On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District Court of Pennsylvania. (D.C. Civil No. 90-00474)
Before: Sloviter, Chief Judge, Cowen and Rosenn, Circuit Judges
On this appeal we must decide what is the appropriate statute of limitations for a private cause of action under the Employee Protection Program of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (ADA or Act). Judicial search for a statute of limitations occurs, of course, only when the statute is silent, an inevitable by-product when the private right to sue on the claim has not been set out explicitly in the statute. That is the situation with the claim in question, filed under the Act's Employee Protection Program, a "sunset" provision that expired in 1988, that contained neither an explicit right to sue*fn1 nor a statute of limitations. We must resolve a division among the district courts of this circuit as to the applicable statute of limitations period, and decide whether the statute of limitations to be used is to be found in a state or federal source.*fn2
Facts and Procedural History
Plaintiff Charles R. Haggerty was an air frame and power plant mechanic with Eastern Airlines from 1968 until 1987. On March 6, 1987, Haggerty, who was then working at Eastern's Pittsburgh facility, received notice that he was going to be laid off as part of a work force reduction. Under the collective bargaining agreement between Haggerty's union, the International Association of Machinists, and Eastern, Haggerty then had a choice: either he could use his seniority to "bump" less senior mechanics in other Eastern locations or he could accept the layoff with severance pay and recall rights to Pittsburgh. Because Haggerty had nineteen years of seniority at the time, he could have bumped to almost any maintenance station in the Eastern system. Haggerty's initial reaction to his layoff was to protect his employment and he filed the appropriate papers so that he could bump a less senior employee in Cleveland.
Shortly after submitting those papers, Haggerty became aware of the Employee Protection Program of the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA), 92 Stat. 1705 (codified at various sections of Title 49 U.S.C. app.). Under the relevant provision,
Each person who is a protected employee of an air carrier which is subject to regulation by the Civil Aeronautics Board who is furloughed or otherwise terminated by such an air carrier . . . shall have first right of hire . . . by any other air carrier hiring additional employees. . . . Any employee who is furloughed or otherwise terminated (other than for cause), and who is hired by another air carrier . . . shall retain his rights of seniority and right of recall with the air carrier that furloughed or terminated him.
49 U.S.C. app. § 1552(d)(1) (1988) (emphasis added).
Haggerty knew that USAir was hiring mechanics in his home city of Pittsburgh at the time. Therefore, based on what he had learned about the ADA program, Haggerty rescinded his bumping request at Eastern and applied for a job as a mechanic with USAir in Pittsburgh. Haggerty was interviewed by USAir on May 12, 1987, and his application was rejected on June 24, 1987. Shortly thereafter, Haggerty retained counsel who wrote to USAir in September 1987, and received no answer. Meanwhile, in August 1987, Haggerty wrote to the Department of Labor and received a response in November 1987, advising him that he could pursue a private cause of action under the ADA. In March 1988, Haggerty was hired by United Parcel Service, where he is currently employed as a mechanic.
On March 19, 1990, more than two years after USAir rejected his application, Haggerty filed the present action, asserting that USAir's failure to hire him violated the Airline Deregulation Act. Haggerty seeks instatement as an employee at USAir's Pittsburgh terminal, back wages and benefits, and restoration of seniority and bidding rights retroactive to the time he claims he should have been hired.
After discovery, USAir moved for summary judgment on three bases. USAir argued, first, that the action was time-barred because it was commenced two years and eight months after the alleged violation, and, second, that Haggerty was not covered by the Employee Protection Program of the Airline Deregulation Act because he voluntarily accepted layoff instead of exercising his bumping rights under the collective bargaining agreement. Finally, USAir asserted ...