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EEOC v. AIR LINE PILOTS ASSN.

May 3, 1995

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
v.
AIR LINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES R. RICHEY

 INTRODUCTION

 Before the Court are the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, the Plaintiff's Opposition thereto and the Defendant's Reply. The Court held a hearing on said Motion on February 1, 1995. Because the Defendant filed materials outside the pleadings along with its Motion, the Motion must be treated as a Motion for Summary Judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b) and 56.

 In the instant Motion, the Defendant Air Line Pilots Association ("ALPA") argues that the Complaint should be dismissed because Neil Strawhorn, the individual on whose behalf the Plaintiff Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC" or "Commission") has filed this action, has not filed an EEOC charge. In opposition, the EEOC contends that it has the authority to bring suit in its own name based on evidence of discrimination found during the investigation of a valid charge. In addition, the EEOC asserts that the "single filing" rule allows an individual who has not filed an EEOC charge to maintain an action based upon someone else's filing of a valid charge.

 BACKGROUND1

 ALPA is a labor union that represents most of the nation's commercial airline pilots, including pilots for Northwest Airlines and Air Wisconsin. ALPA and Northwest are parties to collective bargaining agreements governing the terms and conditions of employment for Northwest's and Air Wisconsin's pilots. Both collective bargaining agreements contain provisions, known as "agency shop" clauses, that require pilots either to become members of ALPA or, at their option, to pay ALPA an agency fee that is no greater than the dues and fees paid by members. Pilots who fail to meet this contractual obligation are subject to discharge from their employment.

 Neil Strawhorn is a pilot for Northwest, and he works from Northwest's pilot base in Detroit, Michigan. Until 1991, Strawhorn was employed as a pilot for Air Wisconsin. While working for Air Wisconsin, Strawhorn failed to pay the agency fees required by the "agency shop" clause in the collective bargaining agreement between ALPA and Air Wisconsin. Strawhorn allegedly objects to the payment of agency fees on religious grounds. (Complaint at P 6). However, Strawhorn has never filed a charge with the EEOC concerning the allegations raised in the instant Complaint.

 On November 28, 1990, Kurt R. Langseth, a pilot for Air Wisconsin, filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC's Milwaukee District Office ("MDO"), in which he claimed that ALPA was discriminating against him on the basis of his religion because it would not allow him to pay his union dues to a charity, as he had requested. (Affidavit of Chester V. Bailey at P 2). On June 17, 1992, the MDO issued a determination finding reasonable cause to believe that ALPA had discriminated against Langseth. During its investigation of Langseth's charge, the EEOC had learned that four pilots employed by Air Wisconsin, including Langseth and Strawhorn, sought accommodation from ALPA for their religious objections to the payment of agency fees. (Affidavit of Chester V. Bailey at PP 1-2).

 Although the EEOC determined not to litigate on behalf of Kurt Langseth, the Commission voted to approve litigation against ALPA regarding ALPA's refusal to accommodate the religious beliefs of non-charging party Neil J. Strawhorn and others similarly situated. On March 8, 1994, the MDO issued an amended determination finding cause on ALPA's non-accommodation of Strawhorn's beliefs, and attempted further conciliation on Strawhorn's behalf. On January 12, 1995, the EEOC filed suit against ALPA in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, alleging that "ALPA has threatened, and taken action, to expel from membership Neil Strawhorn and other similarly-situated persons who have objected to the payment of union dues on the basis of their religious beliefs," in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(c)(1) and (3). (Complaint P 6). By stipulation filed December 6, 1994, the parties agreed to transfer venue to this Court.

 DISCUSSION

 I. THE EEOC HAS THE AUTHORITY TO BRING SUIT IN ITS OWN NAME ON BEHALF OF STRAWHORN AND THE PUBLIC INTEREST

 It is well-settled that section 706(f)(1) of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(a), empowers the EEOC to bring a civil action in its own name when it seeks to remedy discrimination discovered during the investigation of a valid charge. As the United States Supreme Court explained, "given the clear purpose of Title VII, the EEOC's jurisdiction over enforcement, and the remedies available, the EEOC need look no further than § 706 for its authority to bring suit in its own name for the purpose, among others, of securing relief for a group of aggrieved individuals." General Telephone Co. v. EEOC, 446 U.S. 318, 324, 64 L. Ed. 2d 319, 100 S. Ct. 1698 (1980).

 Although ALPA concedes the validity of this theory as proffered by the EEOC, it argues that the EEOC's authority to sue in its own name is inapplicable here because Strawhorn was not expressly mentioned in the EEOC's determination and conciliation efforts following its investigation of Langseth's charge. *fn2" In addition, ALPA argues that the EEOC's amended determination addressing Strawhorn's charge was not authorized by the Commission's regulations. Accordingly, ALPA contends, it was ...


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