Airline Worker Who Stole Toiletries Loses Bad-Faith Firing Claim - U.S. First Circuit
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Airline Worker Who Stole Toiletries Loses Bad-Faith Firing Claim

Thomas Locke was in quite a catch-22. Locke, an employee at Logan International Airport in Boston, was given one more chance to be good after he was found stealing soda, beer, sandwiches, soap, and toilet paper from airplanes. He couldn't, however, because his employer, US Airways, refused to issue him a new badge, his old badge having been lost during the investigation.

Locke sued, alleging that the airline acted in bad faith by preventing him from returning to work, as he couldn't even go to his job without a security badge. The district court granted summary judgment to U.S. Airways and the First Circuit affirmed.

Catch-22

Locke signed a "Last Chance Agreement" with US Airways that would allow him to return to work if he met certain conditions. One of them, clearly, was getting a new badge. MassPort, Logan's operator, denied Locke a new badge. Locke claimed that U.S. Airways breached its Last Chance Agreement both by preventing him from renewing his security badge and transferring to a Philadelphia airport. The first claim seems to make intuitive sense: "[I]f US Airways prevented Locke from obtaining his security badge, US Airways could not then terminate Locke for failing to obtain a badge."

But Locke mustered no evidence showing that US Airways was responsible for his failure to obtain a badge, the First Circuit explained. MassPort, the agency that runs Logan, decides to issue badges. Given Locke's history of stealing, he didn't present any evidence showing MassPort denied his badge application for an illegitimate reason. Even though Michael Bashar, US Airways' director at Logan, wrote in an email that he opposed reissuing Locke's badge, ultimately that fact didn't matter, as the decision wasn't up to him. (And, in any case, Bashar said in a later email that both the legal department and the union would allow Locke to return to work.)

The Proof Is in the Pudding

As to the transfer request, the agreement didn't provide for continued employment if he could find a position at a different airport, only at the same airport. Even if he could get a job in Philadelphia, he would still need to get a security badge from the Philadelphia airport first. Though he claimed the failure to obtain a badge there was traceable to US Airways officials at Logan, not only didn't he prove that, but he never even tried to apply for a badge in Philadelphia.

US Airways may have put Locke in a strange situation -- making him get a badge that he wouldn't be able to get -- but that also makes intuitive sense. You need a security badge before you can work at the airport.

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