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White v. Caterpillar

May 12, 2006

TOMMIE L. WHITE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CATERPILLAR, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael M. Mihm United States District Judge

ORDER

Before the Court is Defendant Caterpillar's ("CAT") Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. For the reasons set forth below, CAT's motion [#11] is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

JURISDICTION

The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as the claims asserted in the Complaint present federal questions under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Tommie L. White ("White") filed this lawsuit alleging that his employer, Caterpillar Inc. ("CAT"), discriminated against him based on his age and his race and retaliated against him when he complained about the discrimination. Defendant CAT hired White on or about September 21, 1974. White was trained as and worked as a machinist for CAT until he was demoted in September 2001. On September 13, 2001, CAT demoted White from a 2M11 Lathe machine operator position to the position of laborer at a wash tank and cut his wages by three pay grades. White was demoted after CAT required him to submit to a qualifications exam, which White contends was prejudicial and overly broad.

CAT employees allegedly informed White that he did not pass the qualifications exam and that he was demoted because he lacked the ability to correctly read CAT blueprints. White contends that he had correctly read blueprints for many years and continues to do so in his current position. Furthermore, CAT employees refused to give White access to the exam or to specifically identify the test results. White claims that CAT demoted him because of his age in violation of the Age Discrimination of Employment Act ("ADEA") and his race in violation of Title VII. Specifically, White contends that younger employees and white employees were treated more favorably than older employees or African American employees and that younger employees, who have failed similar qualifications tests, were allowed to retest or return to their former positions without retesting. White also alleges that white employees in similar circumstances were reinstated to their former positions after being demoted.

Additionally, White claims that CAT violated Title VII and the ADEA when it retaliated against him for filing a grievance with his union representative in September 2001. CAT allegedly retaliated against White by questioning his abilities and competency to perform his job and questioning his ability to perform at the same level as his younger co-workers. CAT also allegedly retaliated against White for his actions in filing a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and the Illinois Department of Human Rights.

White filed the EEOC charge on or about March 4, 2004, alleging that CAT discriminated against him based on his age and race, and that CAT retaliated against him because he complained about this discrimination. White received a right to sue letter from the EEOC on or about August 7, 2005, and subsequently filed this lawsuit on November 9, 2005.

CAT filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings arguing that White is not entitled to relief on his claims because (1) White's Complaint was filed more than ninety (90) days after receipt of his notice of right to sue from the EEOC; and (2) White's Complaint is untimely because his allegations relate to events that pre-date his EEOC charge by more than 300 days. Furthermore, CAT argues that any retaliation claims based on White's filing of a union grievance are preempted by the National Labor Relations Act and therefore this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear this claim.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) provides that a party may move for judgment on the pleadings "[a]fter the pleadings are closed but within such time as not to delay the trial." A motion for judgment on the pleadings is subject to the same standards as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. The Court must accept all well-pled allegations as true and must view those allegations in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Northern Indiana Gun & Outdoor Shows, Inc. v. City of South Bend, 163 F.3d 449, 452 (7th Cir. 1998). Thus, dismissal is proper only if it appears "beyond doubt that the [non-moving party] can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45--6 (1957). In deciding a motion under Rule 12(c), the Court may consider only the pleadings, that is, "the complaint, the answer, and any written instruments attached as exhibits." Northern Indiana Gun & Outdoor Shows, Inc., 163 F.3d at 452.

DISCUSSION

CAT argues that White's claims are untimely because they were filed more than ninety days after he received his right to sue letter from the EEOC. A plaintiff must file an action for discrimination within ninety days of receiving a right to sue letter from the EEOC or else his claims are time-barred Dandy v. United Parcel Service, Inc., 388 F.3d 263, 270 (7th Cir. 2004). White's Complaint was filed on November 9, 2005.*fn1 CAT argues that White's claims are untimely because White's right to sue letter was sent to him on July 19, 2005, which is 113 days after the letter was sent. In response, White argues that this Court should not grant CAT judgment on the pleadings on this basis because the relevant date is the date that White received the notice and not the date that it was sent. White contends that he signed a receipt for the certified mailing of the notice after three notices had been sent by the United States Postal Service and that he does not ...


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