Last Thursday, April 10, 2014, three senior (in age and rank) airline pilots filed a federal lawsuit (Bager et al v. United, Case No. 14-cv-02589) in Chicago over claims that their former employer, United Airlines, chose “to terminate each of the plaintiffs based solely on their age, in violation of the ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act). United has not even bothered to offer any alternative nondiscriminatory explanation for its actions, making the terminations even more egregious,” according to the Complaint.
The three plaintiffs, all 65 years old or older, are represented by David A. Axelrod and Associates, P.C. They assert claims under their respective state laws and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (29 U.S.C. 623(a)) for wrongful termination and other causes of action.
According to the Complaint, the plaintiffs each have “over 25 years of experience as commercial airline pilot[s]” and “nothing but outstanding performance ratings during their careers.” They are:
- Douglas Bader – 35 years of service; 298 combat missions in Vietnam; started with Frontier Airlines in 1977; final revenue flight in 2012 with Continental/United (max age allowed by FAA for commercial, passenger flights); former United Pilot Instructor/Evaluator.
- Charles Doyle – over 32 years of service; 395 combat sorties in Vietnam; 55 missions in Bosnia; started with People Express in 1981; former United Pilot Instructor/Evaluator.
- Ralph J. Rina – 47 years of service all with Continental/United; final revenue flight in 2006; former United Pilot Instructor/Evaluator; held #1 slot on Pilot Seniority list at United.
According to the Complaint, upon the Continental/United merger and negotiated agreement with the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA):
United aggressively pursued inclusion of a provision in the new United/ALPA contract to eliminate all pilots and instructors over the age of 65. United made no secret of its intentions during the negotiations.
As a result of United’s insistence that the new United/ALPA contract eliminate all pilots and instructors over the age of 65, a Letter of Agreement was attached to the new United/ALPA contract to accomplish that purpose. Under this “Letter of Agreement” (attached as  Exhibit A), the position of Non-Line Qualified Flight Instructor was abolished at United solely and expressly for the purpose of terminating Plaintiffs and others as they turn 65.
United has chosen to terminate each of the Plaintiffs based solely on their age, in violation of the ADEA. United has not even bothered to offer any alternative nondiscriminatory explanation for its actions, making the terminations even more egregious.
There is no legal requirement that would prohibit a person from being a Flight Instructor/Evaluator beyond the age of 65.
Plaintiffs seeks damages (“to be proven at trial”) against United due to, among other things:
United has adopted an arbitrary age limitation on Flight Instructor/Evaluators by imposing a requirement that such persons also be qualified as Line Pilots. This requirement is a blatant effort by United to eliminate all instructors over the age of 65 and is a clear violation of 29 USC §623(a).
United’s Answer to the Complaint (or Motion to Dismiss) is forthcoming.