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Reliford v. United Parcel Service

July 8, 2008

JOHN W. RELIFORD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge David H. Coar

MAGISTRATE JUDGE MARTIN C. ASHMAN

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before this Court is a motion to dismiss filed by Defendant United Parcel Service ("UPS") against Plaintiff John W. Reliford ("Reliford") pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

STANDARD

When considering a motion to dismiss, the Court takes the allegations in the complaint as true, drawing all possible inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nevada, N.A., 509 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2007). To state a claim under federal pleading standards, a plaintiff need only provide a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," sufficient to provide the defendant with "fair notice" of the claim and its basis. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2); Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007). In Bell Atlantic, the Supreme Court required a complaint to contain more than "labels and conclusions," id. at 1964-65, and "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," id. at 1974. The Seventh Circuit has emphasized, however, that Bell Atlantic "did not . . . supplant the basic notice pleading standard." Tamayo v. Blagojevich, No. 07-2975, 2008 WL 2168638, at *8 (7th Cir. May 27, 2008). The essential requirement of a complaint is that it "give the defendant sufficient notice to enable him to begin to investigate and prepare a defense." Id. Moreover, when a litigant brings a pro se complaint, district courts must construe the complaint liberally and allow ample opportunity to amend the complaint if it appears a claim might have merit. Kaba v. Stepp, 458 F.3d 678, 687 (7th Cir. 2006).

Affirmative defenses must be pleaded in conformity with Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(c). Rule 8(c)'s main purpose is to insure notice to the opposing party of any additional issues that may arise at trial so that the party is able to adequately litigate such issues. Ft. Howard Paper Co. v. Standard Havens, Inc., 901 F.2d 1373, 1377 (7th Cir. 1990).

FACTS

Reliford filed a discrimination charge against UPS with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on August 15, 2007. (Mem. in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss Ex. 1.) He acknowledges in his "Motion Against Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Complaint" (hereinafter "Plaintiff's Response") that he received a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC on or about December 15, 2007. (Pl.'s Resp. at 2.)*fn1 He alleged that he was hired by UPS on November 7, 1997, worked for the company as a Feeder Driver, and was "terminated" on March 14, 2007. (Id.) In his EEOC charge, Reliford stated that he sustained a workplace injury on December 5, 2005 and made a "protected complaint" in or around February 2007. (Id.) He also claimed that he was discriminated against because of his age and that he suffered retaliation for engaging in a protected activity in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. ("ADEA"). (Id.)

On March 3, 2008, Reliford filed a Complaint with this Court alleging that UPS engaged in numerous discriminatory actions against him because of his age and in retaliation for "addressing the issue of age discrimination." (Compl. at 1.) The numbered counts*fn2 in the Complaint allege that UPS: (1) was "reluctant to hire [him] until pressured"; (2) used "unfair training tactics" to attempt to terminate him; (3) told its trainers to "give [him] inadequate training and then flunk [him]"; (4) attempted to prevent him from becoming certified; (5) falsified his work records to prevent him from becoming eligible for a pension; (6) "forced [him] to sign a separation agreement before they would do the right thing concerning [his] worker's compensation injury"; (7) breached a collective bargaining agreement; and (8) deliberately interfered with his ability to perform on the job by providing him with "unsafe and defective equipment." (Id.) Reliford contends that this treatment was "a continuous practice." (Id. at 3.) He also alleges that he contacted a number of people to complain about these acts, including his direct supervisors and managers, UPS's local and national human resources departments, his local union, and UPS's CEO. (Id. at 2.)

Reliford admits in his Complaint that he executed an Employee Separation Agreement ("Agreement") in March 2007. (Id. at 3.) The Agreement states that Reliford "freely and voluntarily resigns from his employment at the Company." (Mem. in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss Ex. 2 ¶ 1.) It also states that Reliford released UPS from any and all claims, actions and causes of action, at law or in equity, known or unknown, directly or indirectly relating to or connected with Employee's employment with the Company or separation of said employment, including but not limited to, any and all claims of age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. (Id. ¶ 2.) In exchange for this resignation and waiver, UPS agreed to pay Reliford "the amount of $200.00, less applicable tax withholdings." (Id.) The Agreement further states, "Employee acknowledges that he has entered into this agreement knowingly and voluntarily with full understanding of its terms and after having had the opportunity to seek and receive advice and counsel . . . . Employee acknowledges that he was given a period of twenty-one days within which to consider this agreement.." (Id.)

Reliford contends that UPS "coerce[d]" him into signing the Agreement in order to terminate him because of his age. (Compl.at 3.) He alleges that he was injured on the job on December 9, 2005,*fn3 and that UPS "used the settlement of the truck accident to coerce [him] into the signing of [the] Employee Job Separation Agreement." (Id.) He states in his Complaint, "The agreement was signed by me in the effort to secure back pay and insurance treatment for my wife to save her life and to prevent foreclosure on our home along with other very important reasons." (Id.) In his Response, Reliford adds that UPS "used illegal tactics to coerce [him] into signing an Employee Separation Agreement while withholding [his] Workers' Compensation payments and medical benefits." (Pl.'s Resp. at 1.) He repeats that he believed the benefits were necessary to save his wife's life. (Id. at 2-3.) Reliford also states that the Agreement "is currently unresolved" and that he remains an "active UPS employee." (Id. at 2.)

ANALYSIS

UPS has moved to dismiss Reliford's Complaint on the theory that Reliford released UPS from any ADEA claims when he signed the Agreement. (Mem. in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss at 1.) Reliford responds that, because UPS illegally coerced him into signing the Agreement, the waiver of his ADEA claims is invalid and the Complaint should not be dismissed. (See Compl. at 3.) UPS also contends that Reliford's claims are time-barred and that the claims in the Complaint are impermissibly beyond the scope of his EEOC charge. (Mem. in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss at 7-10.) For the purposes of this motion to dismiss, we find that this Court cannot hold, as a matter of law, that Reliford has waived his claims in ...


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