CSX must face female engineer’s suit alleging sex, disability bias

The CSX railroad lost its bid to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a fired female locomotive engineer who alleges gender and disability discrimination. The complaint also contends CSX more severely disciplined its female workers than male workers, among other allegations.

The suit was brought by Linnie Lou Archer, who had been working on the railroad since 1999 and employed as a locomotive engineer since 2002. Archer was fired in June 5, 2015, after CSX said she committed three “serious offenses” in the prior 10 years under the company’s employee policies.

But Archer said in her amended complaint the discipline she was cited for was pretextual, and her alleged rule violations should have been classified as minor offenses, at most, that would not be cause for termination.

In addition to the alleged gender discrimination, Archer claims she was terminated after she took preauthorized time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act for depression and anxiety. She also claims retaliation under the ADA.

“Throughout her employment, (CSX) held Archer, as well as other female and/or disabled Engineers and/or Conductors to different, less favorable disciplinary standards than similarly situated males,” the complaint alleges. “For example, Defendant classified infractions for Archer and other females as ‘Serious Offenses’ when Defendant’s policies called for the infractions to be ‘Minor Offenses.’ Conversely, Defendant does not increase the classification of infractions for nondisabled males.”

CSX has not yet answered the amended complaint filed last November, but instead filed a motion to dismiss. The railroad argued Archer’s amended complaint’s disability claims did not relate back to her initial pro se complaint. Because she asserted her claims under the ADA more than 90 days after she received her right to sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the railroad argued, those claims are untimely.

Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson of the Indiana Southern District Court disagreed. She denied the railroad’s motion to dismiss in an order issued Tuesday.

“Although Ms. Archer’s original Complaint could have been more precise in setting forth her claims, she adequately pleaded facts to put CSX on sufficient notice of her ADA claims, especially considering the wider latitude afforded to pro se filings,” the chief judge wrote. “Ms. Archer noted that she has PTSD and, in the same sentence, states that CSX violated her rights under the FMLA.”

“… It should come as no surprise to CSX that Ms. Archer’s original Complaint sought, or at least attempted, to address these grievances, which she expounded on in her Amended Complaint filed by counsel. To conclude otherwise would undermine the purpose of the relation back doctrine,” she wrote.

The case in the Terre Haute Division of the Southern District of Indiana is Linnie Lou Archer v. CSX Transportation Corp., 2:17-cv-486.  

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