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Jackson v. United Parcel Service

September 25, 2008

MATTHEW JACKSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

A. INTRODUCTION

In June 2007, Matthew Jackson (an Illinois citizen who lives in Cumberland County, Illinois) filed suit in this Court against his former employer, United Parcel Service, Inc. (a Georgia corporation with its principal place of business in Atlanta). Jackson claimed that United Parcel Service ("UPS") discharged him from employment in retaliation for exercising rights afforded to him under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act, 820 ILCS 305/1, et seq.

Alleging that he suffered loss of income, loss of benefits, emotional distress, embarrassment and humiliation as a result of the discharge, Jackson sought over $75,000 in compensatory damages plus punitive damages sufficient to deter UPS from engaging in such conduct in the future.

UPS answered, discovery proceeded, and deadlines were imposed.

The case is set for final pretrial conference October 17, 2008 with a settlement conference October 6, 2008 (see Docs. 5, 21). Now before the Court is UPS's summary judgment motion, which was fully briefed on September 15, 2008. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the motion.

B. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

Summary judgment is appropriate where there are no genuine issues of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Breneisen v. Motorola, Inc., 512 F.3d 972 (7th Cir. 2008), citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986), and Krieg v. Seybold, 481 F.3d 512, 516 (7th Cir. 2007). Accord Levy v. Minnesota Life Ins. Co., 517 F.3d 519 (7th Cir. 2008).

In ruling on a summary judgment motion, this Court must view the evidence and all inferences reasonably drawn from the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. TAS Distributing Co., Inc. v. Cummins Engine Co., Inc., 491 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2007); Reynolds v. Jamison, 488 F.3d 756, 764 (7th Cir. 2007).

However, the non-movant "must present specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial," Jordan v. Summers, 205 F.3d 337, 247 (7th Cir. 2000). And the Court can finda genuine issue of material fact "only if sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party exists [which would] permit a jury to return a verdict for that party." Argyropoulos v. City of Alton, -- F.3d --, 2008 WL 3905891 (7th Cir. Aug. 26, 2008), quoting Sides v. City of Champaign, 496 F.3d 820, 726 (7th Cir. 2007). The Court now turns to the standards governing the Illinois tort of retaliatory discharge.*fn1

To prevail on a claim of retaliatory discharge under Illinois law, the employee must demonstrate (1) that he has been discharged, (2) that the discharge was in retaliation for his activities, and (3) that the discharge violates a clear mandate of public policy. Hartlein v. Illinois Power Co., 601 N.E.2d 720, 728 (Ill. 1992). Thirty years ago, the Illinois Supreme Court held that a discharge in retaliation for the exercise of workers' compensation rights violates the public policy of Illinois. Kelsay v. Motorola, 384 N.E.2d 353, 357-58 (Ill. 1978)("[R]etaliatory discharge is offensive to the public policy of this State.... [This] policy can only be effectively ... enforced by allowing a civil remedy for damages.").

Earlier this year, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit thoroughly assessed what is needed for a retaliatory discharge claim based on the exercise of rights under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act. In Dotson v. BRP U.S., Inc., 520 F.3d 703, 707 (7th Cir. 2008), the Court clarified what the employee must establish for such a claim:

"(1) that he was the defendant's employee before the injury; (2) that he exercised a right granted by the Workers' Compensation Act; (3) and that he was discharged from his employment with a causal connection to his filing a workers' compensation claim."

Id., quoting McCoy v. Maytag Corp., 495 F.3d 515, 521 (7th Cir. 2007), and citing Carter v. Tennant Co., 383 F.3d 673, 677 (7th Cir. 2004).

Bearing these standards in mind while considering the record before it, the Court addresses UPS's motion for summary judgment.As explained below, Jackson has satisfied the first two elements of this three-pronged formulation; the dispute centers on whether he has satisfied the third.

C. ANALYSIS

Jackson worked for UPS from September 1, 1992 to January 15, 2007. Based at UPS's Mattoon, Illinois facility, Jackson delivered packages in Effingham, Clark, Coles and Cumberland Counties. In September 1999, Jackson suffered a work-related injury. Shortly thereafter, he filed a workers' compensation claim. UPS fired Jackson in January 2007. Jackson ...


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