Taha v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, No. 19-1085 (7th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
United Airlines hired Taha in 1988 and laid him off in 2003. He retained recall rights under a collective bargaining agreement. After a 12-year furlough, Taha returned to work. Weeks later, Taha learned his mother had suffered a heart attack. She lived in Saudi Arabia. Taha asked for six months off to travel and care for her. United gave him 30 days. He sought assistance from Starck, a human resources representative, and the union’s president, Stripling. United denied Taha’s extended-leave request in a letter sent to his Indiana home. Taha never saw it; he remained in Saudi Arabia and did not return to work, which the airline construed as job abandonment. He was fired. Taha grieved his firing. At a Joint Board of Adjustment (JBA) hearing, Stripling represented Taha. The JBA denied Taha’s grievance. Taha asked the union to demand arbitration; the union replied, more than six months later, that the CBA barred further pursuit of his grievance. Taha then sued, alleging a breach of the duty to fairly represent him under the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. 151–188. He cited only two facts: before the JBA hearing began, Taha overheard Stripling and Starck “chatt[ing] genially” about Starck acquiring airline tickets for Stripling’s friends, and, during the hearing, Stripling “prevented Taha from presenting several strong and important exhibits.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint, finding no evidence of unlawful union conduct.