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Behzad Rajabi v. Psa Airlines

April 5, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheila K. Oberto United States Magistrate Judge



On January 19, 2011, Plaintiff Behzad Rajabi ("Plaintiff") filed a complaint against Defendants PSA Airlines, Inc. ("PSA"), Jeff Gilliam, Darren Harris, Matthew Christner, Randall Fusi, Joseph Rose, Bruce Kumke, and Jason Kyle (collectively "Defendants"). Plaintiff, an Iranian-born United States citizen, was a pilot employed by PSA from April 2004 to April 2008. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 1, 9, 12.) Plaintiff asserts that he was employed by PSA as a First Officer, i.e., "one of two pilots assigned to operate the planes on which [Plaintiff] flew." (Doc. 1, ¶ 14.) During the course of his employment, Plaintiff flew over 3200 hours as a First Officer on two different aircraft. (Id.) Plaintiff received excellent oral performance evaluations and was repeatedly praised by his managers for his safe and efficient work as a pilot. (Id.)

In September 2007, Plaintiff applied for a promotion from the position of First Officer to Captain. (Doc. 1, ¶ 15.) In considering Plaintiff's application for this promotion, PSA was required to follow published Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") regulations that set forth procedures for evaluating applicants seeking promotion. (Doc. 1, ¶ 17.) These procedures required pilot-applicants to submit to "checkrides," which Plaintiff asserts is a simulated ride on one of U.S. Airways' aircraft simulators.*fn1 Therefore, Plaintiff was required to submit to checkrides as part of a promotion evaluation.

The first of these checkrides took place in September 2007, without Plaintiff's prior knowledge. (Doc. 1, ¶ 19.) Plaintiff asserts that PSA and its Aircrew Program Designee, Jeffrey Gilliam, subjected Plaintiff to a checkride without informing him of this or preparing him for the ckeckride. (Id.) Plaintiff understood that the session was to be an additional simulator session before his checkride, not the official checkride. Mr. Gilliam failed Plaintiff on this checkride. Plaintiff asserts this is because Defendants did not want "foreign born pilots, especially those with strong accents, acting as Captains of their planes." (Id.)

In October 2007, Plaintiff completed a checkride for a First Officer position and successfully passed. (Doc. 1, ¶ 21.) Plaintiff continued his employment with PSA as a First Officer, but he was subsequently subjected to more "line checks" than other pilots. (Id.) On one occasion, as part of these line checks, the "check airman" pulled a circuit breaker on a revenue flight (a flight with paying passengers) in a test of Plaintiff's skills, which is against FAA policy. (Id.)

In March 2008, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging he had been subjected to discriminatory treatment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") due to his national origin, including his thick accent. (Doc. 1, ¶ 22.) Also in March 2008, Plaintiff made a second attempt to qualify for a promotion to Captain. As part of the promotion requirements, he was subject to a "ground school oral exam," but the topic was changed by the instructor at the last minute. Plaintiff asserts that, per the collective bargaining agreement in place, he should have been provided seven days notice of this change. (Doc. 1, ¶ 23.) Additionally, PSA did not provide him with an outline of the required maneuvers for the checkride associated with the promotion evaluation, and he was required to complete multiple malfunctions at one time instead of one malfunction at a time. (Doc. 1, ¶ 23.)

On April 6, 2008, Plaintiff underwent a second checkride in an attempt to qualify for a promotion. (Doc. 1, ¶ 24.) Plaintiff asserts this checkride was unfair and designed to make him fail. Further, the correct forms for the checkride were not signed, invalidating the checkride. (Id.) On April 10, 2008, Plaintiff underwent a third checkride. (Doc. 1, ¶ 26.) During this checkride, Plaintiff's instructor informed him that he "heard that Plaintiff had filed an EEOC complaint" and had he "known this he would not have approved Plaintiff's readiness for the checkride." (Doc. 1, ¶ 26.) Despite the instructor's misgivings about Plaintiff's EEOC complaint, the checkride went forward. However, the instructor subjected Plaintiff to a 2.9 hour checkride without a break, Plaintiff was asked to perform tasks for which he had not been trained, and Plaintiff was held to a different standard than other trainees. Plaintiff also states that PSA "failed to provide a First Officer for the checkride whose name appears on the Pilot's System Seniority List." (Id.) Subsequently, on April 12, 2008, Plaintiff 's employment with PSA was terminated. (Doc. 1, ¶ 27.) Thereafter, Plaintiff initiated this suit alleging violations of Title VII, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"), and a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.


A. Screening Standard

"Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid," the court shall dismiss a case at any time if it determines that the action or appeal is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). If the Court determines that the complaint fails to state a claim, leave to amend may be granted to the extent that the deficiencies of the complaint can be cured by amendment. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).

B. Failure to State a Claim

In determining whether a complaint fails to state a claim, the Court applies the same pleading standard used under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Under Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). "[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __ U.S. __, __, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). "[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "[A] complaint [that] pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability . . . 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Further, although a court must accept as true all ...

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