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Coomes v. Republic Airline Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 20, 2019

JOHN COOMES, Plaintiff,
v.
REPUBLIC AIRLINE INC., Defendant.

          ENTRY ON DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Republic Airline Inc.’s (“Republic”) Motion to Dismiss. (Filing No. 8.) On December 6, 2018, Plaintiff John Coomes (“Coomes”), pro se[1], filed a Complaint in the Marion Superior Court against Republic, alleging employment discrimination on the basis of age, gender, sexual orientation and negligent retention. (Filing No. 1-3.) Republic removed the action to federal court. (Filing No. 1.) Republic seeks dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that Coomes fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Filing No. 8.) For the following reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part Republic’s Motion to Dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are not necessarily objectively true, but as required when reviewing a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draws all inferences in favor of Coomes as the non-movant. See Bielanski v. County of Kane, 550 F.3d 632, 633 (7th Cir. 2008).

         Coomes began working for Republic as a pilot in 2013 and when he filed his Complaint in December 2018, he was a Captain with the airline. (Filing No. 1-3 at 2.) Beginning in 2016, Coomes “has been singled out for harassment and discrimination by Pat Gannon, a Vice-President due to [his] Age, Gender, and Sexual Orientation.” Id. Pat Gannon (“Gannon”) oversees and is the ultimate decisionmaker as to who gets positions in the Flight Operations department at Republic. Id.

         Gannon began his harassment of Coomes “in 2016 with verbal attacks and sexually graphic taunts.” Id. He withheld approval of expenses or inappropriately denied claimed expenses and then belatedly approved them, delaying repayment. Id. Gannon initiated retroactive changes to Coomes’ training record and refused to correct them when they were brought to his attention. Id. at 3. He also directed the company not to make a full bonus payment to Coomes in 2016. Id. Gannon forced Coomes to undergo unnecessary training that was not required of other employees. Id.

         Since 2016, Coomes has been passed over for positions in Flight Operations such as AQP Manager, Chief Pilot, and Assistant Chief Pilot despite being qualified for those positions. Id. Starting in 2018, Coomes has not received interviews for other positions he has been qualified and applied for. Id. In March 2018, he was not hired as a Simulator Instructor and “all people hired were young men in their 20s and 30s of varying sexual orientations.” Id. In May 2018, Coomes was not hired as manager of Flight Operations; the man hired was approximately 30 years old. Id. Republic was accepting applications for the position of Program Manager, to which Coomes applied in August 2017 and he has not been granted a chance to interview for. Id.

         Gannon has singled out Coomes and ridiculed him in staff meetings when Coomes is absent. Id. This and other behavior “has created a hostile work environment that generates a level of anxiety in [Coomes] that is persistent and ongoing.” Id. Coomes has brought this behavior to the attention of his supervisor and Human Resources, but Republic has done nothing to correct Gannon’s behavior. Id.

         In October 2017, Republic investigated Gannon for sexual harassment, discrimination, and creating a hostile work environment. Id. at 4. Coomes was interviewed by outside counsel as part of that investigation and he shared some of the facts related above with the investigator. Id. Despite that investigation, Republic took no action to correct the adverse effects of Gannon’s behavior. Id. Republic investigated Gannon again in March 2018 for creating a hostile work environment, sexual harassment, and discrimination. Id. “At the conclusion of that investigation, the company published a memo all but naming Pat Gannon as a serial abusive manager, but took no action to remove him from his position of authority.” Id.

         On August 28, 2018, Coomes submitted a Charge of Discrimination to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (Filing No. 9-1.) In his charge, he wrote:

I have worked for Republic Airline since April 2013. My most recent title is Captain.
Since 2016, I have been continually denied positions in which I have applied for, such as AQP Manager, Chief Pilot, and Assistant Chief Pilot. In 2018, I have not even been granted interviews for positions I have applied for, despite being qualified. In March 2018, I was not hired for the Simulator Instructor positions and all people hired were young men in their 20s and 30s of varying sexual orientations. In May 2018, I was not hired as the manager of Flight Operations, and the man hired was around 30. In August 2017, I applied for the Program Manager position, which Republic Airlines is still seeking applications, even though I am qualified and have never been granted an interview.
I believe I am being discriminated [against] based on my age, 50, and sex, gender, and sexual orientation, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1967, as amended.

Id. at 2.

         Read generously, The Complaint brings three claims against Republic: (1) discrimination based on age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1); (2) discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e; and (3) negligent retention in violation of Indiana law. (Filing No. 1-3.) Coomes asks for “in excess of $1, 000, 000 in damages.” Id. Republic has moved to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (Filing No. 8.)

         II. L ...


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