Worldwide Jet Charter, Inc. v. Christian – 3/9/2023

March 17, 2023

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that Section 23-1502 of the Arizona Employment Protection Act supersedes common law constructive discharge claims.

A charter jet service company agreed to advance flight training costs to a pilot on the condition that the pilot remain employed for two years. The pilot resigned two months after his start date and refused to repay the training costs. He asserted that he was constructively discharged when the company forced him to fly an “unairworthy” plane. The company countered that the jet was certified as airworthy.

The issue in dispute was whether the pilot’s constructive discharge claim was superseded by § 23-1502 of the Arizona Employment Protection Act (“AEPA”). The superior court granted the company’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the AEPA superseded the pilot’s common law claim, and that no admissible evidence supported the pilot’s contention that the plane was unairworthy. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Analyzing the plain text of § 23-1502, it concluded that wrongful termination and constructive discharge claims are governed exclusively by the AEPA. The Court of Appeals also rejected the pilot’s contention that his constructive discharge claim should be construed as a broader bad faith termination claim, because it determined that his claim was, in substance, a constructive discharge claim without any conduct outside the AEPA’s reach. Finally, the Court of Appeals concluded that the pilot’s claim failed under § 23-1502 because he did not satisfy the necessary preconditions set forth in the same statute, nor did he show that the company engaged in outrageous conduct as a matter of law. Accordingly, the company was entitled to summary judgment.

Judge Bailey authored the opinion, in which Judges Thumma and Gass joined.

Posted by: Sarah Pook Lawson