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Schauf v. American Airlines

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 20, 2016

JOHN A. SCHAUF, Plaintiff,




         On April 18, 2016, Defendant American Airlines, Inc., erroneously named as "American Airlines" ("Defendant") filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff John A. Shauf's ("Plaintiff") second amended complaint and a request for judicial notice of documents filed in this action in both state and federal court. (Docs. 34-1; 34-2.) Plaintiff did not timely file an opposition. (See Docket.) After review of the parties' briefs and arguments, the matter was found suitable for decision without oral argument pursuant to Local Rule 230(g), and the hearing date was vacated.

         For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint and motion to strike Plaintiff's demand for attorneys' fees is GRANTED with prejudice and without leave to amend.


         A. Factual Background[1]

         Plaintiff's "amended complaint is based on discrimination based on disability, failure to engage in the interactive process, gross negligence and violation of the compromise and release executed by [Plaintiff] and [Defendant] (formerly U.S. Airways) and violation of medical confidentiality and confidentiality of employee records." (Doc. 28 (Second Amended Complaint), pp. 2-3.) Plaintiff alleges three causes of action: discrimination in violation of Cal. Govt. Code § 12940(e)(1), negligence in "fail[ing] to provide a safe, and secure environment for [Plaintiff] while in training, and "violation of prior compromise and release and confidentiality laws." (Id., pp. 3-5.)

         Plaintiff alleges he is a flight attendant with over 18 years of experience on regional, national, and international airlines. He was hired by American Airlines in May of 2013 and began his first day of post-hire training on or about June 18, 2013. As a condition of his hiring, Plaintiff was required to pass security and medical background checks. In the course of his medical background check, Plaintiff revealed that "he had a disabling episode after 2009, that he was hospitalized for depression in 2010, and that he had anxiety and depression, but was not taking any medication at the time of the hiring process. He also also [sic] executed a form confirming he received Medi-Care Part D benefits." (Id., pp. 6-8.) An American Airlines representative informed Plaintiff that so long as he was no longer medicated and could produce a letter demonstrating he was medically stable, he could continue working for American Airlines. If he began taking medication, he would have to meet certain additional criteria in order to continue working for American Airlines. Plaintiff was cleared by a physician for training, and because he met the "off medication and stable" documentation criteria, Plaintiff continued training. (Id., p. 8.)

         On July 16, 2013, Plaintiff had money stolen from his flight bag in an American Airlines training classroom and reported the matter to American Airlines personnel and filed a police report. As a result of American Airlines personnel's "fail[ure] to take the matter seriously[, ]" Plaintiff experience additional anxiety and told Class Manager Deborah Tierney "he might need to go back on medication he was taking for anxiety." (Id.) Plaintiff was assured he was not fired, but was sent home and instructed to return in one week to resume training. In a letter dated July 23, 2013, Plaintiff was instructed to obtain a physician's note clearing him for return to work and required to be "off medication for 30 days[.]" (Id.) On August 1, 2013, Plaintiff spoke with American Airlines' recruiting staff, who informed him "that after he cleared the medical requirements he would be placed back into the training program where he left off." (Id.) That same day, Plaintiff's physician spoke with American Airlines medical staff nurse "Doom, " who clarified that Plaintiff would have to demonstrate a 30-day "period of stability" prior to reentering the program. (Id., pp. 8-9.)

         On August 19, 2013, Plaintiff achieved the required period of stability, having been on medication for 31 days. Plaintiff's physician sent a note clearing Plaintiff to return to training to American Airlines. When Plaintiff followed up with Nurse Doom, she informed him for the first time that it was "up to American Airlines training/recruiting staff whether [Plaintiff would be] placed back in rotation." (Id., p. 9.) Plaintiff inquired as to whether any other medical issues existed "preventing him from returning to training" and Nurse Doom "indicated there were not." (Id.) However, on September 6, 2013, Plaintiff "was fired" from American Airlines. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges "[i]t is clear that [he] was fired because of his need for mental health medication, ie [sic] because of his disability or American Airlines' perception that he had a disability." (Id., pp. 9-10.)

         Plaintiff alleges American Airlines violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 20101, requiring reasonable accommodation and preventing discrimination based on disability or perceived disability, and violated the California Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"), Cal. Govt. Code §§ 12940 et seq., requiring an employer to engage in the interactive process. (Id., p. 10.) Plaintiff alleges Defendant's "arbitrary" change in policy was impermissibly prompted by his disability "in that [American Airlines] initially passed [Plaintiff] for medical after a background check, then brought up the medical issue again, and then terminated him for supposed background check violations." (Id., p. 9.) Plaintiff further alleges these actions were "in complete violatio[ ]n [of] laws protecting disabled persons in that they must be able to determine which criterion they are being denied for and must be in the order of background first, then medical." (Id.) Finally, Plaintiff objects to "the alleged character questions brought about by a person c[la]iming to be his sister [which] were not corroborated and constitute a participation in professional slander."[2] (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges he "has suffered economic and emotional distress damages" due to Defendant's conduct. Plaintiff states that he has "lost approximately $55, 000.00 in salary and the seni[o]rity he would have had if the airline had not [ ] engaged in their egregious actions." (Id., p. 10.) Further, Plaintiff states that he has been unable to find work following his termination due to American Airline's "defaming [his] good character and . . . providing negative work reference to potential employer[s]." (Id.) Plaintiff requests the Court enjoin Defendant from "defaming [P]laintiff's good character" and from "refus[ing] to admit [P]laintiff to [its] training and employment." (Id.) Plaintiff seeks $1, 155, 000 in general damages, $55, 000 in lost past and future wages, "unlimited" punitive damages, to be returned to work with seniority as of June 18, 2013, interest, costs of suit, and attorneys' fees.[3] (Id.)

         B. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff was terminated on September 6, 2013, [4] and filed a "joint EEOC and DFEH Charge with the EEOC" alleging he was wrongfully terminated. On May 7, 2014, Plaintiff alleges the EEOC mailed him a Notice of Right to Sue. On May 7, 2015, Plaintiff filed his Complaint with the Stanislaus County Superior Court in accordance with the EEOC Right to Sue letter. On June 12, 2015, Plaintiff filed a first amended complaint with the Stanislaus County Superior Court. On July 28, 2015, Defendant timely removed the action to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.[5] On January 11, 2016, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint with leave to amend to address the deficiencies in the pleadings identified in the Court's order; on April 1, 2016, Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint.

         On April 18, 2016, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), or in the alternative to strike Plaintiff's demand for attorneys' fees and order Plaintiff to provide a more definite statement pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e). (Doc. 34.) No opposition was timely filed. (See generally, Docket.)


         A court may take judicial notice of an adjudicative fact, which "must be one not subject to reasonable dispute in that it is either (1) generally known . . . (2) or capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned." Fed.R.Evid. 201. The Court may also "take judicial notice of proceedings in other courts, both within and without the federal system, if those proceedings have a direct relation to matters at issue, " Bias v. Moynihan, 508 F.3d 1212, 1225 (9th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted), although "taking judicial notice of findings of fact from another case exceeds the limits of Rule 201, " Wyatt v. Terhune, 315 F.3d 1108, 1114 (9th Cir. 2003) (overruled in part on other grounds, Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162, 1169 (9th Cir. 2014)).

         Court documents and other matters of public record are the proper subject of judicial notice. See Reyn's Pasta Bella, LLC v. Visa USA, Inc., 442 F.3d 741, 746 n.6 (9th Cir. 2006). However, even where judicial notice of a document is granted, it is the existence of such a document and not the truth of the matters asserted within the document that is judicially noticed. See Rowland v. Paris Las Vegas, No. 3:13-CV-02630, 2014 WL 769393, at *3 (S.D. Cal. Feb. 25, 2014). Defendant requests judicial notice of court documents filed in the underlying case, Schauf v. American Airlines, Stanislaus County Superior Court Case No. 20114498. (Doc. 34-2, Exhs. A (Complaint), B (Amended Complaint).)

         Plaintiff has not opposed this request, and the authenticity of these documents is not subject to dispute. Such documents are proper subjects of judicial notice as to the existence of the documents - the contents of the documents are not the subject of judicial notice. ...

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