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Field Mcconnell v. Air Line Pilots' Association

January 24, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge


Pilot Field McConnell, proceeding pro se, alleges that the Air Line Pilots' Association, International, ("ALPA") breached its duty of fair representation by failing to represent him properly in the grievance process with his former employer, Northwest Airlines, Inc. ALPA filed a motion for summary judgment. Because the Complaint is time-barred under the applicable statute of limitations, summary judgment will be granted in favor of ALPA.


Mr. McConnell was employed as a pilot with Northwest Airlines, Inc. ("NWA"). In November of 2006, he went on sick leave. Pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement between NWA and its pilots, NWA could order a pilot who was on sick leave for more than 60 days to submit to a medical exam. The collective bargaining agreement provided:

B. 1. If the Company has reasonable cause to believe that a pilot has developed a medical impairment to his ability to perform his duties between the routine medical examinations required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Company may require said pilot to submit to a medical examination from a non-AME*fn1 medical doctor chosen by the Company. The Company will be entitled to: (i) submit to the medical doctor a written explanation of the circumstances giving rise to the request for an examination, and/or (ii) require that the pilot submit to an examination by any non-AME specialist(s) recommended by such doctor. .

Note: This Paragraph B. shall not preclude the Company from requiring a pilot to submit to a medical examination under the following circumstances: (i) application for disability retirement; (ii) initial Captain checkout; (iii) election for continued flying as a Second Officer beyond the regulated age (see Section 24 M); and (iv) a pilot who is on sick leave or medical leave of absence for 60 or more consecutive days.

Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. # 28], Plunkett Decl., Ex. 1 (Collective Bargaining Agreement §15, ¶ B.1).

In January of 2007, after Mr. McConnell had been on sick leave for more than sixty days, NWA ordered him to undergo a medical examination. Mr. McConnell objected to taking the exam, and he sought assistance from ALPA. Mr. McConnell contended that NWA lacked reasonable cause to order such a medical exam. Despite his objection, Mr. McConnell reported for the exam on January 31, 2007. After that exam, NWA directed Mr. McConnell to submit to an additional examination by a neuro-psychologist, Dr. Elliot, in Los Angeles on March 1 and 2, 2007. Mr. McConnell did not attend the March 1 and 2 appointment.

NWA wrote to Mr. McConnell that due to his failure to attend the March 1 and 2 appointment, NWA removed Mr. McConnell from sick leave status effective March 2, 2007, pending Mr. McConnell's compliance with the medical exam requirement. See Plunkett Decl.,

Mr. McConnell decided that he wanted to grieve his removal from payroll effective March 2. ALPA is the collective bargaining representative of pilots employed by NWA. On June 30, 2007, ALPA filed a grievance on his behalf. An ALPA attorney, Robert Plunkett, filed the grievance. The grievance alleged that Mr. McConnell "did not receive any directive or direction to see Dr. Elliott" and that he learned of the March 1 and 2 appointment via the March 13 letter from NWA. Id., Ex. 11 (Pre-Grievance No. PGR-1943-07). As a remedy, the grievance requested that NWA pay Mr. McConnell sick leave from March 2, 2007 until his retirement on March 13, 2007, and to recalculate his pension benefits to include this sick leave. Id.

While Mr. McConnell claims he never received written notice of the March 1 and 2 appointment with Dr. Elliott, see Compl. ¶ 20, the record shows that Mr. McConnell actually knew of the ordered exam and the scheduled March dates. Mr. McConnell noted in a February 6, 2007 email, "I am being sent to LA to see a "neuro-psychiatrist" and "[t]he appointment is set for 1 and 2 March." Plunkett Decl., Ex. 3 (Feb. 6, 2007 email).

On July 3, 2007, Mr. McConnell copied Mr. Plunkett on an email to another person, indicating that Mr. McConnell wanted to be (1) compensated at the pay rate of a 747-400 aircraft pilot until he turned 65 or (2) restored to flying. Id., Ex. 12 (July 3, 2007 email). Mr. Plunkett responded to Mr. McConnell, explaining that the grievance that ALPA filed for him covered back pay from March 2 to March 13 when Mr. McConnell retired. "We have filed no claim for pay at 400 rates until you would turn 65 as you voluntarily retired and no claim can be brought." Id.

On July 8, 2007, Mr. McConnell sent an email to Mr. Plunkett, stating that he wanted to cancel his grievance as follows:

Please cancel my grievance. I had requested to be returned to flying or be paid out to retirement age. I do not consider 6 days pay adequate. I spoke with a DOJ official who suggested I consider a Qui Tam filing. I have located a QT attorney and I anticipate a meeting with ...

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