintiff met with his supervisors and his union president, Ricardo Gonzales, and agreed that any further misconduct on his part for the next two-year period would result in the termination of his employment. (Id. ¶¶ 25--26.)

In February 2010, Plaintiff applied for a promotion to purser, or lead flight attendant. (Id. ¶ 65.) Defendant denied the promotion because Plaintiff was still in the two-year final warning period. (Id.) Later that year, Defendant determined that Plaintiff had failed to properly update his flight attendant operations manual ("FAOM"), as required by Defendant's policies and FAA regulations. (Id. ¶¶ 48--49, 53--56.) As Plaintiff had already received a Level Four warning, Defendant decided to terminate Plaintiff's employment at that time. (Id. ¶¶ 58--60.)

II. Plaintiff's Claims against Defendant

In 2009, Plaintiff filed a charge against Defendant with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging that Defendant discriminated against him on the basis of race by canceling his health insurance benefits while he was on a leave of absence. (Id. ¶ 63.) On June 17, 2011, Plaintiff filed another charge with the EEOC, alleging that Defendant discriminated against him on the basis of race and national origin when it terminated his employment in 2010. (Compl. at 8.) He further claimed that Defendant terminated his employment in retaliation for his 2009 EEOC charge. (Id.) Plaintiff received a notice of his right to sue from the EEOC on June 24, 2011 and initiated the present suit. (Id. at 7.)

In addition to the racial discrimination and retaliation claims in the underlying 2011 EEOC charge, the complaint alleged discrimination on the basis of age. (Id. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff also claims Defendant engaged in "obstruction of justice" with respect to a "felony hate crime."*fn1

(Id. ¶ 12(h).) Finally, Plaintiff describes three incidents that took place in April 2011:

(1) Plaintiff received a letter from the IRS that omitted an agent identifier, allegedly in violation of IRS policy; (2) an Illinois State Police officer detained Plaintiff for three hours without charge while Plaintiff was standing in a picnic area; and (3) a hearing in another case between Plaintiff and Defendant was removed from the court's calendar. (Compl.¶ 13.) Plaintiff attributes all three incidents to deliberate harassment on the part of Defendant. (Id.)

Discovery in this case closed on August 27, 2012, and both parties have filed for summary judgment. (Dkt. Nos. 22, 26, 54.) Additionally, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint, which Defendant has moved to strike. (Dkt. Nos. 58--59.) Following the motion to strike, Plaintiff filed a request for leave to amend the complaint. (Dkt. No. 65.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is proper only when "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A genuine issue for trial exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2510 (1986). This standard places the initial burden on the moving party to identify those portions of the record that "it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 2553 (1986) (internal quotations omitted). Once the moving party meets this burden of production, the nonmoving party "must go beyond the pleadings" and identify portions of the record demonstrating that a material fact is genuinely disputed. Id.; Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In deciding whether summary judgment is appropriate, we must accept the nonmoving party's evidence as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S. Ct. at 2513.

ANALYSIS

A. Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment

On June 12, 2012, Plaintiff filed a motion asking for initial disclosures, summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff, an order compelling Defendant to answer discovery requests, and a six month extension for discovery. (Dkt. No. 26.) The motion consisted entirely of document requests. (Id.) To the extent that we can construe this as a ...


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