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Ellis v. DHL Express and Deustche Post World Net

September 21, 2009

JOHN ELLIS AND TIMOTHY PRICE, AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DHL EXPRESS (USA) AND DEUTSCHE ) POST WORLD NET, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

John Ellis and Timothy Price, on behalf of a putative class, have sued DHL Express and Deustche Post World Net, alleging a violation of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act), 39 U.S.C. § 2102(a), in connection with layoffs at DHL's facilities in the Chicago area. DHL has moved for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the Court grants DHL's motion.

Facts

Because DHL has moved for summary judgment, the Court views the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs and draws reasonable inferences in their favor. See, e.g., Nat'l Athletic Sportswear, Inc. v. Westfield Ins. Co., 528 F.3d 508, 512 (7th Cir. 2008).

John Ellis and Timothy Price were employed full-time as drivers for DHL in the Chicago area. On November 7, 2008, Ellis received a letter from DHL stating that he was on layoff status. On the same day, DHL informed Price that he was to be laid off on December 1, 2008.

On November 10, 2008, Deutsche Post World Net, DHL's parent company, announced that it would be discontinuing its domestic air and ground services in the United States. Plaintiffs allege that DHL began laying off workers at five of its six Chicago-area facilities*fn1 as early as August 2008. At that point, DHL had 950 full-time employees. Plaintiffs contend that DHL laid off at least forty-seven full-time employees in August; fifty-two full-time employees in September; eighty full-time employees in October; and thirty-six full-time employees in November. In addition to its regular full-time employees, DHL employed "casual drivers." Plaintiffs contend that at least fifty casual drivers were involuntarily laid off between August and December 2008.

In December 2008, after negotiations with representatives of Teamsters Local Union 705 and Teamsters Local Union 701, DHL offered some of its remaining union employees participation in a "voluntary separation program." Participating employees could resign and waive any rights to be recalled to work in exchange for several weeks of pay. One group of employees was offered ten weeks of severance pay, and another was offered four weeks. Participants also had to waive their right to WARN Act notices in exchange for the severance pay. The collective bargaining agreement then in effect did not provide for any kind of severance pay in the event of an involuntary termination.

Discussion

Summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). To determine whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the Court must view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Lesch v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 282 F.3d 467, 471 (7th Cir. 2002). A genuine issue of triable fact exists only if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

The WARN Act requires an employer to give sixty days notice of a mass layoff or a plant closing to those employees who will suffer an employment loss as a result of the action. 29 U.S.C. § 2102(a). The Act also provides as follows:

(2) the term "plant closing" means the permanent or temporary shutdown of a single site of employment . . . if the shutdown results in an employment loss at the single site of employment during any thirty-day period for fifty or more [full time] employees.

(3) the term "mass layoff" means a reduction in force which-

(a) is not the result of a plant closing; and

(b) results in an employment loss at the single site of employment during any thirty-day period for (i)(I) at least thirty-three percent of the employees ...


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