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RODRIGUEZ v. UNITED AIRLINES

July 14, 1992

JUAN RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED AIRLINES, INC. a corporation; DOES ONE through TWENTY, inclusive Defendants.


PATEL


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARILYN HALL PATEL

This matter comes before the court on defendant United Airline's motion for summary judgment on two issues: (1) whether the Railway Labor Act ("RLA"), 45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq., preempts plaintiff's claim alleging race discrimination in violation of California public policy; and (2) assuming that plaintiff's claim is not preempted, whether defendant United Airlines ("defendant") engaged in racially discriminatory conduct. For the reasons below, the court: (1) DENIES defendant's motion with respect to the RLA preemption issue; and (2) continues defendant's motion as to defendant's discriminatory conduct pending the parties' submission of additional evidence.

 BACKGROUND

 Defendant hired plaintiff, who is of Puerto Rican descent, in January 1987 as a mechanic. Ex. A to Remson Dec. P 1. By virtue of plaintiff's membership in the International Association of Machinists ("IAM"), plaintiff's employment was governed by the 1986-89 Agreement between United Airlines and the International Machinists and Aerospace Workers ("IAMAW"), (hereinafter "collective bargaining agreement" or "CBA.") Id. at P 2.

 In late 1988, plaintiff transferred to the Brake Shop, one of the departments in the United Airlines Maintenance Operations Center. Id. at PP 4, 5. In August and September of 1990, plaintiff's foreman, Leonard Williams, conducted three audits of plaintiff's production output, based on concerns brought by plaintiff's supervisors that plaintiff was not recording accurately the number of units processed. Williams Dec. at PP 7-12. The count cards of other employees were audited as well. Williams Dep. 86:7-8, 87:6-11. The audits indicated that plaintiff was recording more processed units than he was fully completing. Williams Dec. PP 7-12.

 Plaintiff claims that the discrepancies are not the product of deliberate falsification, but rather are due to the Brake Shop policy of allowing workers to claim credit for units that are at least 70% completed. Rodriguez Dec. P 5; see Johnson Dec. PP 2-3; Terry Dec. P 3. Defendant's management employees deny that such a policy exists. E.g., Miller Dep. at 101:12-18; Ex. H to Def. Mem. at 4. Plaintiff also claims that other employees claim credit for units not completely finished but have not been disciplined. Rodriguez Dep. at 211-213; see First Amended Complaint P 14.

 On June 5, 1991, plaintiff filed an action for damages arising out of defendant's alleged racial discrimination against plaintiff and defendant's alleged breach of contract and breach of implied covenant. Plaintiff asked for: (1) lost wages and related employment benefits; (2) general, incidental, and consequential damages, and damages for emotional distress; (3) attorneys' fees; and (4) punitive damages. Complaint at 9. On October 8, 1991, plaintiff amended his complaint to allege only race discrimination in violation of California public policy; plaintiff's prayer for relief remained unchanged. First Amended Complaint at 7-8. Plaintiff asserts that the only reason for his termination is racial discrimination. First Amended Complaint P 15. At oral argument, plaintiff further alleged that he was fired in retaliation for plaintiff's earlier complaints regarding defendant's racially discriminatory practices. See also Plaintiff's Mem. at 6:19-7:12. At oral argument, plaintiff also maintained that the complaint was intended to assert a common law claim in addition to FEHA. The parties stipulated that plaintiff would proceed only on the FEHA claim.

 DISCUSSION

 I. The Legal Standard

 Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment shall be granted "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial . . . since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). See also T.W. Elec. Serv. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987) (the nonmoving party may not rely on the pleadings but must present specific facts creating a genuine issue of material fact); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986) (a dispute about a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.").

 The court's function, however, is not to make credibility determinations. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. The inferences to be drawn from the facts must be viewed in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. T.W. Elec. Serv., 809 F.2d at 630-31.

 II. RLA Preemption of Plaintiff's Claim

 The purpose of the RLA is to keep airline labor disputes out of the courts by providing a framework for resolving such disputes. Melanson v. United Air Lines, Inc., 931 F.2d 558, 561-62 (9th Cir. 1991). This framework is composed of mandatory administrative grievance procedures, which are the exclusive remedy *fn1" in claims arising from "minor disputes" under collective bargaining agreements. Id. at 562. The term "minor dispute" is a term of art bearing no relation to the gravity of a dispute, but which merely identifies the dispute as one ...


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