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Cook v. United Parcel Service

April 30, 2007

VINCE COOK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant United Parcel Service's ("UPS") motion to dismiss Count II of plaintiff Vince Cook's ("Cook") complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (Doc. 13). Cook has responded to the motion (Doc. 16). Count II of Cook's complaint alleges that UPS's policy manual ("Policy Book") amounted to an enforceable employment contract and that UPS breached that contract when it terminated Cook as an employee.

I. Standard for Dismissal

When reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts all allegations as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Brown v. Budz, 398 F.3d 904, 908 (7th Cir. 2005); Holman v. Indiana, 211 F.3d 399, 402 (7th Cir. 2000). The Court should not grant a motion to dismiss unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff cannot prove his claim under any set of facts consistent with the complaint. Brown, 398 F.3d at 908-09; Holman, 211 F.3d at 405.

As a preliminary matter, the defendant's motion to dismiss refers to matters outside the pleading, namely, the Policy Book. Ordinarily, when such materials outside the pleading are presented in connection with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court may not consider the material unless it converts the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment and gives the parties fair warning that it is doing so and an opportunity to respond. However, there is an exception to this general rule where the attached material is expressly referenced in the complaint and is central to the plaintiff's claim. Tierney v. Vahle, 304 F.3d 734, 738 (7th Cir. 2002); Wright v. Associated Ins. Cos., 29 F.3d 1244, 1248 (7th Cir. 1994) (citing Venture Assocs. Corp. v. Zenith Data Sys. Corp., 987 F.2d 429, 431 (7th Cir. 1993)). That is what has occurred in this case. Cook references the Policy Book in Count II, although not by its exact name, and that document is clearly central to his breach of contract claim. Therefore, the Court may consider the Policy Book in ruling on UPS's motion to dismiss.

II. Alleged Facts

Cook began working for UPS in 1981. In 2004, he was a business manager under the supervision of Barbara Callaghan ("Callaghan"). Part of Cook's job was to fill out time cards every day for the employees he supervised. In late 2004, he filled out the time cards according to Callaghan's instructions and was then fired because he did not fill them out correctly. UPS did not make a finding that there was just cause for Cook's termination or issue Cook lesser discipline prior to firing him.

At all relevant times, UPS was using a Policy Book it had distributed to Cook and other employees. Immediately following the table of contents for the Policy Book was the following sentence in bold typeface: "The Policy Book is not a contract of employment and does not affect your rights as an employee of UPS." Policy Book at iii. Later the Policy Book states, "The Policy Book is not a 'how-to-do-it' manual or employment contract." Id. at 12. The Policy Book also contained the following provisions:

We Promote an Open Door Approach to Managing People. Every person should feel free to discuss matters with management people in our company. . . .*fn1 We Give Each Employee Complaint Prompt, Sincere Attention. If overlooked or neglected, even minor misunderstandings can escalate into major dissatisfactions.

We try to anticipate and eliminate causes of complaints. When a question exists, we give the employee the benefit of the doubt. The immediate supervisor has the initial responsibility for resolving a complaint. When necessary, we involve the next level of management and, if appropriate, the Human Resources manager.

We keep the employee informed about the status of his or her complaint. In the process of making a decision, we do our best to take action that is fair to both the employee and the company.

Policy Book at 20.

Cook filed this lawsuit alleging that the Policy Book amounted to an employment contract promising him that he would not be fired without just cause and that his termination breached that promise. UPS ...


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