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Davis v. American Airlines

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

June 28, 2019

RACHELLE DAVIS, Plaintiffs,
v.
AMERICAN AIRLINES, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          Max O. Cogburn Jr., United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss by Defendants American Airlines, Terry Dix, Michelle Magee, and Mark Moscicki, pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. No. 9).

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         Pro se Plaintiff Rachelle Davis is employed with Defendant American Airlines (hereinafter “American Airlines” or “the Company”) as a flight attendant. A collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between American Airlines and Plaintiff's union governs many of the terms and conditions of Plaintiff's employment. American Airlines sent Plaintiff for an independent medical examination pursuant to the CBA after Plaintiff reported that she was being surveilled and subjected to “thermography radiation” attacks by unknown individuals, including when she was on duty. An independent psychologist determined that Plaintiff was not fit for duty and the Company placed her on a medical leave of absence.

         Plaintiff claims that she is well now and ready to return to work as a flight attendant. She has refused to submit, however, to another independent medical examination to assess her fitness for duty. She asserts that she is entitled under the CBA to return to work without undergoing another independent medical examination, and she claims that American Airlines is refusing to return her to work because of race, age, and disability discrimination and retaliation. Plaintiff filed this action on January 29, 2019, naming as Defendants American Airlines and three individual defendants, and purporting to bring employment discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.

         On March 4, 2019, Defendants filed the pending motion to dismiss. Defendants contend that Plaintiff's lawsuit is subject to dismissal for several reasons. First, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's claims constitute a minor dispute under the Railway Labor Act (“RLA”), over which the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Second, Defendants contend that Plaintiff failed to timely exhaust her administrative remedies. Third, Defendants contend that, even if the Court had subject matter jurisdiction and even if Plaintiff timely exhausted her administrative remedies, she fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. On March 5, 2019, this Court entered an order granting Plaintiff 14 days to respond to the motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 11). Plaintiff has filed her response, Defendants have filed a Reply, and Plaintiff has filed a Surreply. (Doc. Nos. 12, 16, 18). This action is ripe for disposition.

         B. Factual Background

         i. The Governing Collective Bargaining Agreement

         American Airlines employs Plaintiff as a flight attendant based out of the Charlotte International Airport. See (Doc. No. 10-1 at ¶ 2: Decl. of Mark Moscicki, Defs.' Ex. 1). Many of the terms and conditions of Plaintiff's employment are governed by a CBA between American Airlines and Plaintiff's union, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants. (Id. at ¶ 3; Doc. No. 10-2: Agreement Between American Airlines, Inc. and Association of Professional Flight Attendants - APFA (“APFA CBA”), Defs.' Ex. A). Of particular relevance to Plaintiff's claims, Sections 25 and 28 of the CBA govern medical examinations and flight attendants' return to work after a medical leave of absence. See (APFA CBA at Sections 25, 28).

         Sections 30 and 31 of the CBA establish multi-step procedures for the presentation and resolution of grievances arising under the CBA, which culminate in a neutral final and binding arbitration before a System Board of Adjustment. See (APFA CBA at Sections 30-31). Section 28 of the CBA establishes procedures for fitness for duty evaluations. The Company can send a flight attendant for a medical evaluation with a physician of the Company's choosing when reasonable grounds exist to believe the flight attendant's physical or mental health may impair the performance of her duties. See (APFA CBA at Section 28(A)). If the flight attendant disagrees with the physician's fitness for duty determination, she can challenge it by submitting her own physician's opinion. See (APFA CBA at Section 28(C)). If the physician selected by the flight attendant has an opinion that differs from the Company-selected physician's opinion, the disagreeing physicians mutually appoint a third, disinterested health care provider to conduct another examination of the flight attendant, and the third health care provider's opinion on the flight attendant's fitness for duty controls. See (APFA CBA at Section 28(C)(4)-(5)).

         Section 25 of the CBA governs flight attendants' return to work from leaves of absence. See (APFA CBA at Section 25). Before returning from a medical leave of absence, a flight attendant must submit a physician's verification that she is fit for duty. See (APFA CBA at Section 25(E)(3)). Disputes between the Company and the flight attendant about the flight attendant's ability to return to work are to be resolved using the procedures for medical examinations contained in Section 28 of the CBA. See (APFA CBA at Section 25(E)(4), (7)).

         ii. Plaintiff Is Determined Unfit for Duty

         In August 2015, Plaintiff told Flight Service Manager Terry Dix that unknown individuals were surveilling her and targeting her with thermography radiation attacks. See (Doc. No. 10-3 at ¶ 2: Decl. of Terry Dix, attached as Defs.' Ex. 2). Plaintiff claimed that the radiation attacks had been ongoing for approximately eighteen months and expressed concern that her coworkers might be providing information about her to the military. (Id.). Plaintiff told Dix that she did not stay at Company-provided hotels during layovers because she was unable to escape the radiation that the military would shoot at her through the air conditioning vents and windows. (Id. at ¶ 3). Rather, Plaintiff spent the nights in airports during layovers where she could move around easier and avoid the radiation attacks. (Id.). Plaintiff told Dix that the attacks could happen anywhere, at any time, ...


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