United Airlines, Inc. v. McDonald,
432 U.S. 385 (1977)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United Airlines, Inc. v. McDonald, 432 U.S. 385 (1977)

United Airlines, Inc. v. McDonald

No. 76-545

Argued March 29, 1977

Decided June 20, 1977

432 U.S. 385


Claiming that petitioner United Airlines had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by requiring stewardesses, though not stewards, to remain unmarried as an employment condition, one Romasanta, a stewardess who had been discharged by petitioner because of her marriage, brought this Title VII suit as a class action on behalf of herself and all other United stewardesses discharged because of the no-marriage rule. The District Court ruled that only those stewardesses who, upon discharge because of marriage, had filed charges under either a fair employment statute or United's collective bargaining agreement constituted the class, and because that class was too small to satisfy the numerosity requirement of Fed.Rule Civ.Proc. 23(a)(1), the court granted United's motion to strike the complaint's class allegations, but allowed 12 married stewardesses who had protested their discharge to intervene as additional parties plaintiff. The District Court certified for appeal its order striking the class allegations, but the Court of Appeals declined to accept the interlocutory appeal. The litigation proceeded as a joint suit on behalf of the original and intervening plaintiffs, and the District Court ultimately determined that the plaintiffs were entitled to reinstatement and backpay and, following agreement by the parties on the amounts to be awarded each plaintiff, the court entered a judgment of dismissal. After learning of the Romasanta judgment and that, despite their earlier attempt to do so, the plaintiffs in that case did not plan to appeal the order denying class certification, respondent, a former United stewardess who had been discharged on account of the no-marriage rule and was thus a putative member of the Romasanta class and who had not filed charges or a grievance, filed, 18 days after the judgment (and therefore within the applicable appeal period) a motion to intervene for the purpose of appealing the adverse class determination order. The District Court denied intervention, from which denial as well as the denial of class certification respondent appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed on the intervention denial as well as on the refusal to certify the class described in Romasanta's complaint -- a class consisting of all United stewardesses discharged

Page 432 U. S. 386

because of the no-marriage rule, whether or not they had formally protested their discharge. Petitioner challenges the Court of Appeals' ruling that respondent's post-judgment intervention was timely under this Court's ruling in American Pipe & Construction Co. v. Utah, 414 U. S. 538, which held that

"the commencement of the original class suit tolls the running of the statute [of limitations] for all purported members of the class who make timely motions to intervene after the court has found the suit inappropriate for class action status."

Petitioner argues that, under American Pipe, the relevant statute of limitations began to run after the denial of certification in Romasanta.

Held: Respondent's motion to intervene was "timely" filed under Fed.Rule Civ.Proc. 24, and should have been granted. Respondent sought to intervene not to litigate her individual claim based on the illegality of United's no-marriage rule (which would have put her in the same position as the American Pipe intervenors), but to obtain appellate review of the District Court's denial of the class action status in Romasanta. The critical question is whether respondent as intervenor acted promptly after entry of the final judgment in Romasanta. The District Court's refusal to certify the class was subject to appellate review after final judgment, and since the named plaintiffs had tried to take an interlocutory appeal, respondent had no reason to suppose that they would not later take an appeal until she was advised to the contrary after the trial court had entered its final judgment. Thus, as soon as it became clear that the interests of the unnamed class members would no longer be protected by the named class representatives, and within the applicable appeal period, respondent moved to protect those interests. Pp. 432 U. S. 391-396.

537 F.2d 915, affirmed.

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, J., joined, post, p. 432 U. S. 396. STEVENS, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Page 432 U. S. 387

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