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Lindsey v. United Airlines Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

June 2, 2017

UNITED AIRLINES, INC., et al., Defendants.




         In this employment discrimination action, defendants move to dismiss portions of an amended complaint. For the reasons below, the motion to dismiss is Granted in part and Denied in part.


         Plaintiff Eddie Lindsey is an African-American airline captain who has been employed by defendant United Airlines, Inc., or its corporate predecessors since 1979, except for a four-year hiatus during which he left United to fly for several other airlines. He alleges that United, along with defendants Continental Airlines, Inc., and United Continental Holdings, Inc. (“UCH”) - the corporate parent of United and Continental - passed him over for promotion on several occasions because of his race and age, and in retaliation for his past complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

         Lindsey, proceeding pro se, filed employment discrimination charges against United with the EEOC in September 2015 after United declined to promote him to a check airman position (a type of flight instructor) stating that he was “not qualified.” A white pilot with fewer years of experience was given the position instead (Amd. Compl. ¶ 29). His EEOC claim, attached as Exhibit A to defendants' request for judicial notice, stated in full (RJN Exh. A at 2):

I have been employed with this organization since 1979. I am currently number 25 in seniority out of fourteen thousand pilots. I have been a Captain for 30 years and during the past year have attempted 3 times to seek a promotion to the position of Check Airman.
I was most recently interviewed and denied the promotion on August 3, 2015. I was informed that I was not as qualified as other applicants.
I believe I have been discriminated against based on my age (61), in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967, as amended.

         Lindsey also checked boxes on the standard EEOC charge form indicating that he had been discriminated against based on race, age, and retaliation, and that this was part of a “continuing action” against him.

         In January 2016, while his EEOC complaint was pending, Lindsey applied for the position of assistant chief pilot in San Francisco. United denied Lindsey this position and instead gave it to an African-American pilot with fewer years of experience than him (Amd. Compl. ¶ 30).

         The EEOC issued Lindsey a right-to-sue letter in November 2016, and Lindsey, represented by counsel, commenced this action in February 2017 alleging claims for race and age discrimination under (1) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, (2) 42 U.S.C. 1981, (3) the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, (4) the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, (5) The Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA), and (6) 42 U.S.C. 1985. He filed an amended complaint in April 2017, which pled the same claims but added allegations that he was also discriminated against in retaliation for having filed complaints with the EEOC. His allegations are based upon United passing him up for a check airman position on multiple occasions, most recently in 2015, and denying him an assistant chief pilot position in 2016.

         Defendants now move to dismiss certain of Lindsey's claims, and to dismiss Continental and UCH entirely. In his response to defendants' motion, Lindsey withdrew his FEHA and Section 1985 claims (Pl.'s Opp. at 10-11). This order follows full briefing and oral argument.


         Defendants argue that certain of Lindsey's claims should be dismissed. First, defendants argue that Lindsey's Title VII, ADEA, and TCHRA claims should be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies to the extent that they are predicated on a disparate-impact theory, or involve Lindsey's denial promotion to assistant chief pilot. Second, defendants argue that Lindsey's claims against UCH should be dismissed both because he failed to include UCH in his administrative complaint and therefore his claims are not exhausted, and because he has failed to state a plausible claim against UCH. Third, defendants argue that Continental Airlines should be dismissed from this suit because, as the result of its merger with United, it no longer exists. Each of the foregoing arguments is addressed in turn.

         1. Administrative Exhaustion.

         In employment discrimination cases, district courts may only hear charges alleged in the administrative action, or conduct that is “like or reasonably related to” the charges described in the administrative allegations. Rodriguez v. Airborne Express,265 F.3d 890, 896-97 (9th Cir. 2001). “This standard is met where the allegations in the civil suit are within the scope of the administrative investigation which can reasonably be expected to grow out of the charge of discrimination.” Id. at 897 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). In assessing the relatedness of claims, district ...

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