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Greg Heidler v. Association of Flight

January 10, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Michael Seabright United States District Judge



Defendant Association of Flight Attendants-CWA ("AFA"), and Defendants United Airlines, Inc. and United Continental Holdings, Inc. (referred to together as "United") (collectively "Defendants") move to dismiss pro se Plaintiff Greg Heidler's ("Plaintiff" or "Heidler")*fn1 Amended Complaint, or in the alternative, to transfer venue to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. United also substantively joins in AFA's Motion. The Motions primarily argue that the Amended Complaint is barred by a six-month statute of limitations. As explained below, the Motions are GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

Claims remain if based upon Plaintiff's allegation that the AFA breached a duty of fair representation by withdrawing Plaintiff's grievance on April 15, 2008. Other claims are dismissed as time-barred, or as preempted by the Railway Labor Act ("RLA"), 45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq. The court declines to transfer venue to the Northern District of Illinois.


A. Factual Background

The court assumes the factual allegations of the Amended Complaint are true for purposes of these Motions, see, e.g., Savage v. Glendale Union High Sch., 343 F.3d 1036, 1039 n.1 (9th Cir. 2003), and recites only the allegations necessary to explain its rulings.

United employed Heidler as a flight attendant from June 9, 1997 until June 1, 2005, when it discharged him for failure to complete training. Doc. No. 34, Am. Compl. ¶¶ 6, 12. He had been on furlough starting on August. 31, 2003, but had been recalled effective June 1, 2005. Id. ¶¶ 10, 11. After his separation, Heidler requested a grievance hearing under the applicable collective bargaining agreement ("CBA"). Id. ¶ 15. On April 28, 2006, United found the separation to have been proper. Thereafter, on May 26, 2006, the AFA (as the collective bargaining representative for United flight attendants) appealed the grievance to the System Board of Adjustment. Id. ¶ 16. In this suit, among other claims, Plaintiff contends that United improperly separated him in violation of the CBA. Id. ¶¶ 17-19.

"On May 18, 2007 and September 18, 2007 AFA notified Plaintiff in writing that they no longer represented Plaintiff in the grievance and that if he chose to proceed to System Board of Adjustment for Arbitration of his grievance he would be doing so at his own expense and they would notify [United] that they were no longer representing plaintiff." Id. ¶ 21.

Although not clear, even though the AFA "no longer represented Plaintiff," it apparently remained involved with his grievance.*fn2 According to the Amended Complaint, the "AFA on February 1, 2008 informed Plaintiff that he would be required to arbitrate his case on April 24-25[, 2008] and Plaintiff stated that was not enough time to prepare for his Arbitration." Id. ¶ 22. Plaintiff developed "adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder)" in February 2008, which prevented him from passing a physical, attending training or returning to work," id. ¶ 23, and he notified the AFA of his condition by phone and email. Id. ¶ 24. "On March 20, 2008 Plaintiff received [a] 'take it or leave it' letter from AFA in violation of CBA requiring him to arbitrate his grievance in Chicago on July 16-17[,] 200[8]." Id. ¶ 25. Plaintiff responded to the AFA's March 20, 2008 letter as follows:

On April 2, 2008 plaintiff mailed [a] letter to AFA informing them of his unreturned attempts at communication, inability to Arbitrate on the date they mandated, desire to Arbitrate his case when his shoulder was healed and reminded AFA that he was proceeding to arbitration on his own, at his own expense and that AFA had chosen to cease representing him in said grievance. Plaintiff also informed AFA that there was no authority in [the] CBA for them to force arbitration on dates they selected or withdraw grievance without plaintiff's consent when they no longer represented him.

Id. ¶ 26.

Despite Plaintiff's April 2, 2008 letter, the AFA appears to have withdrawn the grievance in some manner. "In January 2011, plaintiff's shoulder injury had sufficiently resolved and was notified for the first time on January 20, 2011 by AFA that his grievance was improperly withdrawn on April 15, 2008." Id. ¶ 27. Similarly, on January 29, 2011, United informed Plaintiff that it was unaware that the AFA did not represent Plaintiff and that Plaintiff's grievance "had been withdrawn April 15, 2008 under [the] assumption he assented" to the withdrawal, and that United "had no intention of returning Plaintiff's calls or reinstating him now[.]" Id. ¶ 28. In this suit, in addition to the claim against United, Plaintiff contends that the AFA ...

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