Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Aviation
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After Continental and United Air Lines merged, they needed to produce unified seniority and longevity rosters for pilots. The Air Line Pilots Association represents all of the pilots. In 2012 the new United and the Union reached an agreement that sets pilot pay based on: rank (captain vs. first officer), type of aircraft flown, and longevity, defined as all time since the date a pilot was hired, including time spent on furlough. Pre-merger, pilots on furlough accrued seniority but not longevity. Plaintiffs challenged ancillary Agreement 25, under which pilots in active service longer than four years and seven months would receive no credit for furlough time; pilots who had four years and six months of service could claim only one month of furlough; and so on. Plaintiffs claimed that the provision slots 475 former United pilots into the table behind former Continental pilots who were hired before May 6, 2008, in violation of the main agreement, and accused the Union of inadequate representation (DFR claim). Defendants replied that the main agreement governs the future, after Agreement 25 determines the pilots’ starting positions. The district judge dismissed United as a party because disputes about the meaning of an airline industry collective bargaining agreement are within the exclusive authority of an adjustment board under the Railway Labor Act, leaving plaintiffs unable to establish both that United violated the contract and that the union did not represent workers fairly. They then argued that the Union negotiated a bad contract. The district court concluded that Agreement 25 is not irrational. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that, with pilots on different sides of the issue, a compromise that favored some over others was inevitable.View "Cunningham v. Air Line Pilots Ass'n, Int'l" on Justia Law

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American Airlines filed for bankruptcy and implemented a plan to reduce labor costs. Anticipating a reduction in the number of AA mechanics, resulting in reduction in the number of Transportation Workers Union members, the national leadership of that union consolidated local unions and shuttered offices. The district court denied a motion by local unions for a preliminary injunction preventing the consolidation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. TWU’s actions were within the scope of its authority; TWU reasonably exercised powers granted to it by the TWU Constitution. View "Transp. Workers Union of Am., AFL-CIO Local Unions v. Transp. Workers Union of Am., Int'l " on Justia Law

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In 2003, the airline established guidelines that address accommodating employees who, because of disability, can no longer do essential functions of their current jobs, even with reasonable accommodation. The guidelines specify that the transfer process is competitive, so that an employee in need of accommodation will not be automatically placed into a vacant position, but will be given preference over similarly qualified applicants. The EEOC challenged the policy under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101. The district court ruled in favor of the airline. On rehearing, en banc, the Seventh Circuit reversed and held that the ADA does mandate that an employer appoint employees with disabilities to vacant positions for which they are qualified, provided that such accommodations would be ordinarily reasonable and would not present an undue hardship to that employer. The court concluded that contrary precedent did not survive in light of U.S. Airways, Inc. v. Barnett, 535 U.S. 391 (2002). View "Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm'n v. United Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law

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While working as a flight attendant, LeGrande was injured when the aircraft encountered severe turbulence. She sued the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 2674, alleging that air traffic controllers employed by the FAA negligently had failed to warn the flight’s captain that turbulence had been forecast along the flight path. The district court concluded that FAA employees did not breach any duty owed LeGrande and granted summary judgment for the government. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. LeGrande argued, for the first time, that her injuries resulted from the negligence of a National Weather Service meteorologist. The court concluded that the FAA breached no duty owed to LeGrande and that LeGrande failed to give the NWS the notice that the FTCA requires. View "LeGrande v. United States" on Justia Law

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Airlines, users of airports owned by the City of Chicago, have use agreements that make they city responsible for runway clearing. The airlines pay a per-landing fee, based on the city's actual expenses. In 1999 and 2000 the airports were crippled by severe snowstorms. The city obtained $6,000,000 in reimbursement from FEMA under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. 5121. Years later FEMA ordered the city to return the money, based on a provision of the Act concerning duplicate benefits. FEMA asserted that the use agreements entitled the city to reimbursement of costs from the airlines. After exhausting administrative remedies the city filed suit. The district court denied the airlines' motion to intervene. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Finding that the airlines have standing, the court stated that t would not be as "efficient to litigate this three-cornered dispute in two lawsuits rather than one."