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Mitchell v. American Airlines, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

October 11, 2018

Charity Mitchell, Plaintiff,
American Airlines, Inc., Defendant.


          David G. Campbell Senior United States District Judge

         Pro se Plaintiff Charity Mitchell sued Defendant American Airlines alleging breach of contract and a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et. seq., (“ADA”). Doc. 41. The Court dismissed Plaintiff's breach of contract claim (Doc. 54), and Defendant now moves for summary judgment on the remaining ADA claim (Doc. 71).[1] The motion is fully briefed. Docs. 71, 72, 74-76. For the following reasons, the Court will grant Defendant's motion.

         I. Background.

         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.[2] The Court will consider a fact undisputed “[i]f a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c).”[3]Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); LRCiv 56.1(b).

         In 2004, Plaintiff began working for Defendant as a customer service agent (“CSA”). Doc. 72-1 at 10-11. Plaintiff's responsibilities included checking in and rerouting passengers, getting passengers to their planes, and working in the baggage area and passenger assistance center. Id. at 11. Because the airline industry is competitive, customer service was an important aspect of Plaintiff's duties. Id. at 13.

         A collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between Defendant and Plaintiff's union (“the Union”) governed the terms of Plaintiff's employment. Id. at 16. Defendant's performance policy included a “progressive discipline plan” for CSAs, with increasingly severe consequences for misconduct, including “a non[-]disciplinary coaching session, a level one, level two, [and] level three suspension, [and] discipline or termination.” Id. at 19. Under the policy, if misconduct was sufficiently serious, Defendant could bypass the progressive discipline and opt for termination. Id. at 19. Defendant's company policy prohibited employee rudeness or disrespect to passengers. Id. at 59-60.

         Defendant furloughed Plaintiff in February 2010, and Plaintiff later transferred to Charlotte, North Carolina. Id. at 31-32. Plaintiff then transferred to Phoenix, Arizona in December 2010. Id. at 33. Between December 2010 and January 2011, Plaintiff received four complaints from passengers and other employees. Doc. 72-2 at 6-19. The complaints described Plaintiff's “sour attitude” and “rude” and “demeaning” behavior, and reported that she was “harsh, coarse, . . . very unfriendly, ” “condescending, ” and “hostile.” Id. at 8, 11, 16. Plaintiff “insult[ed] [passengers] and their intelligence, ” and “yelled at [a] woman . . . about the quality of her English . . . in front of the entire plane.” Id. at 11. Plaintiff used profane language and disrespect in an argument with a flight attendant, and was absent from her post during a shift for an hour and forty-five minutes, causing her to miss an assigned flight. Id. at 18. Pursuant to its progressive policy, Defendant issued Plaintiff a performance level 1 discipline on January 30, 2011. Doc. 72-2 at 18-19.

         Between February 2011 and April 2011, Plaintiff received four complaints. Doc. 72-2 at 20-29. She mocked passengers of size in view of other passengers by holding her arms out and stomping around (id. at 21), and she “pounded” on the lavatory door demanding a flight attendant exit (id. at 23). Plaintiff was rude and argumentative to several passengers on multiple occasions, including a passenger traveling with a service dog. Id. at 25-29. Defendant issued Plaintiff a performance level 2 discipline on April 22, 2011. Id. at 31.

         Between May 2011 and April 2012, Plaintiff received at least eleven complaints. Id. at 33-57. Passengers reported that she was rude and gave frustrating customer service, and they expressed doubt about flying with Defendant again because of their experience with her. Id. at 33-34. One passenger reported that Plaintiff was “the rudest, snarkiest, most condescending” employee of Defendant's that he had “ever encountered in [his more than five] years of weekly travel.” Id. at 46. An employee reported an incident when Plaintiff, to a man with a visible physical impairment, stated: “you're mumbling and I can't understand you. . . . Do you mumble all of the time, or is it just for me?” Id. at 54. Employees and passengers complained of altercations with Plaintiff, including that she was “unprofessional, ” “condescending [and] snide, ” “rude, ” “hostile, ” “verbally abusive, ” “caustic, ” and “chew[ed]” out another employee. Id. at 38, 40, 43, 49, 52, 57. Defendant issued Plaintiff a performance level 3 discipline on April 2, 2012. Id. at 59. The performance level 3 form advises that additional issues could result in further discipline or termination, and Plaintiff signed. Id.

         Plaintiff received at least four complaints between April 2012 and June 2012. Doc. 72-3 at 12-24. Plaintiff threatened to kick passengers off a flight. Doc. 72-3 at 12- 13. She “rudely scolded [passengers] like children for missing [their] connecting flight.” Id. at 15-16. Without explanation, Plaintiff took a carry-on bag from a passenger to check, and gave him no opportunity to remove medications that he needed in-flight. Id. at 20-21. Plaintiff was “rude and negative” to two employees flying as passengers in a volunteer program, and made “negative comments” about Defendant in front of other passengers. Id. at 23.

         Defendant suspended Plaintiff in June 2012. Id. at 26. Thereafter, Plaintiff, the Union, and Defendant entered into a Last Chance Agreement (“LCA”) regarding Plaintiff's employment. Id. at 28-34. Under the LCA, Plaintiff agreed she would not violate Defendant's policies or procedures for twenty-four months, and that a violation would justify immediate termination. Id. Plaintiff also agreed to waive any existing claims against Defendant. Id. at 29-30. Plaintiff returned to work (Doc. 72-1 at 84), but also filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) charge of disability discrimination and retaliation (Doc. 72-3 at 36). Plaintiff admits she filed the EEOC charge to protect her employment because she “wanted a clean slate” and to “expunge[]” her prior discipline. Doc. 72-1 at 85-86.

         Plaintiff received at least eight complaints between August 2012 and March 2013. Doc. 72-3 at 40-61. She “reprimand[ed]” other employees in front of passengers (id. at 40-41), was “condescending” to a passenger requesting medical assistance (id. at 43-44), and was “rude, impolite, disrespectful, and unhelpful” in response to a passenger inquiry (id. at 47). When flight issues arose, Plaintiff suggested to one passenger that he buy a ticket with a competitor (id. at 51), and she became “sarcastically defensive” with another (id. at 53). Plaintiff spoke to another passenger in “a very abrasive tone, ” was rude in handling the passenger's issue, and suggested he fly with a competitor. Id. at 58.

         On March 15, 2013, Defendant determined that Plaintiff's actions had violated the terms of the LCA and terminated her employment. Id. at 61. In total, between Plaintiff's transfer to Phoenix in December 2010 and her termination in March 2013, she received at least thirteen passenger complaints and sixteen employee complaints. Plaintiff knows of no other employee who received as many complaints and was not disciplined or terminated. Doc. 72 at 12 ¶ 83; Doc. 74 at 4 ¶ 83.

         Plaintiff had a colostomy apparatus when she began working for Defendant in Phoenix in December 2010. Doc. 72-1 at 71, 81-83. In January 2011, Plaintiff requested - and at some point Defendant granted - two accommodations: a bypass through TSA Security at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, and a locker to store medical supplies. Doc. 72-3 at 65, 68. Plaintiff cites, without explanation, her deposition testimony indicating she discussed accommodations with one of Defendant's employees. Doc. 74 at 3 ¶ 65; Doc. 72-1 at 35-36. But she does not dispute Defendant's evidence that it granted the accommodations. See id.; Doc. ...

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