Daily Labor Report®

American Airlines Gets Class Pay Bias Case Moved to Texas

Jan. 25, 2019, 4:33 PM

An American Airlines employee alleging the airline systemically undercompensates female employees must pursue her class claims in Texas, a federal judge ruled.

Most of the events relevant to Lorie Grabham’s claims occurred in Texas, the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona said Jan 24. American primarily makes decisions regarding employee pay in Texas, so that’s the “relevant liability-generating conduct occurred,” the court said. It granted the airline’s motion to move the case to the Northern District of Texas.

Grabham is a senior business analyst in the airline’s information technology division. She alleges that the sex-based pay bias is the result of common “policies, practices and procedures” that aren’t job-related, valid, or justified by business necessity. American’s policies, practices, and procedures also lack transparency, adequate controls and metrics, and opportunities for employees to contest pay decisions, she alleges.

The airline further failed to adequately monitor and adjust the sex-based pay disparities that have arisen over the years through the course of various mergers Grabham said.

Grabham filed the suit in the District of Arizona on behalf of herself and a nationwide class of about 8,000 workers.

The fact that American has its headquarters in Texas is another reason the case should be transferred there, Judge Dominic W. Lanza said. That American has multiple offices and one of its biggest hubs in Arizona isn’t enough to warrant keeping the case there, he said.

Nor is Grabham’s desire to avoid having to litigate in what she perceives to be the “more employer-friendly” Fifth Circuit, the judge said. Grabham didn’t “identify any case law suggesting this sort of raw tactical consideration” is a legitimate part of the case-transfer analysis, Lanza said.

Texas also appears to be where the vast majority of the potential class members reside and where the bulk of the witnesses, including American’s entire Fort Worth, Texas-based executive compensation team, are located, Lanza said.

Carlson Lynch Sweet & Kipela & Carpenter represents the proposed class. Farrington Law Firm LLC, OMelveny & Myers LLP, and Murphy Karber Cordier PLC represent American.

The case is Grabham v. Am. Airlines Inc., 2019 BL 23315, D. Ariz., No. 17-03741, 1/24/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com

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