United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
MAJOR GENERAL THOMAS P. HARWOOD III, Plaintiff,
AMERICAN AIRLINES, INC., Defendant.
Liam O'Grady, Judge
matter comes before the Court on cross-motions for summary
judgment. Dkt. Nos. 41 and 44. The motions are fully briefed
and the Court heard oral argument on April 13, 2018. For the
following reasons, the reasons stated from the bench, and for
good cause shown, summary judgment is GRANTED in
part for the Plaintiff as to Counts II and III of
the Amended Complaint and DENIED as to
Defendant's affirmative defense against liquidated
damages that it acted reasonably and in good faith and that
its actions were not willful. Defendant's motion for
summary judgment is DENIED in part on Counts
II and III of the Amended Complaint and GRANTED in
part on the question of liquidated damages.
facts of this case are undisputed. Plaintiff Thomas P.
Harwood III alleges that Defendant American Airlines
(American) violated the Uniformed Services Employment and
Reemployment Act (USERRA) when it refused to reinstate him as
a pilot following active duty military service where American
determined that Plaintiff was ineligible to fly because he
lacked medical clearance required by the Federal Aviation
Administration. Harwood is a Major General in the United
States Air Force Reserve. From June 2013 to August 31, 2015,
General Harwood took military leave from his pilot duties at
American to serve in an active duty status with the Air
Force. During this tour of duty, on or about December 1,
2013, General Harwood was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.
3, 2015, General Harwood contacted Jerry Shaw with American
to advise American that General Harwood intended to return to
American at the conclusion of his active duty tour. He
requested to be assigned duties as an airline captain based
out of LaGuardia Airport and assigned domestic routes flying
Boeing 737 aircraft. At the time. General Harwood lived in
Alexandria, Virginia. Mr. Shaw contacted Ken Blessum with
American to determine if that assignment would be available
to General Harwood and Blessum determined that it would be.
On July 29, 2015, with General Harwood's reemployment
date approaching, Mr. Shaw advised General Harwood to contact
Sue Kalosa with American to handle the logistics of his
reemployment. There is no evidence at this time that American
had any intent but to promptly reemploy General Harwood in
the pilot position he requested.
American was making arrangements for General Harwood's
reemployment as a pilot pursuant to his request, General
Harwood, around late July or early August 2015 had discovered
that he was unable to obtain a first class medical
certificate because of his atrial fibrillation. A first class
medical certificate is required by the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) for all pilots. General Harwood first
notified American of the situation on August 20, 2015.
Subsequent to that notification, Mr. Shaw e-mailed General
Harwood to ask for a time frame for obtaining the certificate
and to "let [Shaw] know as soon as possible if the
medical is going to take some time so [American] can avoid
setting up training that [Harwood] will not be able to
attend." During a subsequent phone call with Mr. Shaw on
August 26, 2015, General Harwood made Mr. Shaw aware that
General Harwood still wanted to be reemployed as a pilot,
despite the FAA regulations, but that he wanted to use his
sick leave balance of 854 hours until he could try to obtain
his certificate. American took the position that it could not
return General Harwood to work as a pilot because he was not
eligible to fly.
August 27, 2015, American conveyed to General Harwood that he
could not be reemployed as a pilot without a first class
medical certificate. On September 1, 2015, General Harwood
e-mailed Scott Hansen, American's agent in charge of
decisions regarding pilots returning from military leave, to
clarify that he was, in fact, reemployed on September 1,
2015. Mr. Hansen replied that day that General Harwood was
cleared to start that day as a pilot if he had a valid first
class medical certificate. General Harwood replied that he
had not obtained the certificate but argued that he met all
the conditions of 38 U.S.C. § 4312 and that the first
class medical certificate is not a condition precedent to his
reemployment. Mr. Hansen responded on September 4, 2015 that
General Harwood would not be reemployed as a pilot but that
American would reemploy him consistent with 38 U.S.C. §
4313 by reemploying him in an equivalent position.
Harwood responded on October 1, 2015, through counsel,
requesting that he be reemployed. He requested reemployment
as a pilot or in the alternative be employed in Operations
Safety and Compliance within the Flight Department, or be
employed in Flight Operations within the Flight Department,
both located in Dallas, Texas. On October 22, 2015, American
offered Harwood a custom-made position with American's
Flight Technical Operations Group within the Flight
Department in Texas.
Harwood accepted that position on January 25, 2016. Also on
January 25, 2016, Harwood obtained a waiver from the FAA for
special issuance of a first class medical certificate, he
notified American that he had finally obtained that
certificate, and he was promptly reassigned the next day as a
737 pilot as he had requested in the summer of 2015.
months between September 1, 2015 and his official
reemployment in 2016, General Harwood spent from September 14
to 18, September 21 to 26, October 13 to 30, November 2 to 6,
November 17 to January 7 and January 19 to 22 on active duty
status with the Air Force. General Harwood continues to be
employed by American as a pilot and has taken and returned
from military leave since 2015 without incident.
parties have cross-moved for summary judgment on both
remaining counts of the complaint. General Harwood has also
moved for summary judgment on American's affirmative
defense that it acted reasonably and in good faith and that
its actions were not willful.
judgment will be granted where, viewing the facts in a light
most favorable to the non-moving party, there remains no
genuine issue of material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c);
Marlow v. Chesterfield Cty. Sch. Bd. 749 F.Supp.2d
417, 426 (E.D. Va. 2010). A party opposing a motion for
summary judgment must respond with specific facts, supported
by proper documentary evidence, showing that a genuine
dispute of material fact exists and that summary judgment
should not be granted in favor of the moving party.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250
(1986). Conclusory assertions of state of mind or motivation
are insufficient. Goldberg v. B. Green & Co.,
836 F.2d 845, 848 (4th Cir. 1988). As the Supreme Court has
held, "the mere existence of some alleged
factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an
otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the
requirement is that there be no genuine issue of
material fact.' Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens
Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 519 (4th Cir. 2003)
(quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 447 U.S.
242, 247-248 (1986)) (emphasis in original).