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Bryan v. Allied Pilots Association

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 20, 2018

JOHN L. BRYAN, Plaintiff,


          Denise J. Casper, United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff John L. Bryan (“Bryan”) brings this action under the Railway Labor Act (“RLA”). D. 1. Bryan alleges that Defendant Allied Pilots Association (“APA”) breached its duty of fair representation (Count I) and also asserts a claim for breach of the collective bargaining agreement/wrongful termination (Count II) against Defendant American Airlines (“American”). Id. APA and American have moved to dismiss Bryan's claims. D. 17; D. 20. For the reasons stated below, the Court DENIES APA's motion, D. 17, and ALLOWS American's motion, D. 20.

         II. Standard of Review

         Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must include sufficient facts to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). This requirement “simply calls for enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence” of the illegal conduct alleged. Id. at 556. The Court “must assume the truth of all well-plead[ed] facts and give the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences therefrom.” Ruiz v. Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp., 496 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2007). First, the Court must “distinguish the complaint's factual allegations (which must be accepted as true) from its conclusory legal allegations (which need not be credited).” Saldivar v. Racine, 818 F.3d 14, 18 (1st Cir. 2016) (quoting Cardigan Mt. Sch. v. N.H. Ins. Co., 787 F.3d 82, 84 (1st Cir. 2015)). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Second, the Court must determine whether the factual allegations support a “reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Haley v. City of Bos., 657 F.3d 39, 46 (1st Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). If the facts “do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not ‘show[n]' - ‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (alteration in original).

         When reviewing a motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court “may properly consider only facts or documents that are part of or incorporated into the complaint.” Trans-Spec Truck Serv., Inc. v. Caterpillar Inc., 524 F.3d 315, 321 (1st Cir. 2008); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). The Court may also consider “documents the authenticity of which are not disputed by the parties; for official public records; for documents central to plaintiffs' claim; or for documents sufficiently referred to in the complaint.” Alt. Energy, Inc. v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 267 F.3d 30, 33 (1st Cir. 2001) (quoting Watterson v. Page, 987 F.2d 1, 3 (1st Cir. 1993)).

         III. Factual Allegations

         Except as otherwise stated, the following facts are based upon the allegations in Bryan's complaint, including the documents attached to and fairly incorporated therein, and are accepted as true for the consideration of the motions to dismiss.

         Bryan became a pilot for Mohawk Airlines, Inc. (“Mohawk Airlines”) in 1969. D. 1 ¶ 6. Subsequently, Mohawk Airlines merged with Allegheny Airlines, Inc., which later became U.S. Airways, Inc. (“US Airways”). Id. Between December 1996 and 1998, Bryan served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of U.S. Airways' Air Line Pilots Association's (“ALPA”)[1] Master Executive Council. Id. ¶ 7. Consistent with his predecessors, Bryan stopped piloting commercial aircrafts during his two-year term as Chairman and CEO of ALPA's Master Executive Council. Id. ¶¶ 8, 12. As a result of his decision not to fly commercial aircrafts for two years, Bryan was required to complete a retraining program before he could resume piloting. Id. ¶¶ 9-10, 12. Bryan alleges he was entitled to participate in such a program pursuant to the terms of the operating collective bargaining agreement (the “CBA”) between ALPA and U.S. Airways at the time.[2] Id. ¶ 13; see 31-2 at 5 (explaining that “[t]raining which is ‘reoccurring' in nature shall be open to all pilots for bidding”).

         In July 1998, Bryan enrolled in a Boeing 767 recurrent retraining program. Id. ¶ 12. According to the complaint, U.S. Airways' President Rakesh Gangwahl, who allegedly had a hostile relationship with Bryan and who had announced earlier that year that he would no longer speak to Bryan, ordered Bryan's removal from the retraining program. Id. ¶¶ 14-15. Bryan alleges this conduct interfered with his right to participate in the training program in violation of the terms of the CBA. See id. ¶¶ 12-17. Because Bryan did not complete the required program, he was deemed unqualified to serve as a U.S. Airways pilot. Id. ¶ 16. U.S. Airways, therefore, terminated Bryan upon completion of his term as Chairman and CEO of the ALPA Master Executive Council in February 1999. Id. Bryan's termination occurred over a year prior to his anticipated retirement date of May 1, 2000 pursuant to U.S. Airways' Early Retirement Incentive Program. Id. Bryan alleges that, due to his wrongful exclusion from the training program and his early termination, he was denied compensation and anticipated retirement benefits totaling over $1 million. Id. ¶ 17.

         On February 24, 1999, Bryan filed a grievance (“Grievance No. PHL 99-02-11”) regarding the alleged interference with his participation in the training program and his subsequent termination in alleged violation of the CBA. Id. ¶ 18. U.S. Airways denied Bryan's grievance on October 12, 1999 and August 2, 2000. Id. ¶ 19. However, because ALPA had determined that Bryan's grievance was meritorious, id. ¶ 20, it submitted the grievance to U.S. Airways' Pilots System Board of Adjustment (“Adjustment Board”) for arbitration on August 29, 2000. Id. The president of ALPA at the time requested the grievance “be heard by the Board at its next regular or special session.” Id. This request was purportedly sent to thirteen APA and U.S. Airways officials. Id. Bryan's grievance, however, was never scheduled for arbitration. Id. ¶ 22.

         Bryan contacted ALPA (and, eventually, its successors, USAPA and APA) to determine the status of his grievance “on multiple occasions” between August 29, 2000 and the institution of this action in December 2017. See id. ¶ 23. At various, unspecified points over the course of seventeen years, the ALPA and its successors informed Bryan that his grievance was not a priority and that he should anticipate continued delay in obtaining an arbitration date due, in part, to U.S. Airways' two bankruptcies and the company's merger with American. Id. ¶ 24.

         On February 24, 2017, Bryan contacted Tricia Kennedy (“Kennedy”), the Director of Grievances and Dispute Resolution for APA, the collective bargaining representative for all airline pilots employed by American following its merger with U.S. Airways. Id. ¶ 25. Kennedy explained that she would follow up with Bryan after she researched the status of his grievance. Id. A few months later, on April 13, 2017, Bryan called Kennedy a second time. Id. ¶ 26. Kennedy confirmed that Bryan's grievance was “open.” Id. Kennedy asked Bryan how much money he was requesting in connection with the grievance and stated that she would call Bryan back. Id.

         In May 2017, Kennedy confirmed that Bryan's grievance would be discussed at a joint American-APA meeting in June 2017. Id. ¶ 27. Kennedy also asked Bryan to provide his settlement request and promised to call him after the joint meeting. Id. Kennedy did not call Bryan back and did not respond to Bryan's emails. Id. ¶ 28. On October 5, 2017, Bryan called Kennedy, who confirmed that APA and American had considered Bryan's grievance during the June 2017 meeting. Id. ¶ 29. Kennedy explained that, as part of a “global settlement” with American, APA “dropped” Bryan's grievance.[3]Id. Kennedy provided no explanation for why Bryan's grievance was ...

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