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Kocsis v. Delta Air Lines, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Hawai'i

August 5, 2013

BALINT KOCSIS, Plaintiff,
v.
DELTA AIR LINES, INC., Defendant

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Balint Kocsis, bkofbkk@gmail.com, Plaintiff, Pro se, Bangkok Thailand.

For Delta Air Lines, Inc., Defendant: Barry W. Marr, Leighton M. Hara, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Marr Jones & Wang LLLP, Honolulu, HI.

OPINION

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ORDER GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S RULE 56(d) REQUEST FOR FURTHER DISCOVERY

Alan C. Kay, Senior United States District Judge.

For the following reasons, the Court hereby GRANTS IN PART Delta's Motion for Summary Judgment. The Court GRANTS summary judgment to Delta on Mr. Kocsis's claims based on theories of disparate impact or " pattern-or-practice." The Court also, however, GRANTS Mr. Kocsis's request for further discovery as to his claims based on a theory of disparate treatment. As to those claims, Delta's Motion is DEEMED WITHDRAWN, and the parties shall proceed with discovery as set forth below.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Balint Kocsis claims that Defendant Delta Air Lines unlawfully discriminated against him because of his age.

Mr. Kocsis, who is appearing pro se, filed his Complaint in this Court on July 27, 2012. (Dkt. No. 1.) Delta filed an Answer on October 9, 2012. (Dkt. No. 7.) On June 13, 2013, Delta filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 28), which was supported by a concise statement of facts and various declarations and exhibits (Dkt. No. 29 (" Delta CSF" )). Mr. Koscis initially filed an opposition on July 2, 2013 (Dkt. No. 34), but then filed an Amended Opposition on July 8, 2013 (Dkt. No. 36 (" Opp." )), which was supported by a concise statement of facts and various declarations and exhibits (Dkt. No. 37 (" Kocsis CSF" )). The Amended Opposition was timely, and the Court will consider it. Delta filed a Reply in support of its Motion on July 15, 2013. (Dkt. No. 38.) A hearing on Delta's Motion was held on July 29, 2013. (Dkt. No. 42.)

FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

Mr. Kocsis was hired by Northwest Airlines as a flight attendant in 1989. (Delta CSF ¶ 2.) In 2004, he was promoted to the position of " Purser," the most senior flight attendant on a given flight. (Id. ¶ 10.) In 2008, Northwest and Delta merged, and Mr. Kocsis became an employee of Delta, still as a Purser. (Id. ¶ ¶ 3, 10; Kocsis CSF ¶ 3.)

When customers on a Delta flight buy duty-free items, the flight attendants collect payment from the customers and place the cash and credit card receipts in sealed, tamper-proof envelopes. (Delta CSF ¶ 5.) The flight attendants bring their individual envelopes to the Purser, who places them in a Master Deposit Envelope (" MDE" ), seals the MDE, and deposits it at a " drop safe" upon landing. (Id. ¶ ¶ 5-7.)

Delta's duty-free program is handled by a Miami-based company called DFASS. (Id. ¶ 4.) On August 30, 2010, DFASS reported to Junichi Takao, Mr. Kocsis's supervisor, that some MDEs were missing that Mr. Kocsis should have deposited at Narita International Airport in Tokyo. (Id. ¶ 17; Takao Decl. ¶ 8.) Later in November, Mr. Takao received a forwarded email originating from DFASS, which stated that more than twenty MDEs for which Mr. Kocsis was responsible - totaling more than $8,000 - had not been deposited over the preceding few months. (Takao Decl. ¶ ¶ 14-16.) Mr. Takao contacted Mr. Kocsis, who responded that he had made all of the deposits correctly, and that there could be a problem at Narita. (Id. ¶ ¶ 17-18; see Kocsis CSF ¶ 19.) In fact, the list of missing deposits included five flights on which

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Mr. Kocsis was not even working. (Kocsis Decl. ¶ 3.) Given Mr. Kocsis's explanation for the missing envelopes, Delta developed a " dual audit procedure" whereby a DFASS employee and a Delta employee would check the deposit safe at Narita together. (Bell Decl. ¶ ¶ 26-27.)

The dual audits performed in January 2011 found that three MDEs attributable to Mr. Kocsis were missing from the Narita deposit safe. (Fukuoka Decl. ¶ ¶ 9-10.) Only MDEs attributable to Mr. Kocsis were missing. (Id. ¶ 11.) One missing MDE was numbered 463051, and the other two were numbered 462455. (Id. ¶ 10.) [2]

When Mr. Takao told Mr. Kocsis in an email that " January deposits were not received," Mr. Kocsis responded that he had deposited all his January 2011 MDEs at either Narita or Honolulu Airports. (Kocsis Decl. ¶ 6; see Kocsis CSF Ex. O.) He told Mr. Takao that he could provide copies of all his January receipts. (Kocsis CSF Ex. O.) Mr. Takao forwarded this statement to his direct supervisor, Bobbie Bell. (Delta CSF Ex. I.)

In February 2011, Ms. Bell communicated with Debbie Bunch, a Delta in-flight services employee at Honolulu, and another employee there; they told Ms. Bell that they did not receive Mr. Kocsis's missing MDEs. (Bell Decl. ¶ ¶ 36-37.) [3] On February 25, 2011, Ms. Bell and Mr. Takao jointly drafted a memorandum recommending that Delta fire Mr. Kocsis. (Takao Decl. ¶ 25.)

On March 7, 2011, Mr. Takao met Mr. Kocsis upon returning from a trip and placed him on unpaid leave. (Kocsis Decl. ¶ 7.) Mr. Kocsis states that during this meeting Mr. Takao told him that another, similarly-aged [4] Purser, Kevin Griffin, had previously been caught stealing Delta property, and that Delta's management had been angry when Ms. Bell and Mr. Takao decided not to fire Mr. Griffin. (Id.)

In March 2011, after Mr. Kocsis was placed on leave, Ms. Bell once again checked the Narita and Honolulu deposit logs and communicated with Ms. Bunch and the other Delta employee in Honolulu, who again told her that they had not received the missing MDEs from Mr. Kocsis. (Bell Decl. ¶ ¶ 45-50.)

On March 20, 2011, and again on March 22, 2011, Mr. Kocsis sent an email to Ms. Bell, Mr. Takao, and others, which detailed extensive problems he saw in Delta's MDE deposit system and included a list of his January 2011 deposits. (Kocsis CSF Ex. K.) The list includes MDEs # 463051 and # 462455 and indicates that he deposited these MDEs in Honolulu and received signed receipts. (Id.) It also notes that MDE # 462455 was deposited inside another MDE. (Id.) Ms. Bell replied on March 23, 2011, stating that Delta did not take Mr. Kocsis's status lightly and was reviewing the MDEs and logsheets, and that " [w]e have also reviewed the HNL logsheets and do not find the funds received at this location either." (Id.)

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On around March 25, 2011, Delta approved Ms. Bell and Mr. Takao's recommendation to fire Mr. Kocsis. (Bell Decl. ¶ 51.) Ms. Bell and Mr. Takao fired Mr. Kocsis on March 30, 2011. (Delta CSF ¶ 28.) When Mr. Kocsis asked why he was being fired, he was handed a sheet of paper listing the three missing MDEs from January 2011. (Kocsis Decl. ¶ 8.) [5] Mr. Kocsis was then 52 years old. (See Delta CSF ¶ 3.)

Mr. Kocsis strongly disputed, and continues strongly to dispute, whether any MDEs in his charge ever went missing. He states that he was never given the chance before he was fired to present full explanations to Mr. Takao or Ms. Bell, and that both supervisors refused to look at his receipts for the supposedly missing MDEs from January 2011. (Kocsis Decl. ¶ ¶ 7-8.) In his declaration supporting his Opposition, he explains as follows regarding each envelope:

First, Mr. Kocsis agrees that he failed to deposit MDE # 463051 in Narita, but explains that he inadvertently forgot to do so. (Id. ¶ 4.) He realized his mistake during his return flight to Honolulu. (Id.) When he reached Honolulu, he deposited the MDE with Debbie Bunch, and Ms. Bunch signed a receipt for him. (Id.; see Kocsis CSF Ex. J at 2 (receipt # 463051 (signed)).)

Second, MDE # 462455 was a single envelope provided for a round trip (two flights) from Nagoya to Guam and back again on January 23, 2011. (Id. ¶ 5.) Mr. Kocsis had already sealed the MDE for the round trip just before landing in Nagoya when one of the flight attendants realized she had forgotten to hand in some of the cash and credit card receipts she had collected. (Id.) Mr. Kocsis tore open the MDE so that the attendant could add her deposit. (Id.) Mr. Kocsis kept the torn MDE, intending to find an extra envelope on a later flight to put the torn one into. (Id.) He did not find an extra envelope, but taped up the torn MDE. (Id.) On January 28, 2011, he entered MDE # 462455 onto the deposit log in Narita, but then changed his mind about depositing it and again decided to see if he could obtain an extra envelope on his return flight to Honolulu. (Id.) He again could not find an extra envelope, so he placed the torn-and-taped ...


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