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ROBINSON v. AMERICAN AIRLINES

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA


May 31, 1989

CECIL ALFRED ROBINSON, JR., Plaintiff
v.
AMERICAN AIRLINES, INC., Defendant

The opinion of the court was delivered by: HOGAN

MEMORANDUM OPINION

 THOMAS F. HOGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

 Congress, as part of the Employee Protection Program of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 ("ADA"), has imposed on covered air carriers an affirmative "duty to hire" dislocated employees, "regardless of age." Pub.L. No. 95-504, § 43(d), 92 Stat. 1751 (codified at 49 U.S.C.App. § 1552(d) (1982)). Congress thus recognized that "older employees looking for a new job might encounter difficulties because of their age," and its policy was to insure that the benefits of the deregulation "are not paid for by a minority -- the airline employees and their families who have relied on the present system." S. Rep. No. 631, 95th Cong., 2d Sess. 114 (1978). At the same time, Congress expressed a policy that the implementation of the Act "result in no diminution of the high standard of safety in air transportation. . . ." 49 U.S.C.App. § 1307(a). The present case reflects the potential tension between these congressional policies.

 Plaintiff, Cecil Alfred Robinson, Jr., is a protected employee under the ADA who claims that American Airlines, Inc. ("American") denied him his first right of hire by rejecting him as a pilot applicant in 1985, when he was 45. American claims in response that plaintiff was not qualified. American, however, has been a victim of its own litigation posturing since the inception of this case -- although American was perhaps spurred to overreaction by Mr. Robinson's early threats of litigation. In any event, the Court was compelled to reject American's motion for summary judgment and reopen discovery when American offered materially inconsistent justifications for its failure to hire plaintiff. Robinson v. American Airlines, 1987 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14492, No. 86-1674 (D.D.C., Nov. 17, 1987). In particular, American's pleadings raised the question whether its blood pressure and weight requirements -- which plaintiff failed -- were in fact bona fide safety-based medical qualifications. Id., slip op. at 5-6.

 The case was tried to the Court to resolve that question. American's evidence has thus now been subjected to the crucible of trial, and the credibility of its final version of why it rejected plaintiff has been tested by cross examination. The Court shall, therefore, draw no further inferences from American's pretrial vacillations. And, on the basis of the evidence submitted at trial, the Court shall enter judgment for American.

 I. FINDINGS OF FACT

 Mr. Robinson was a former commercial airline pilot with Capitol International Airways, Inc. He flew for that airline from March 1968 to November 1984, when the airline declared bankruptcy and he was permanently furloughed. During his tenure with the airline he had logged over 10,500 hours of flight time and achieved the rank of First Officer. It is stipulated that because of losing his job with Capitol he qualifies as a "protected employee" under the ADA.

 After he was permanently furloughed, he unsuccessfully applied for employment with several airlines. *fn1" Then on July 26, 1985, he received a telegram from the Future Aviation Professionals of America ("FAPA"), a private job search organization unaffiliated with American, regarding a potential position with American. See Joint Exhibit ("JE") 3. FAPA had been informed by Judy Tarver, Manager of Pilot Recruitment at American, that American was seeking to hire new crewmembers.

 The FAPA telegram listed, in abbreviated fashion, the requirements for the position: possession of a commercial license with instrument rating; possession of a Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") First Class Medical Certificate; having vision corrected to 20/20; be a high school graduate; and Flight Engineer written certificates preferred. Id. It also stated that flight experience would be "reviewed on a competitive bases[sic]." Id. The telegram instructed him not to write or call American and that American would be mailing him an application form if he had not previously applied.

 He heard nothing further from American and on August 28, 1985, he sent American by certified mail, return receipt requested, the following letter:

 

Gentlemen:

 

After 16 years of employment with Capitol Air, I was working as a DC 8 first officer when the company ceased operations and filed for bankruptcy in November due to the pressures of airline deregulation. I would therefore like to request the right of first hire under the employee protective provisions of section 43 of the Airline Deregulation Act in the event that American should hire any flight crewmembers.

 

It has long been my dream to work for American Airlines. Can you offer me any hope of fulfilling that dream?

 

My resume is enclosed. I appreciate your consideration of my request.

 JE 4. The return receipt indicates American received this letter on August 30, 1985. Before receiving Mr. Robinson's letter, American had sent him blank application forms, which he in turn received on August 30, 1985. Part of this material was a form entitled "Pilot Applicant Basic Qualifications" which listed American's "basic" hiring qualifications as follows: AGE: Minimum 21 HEIGHT: 65" TO 77" WEIGHT: In proportion to height VISUAL ACUITY: Corrected to 20/20 EDUCATION: College degree or its equivalent CITIZENSHIP: U.S. citizen or appropriate documents; however, the applicant must be able to read, write, fluently speak and understand the English language. CERTIFICATES, FAA Commercial License with an RATINGS & instrument rating, no limitations. PERMITS OR Current Air Transport Pilot Rating. Flight Engineer Basic & Turbojet or FEX written examinations passed within the past 24 months. OR Valid Turbojet Flight Engineer Certificate. Valid FCC Restricted Radio Telephone Operator Permit. Valid First Class FAA Medical Certificate (explain restrictions). FLYING TIME: Commensurate with other qualifications.

19890531

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