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Hughes v. Napleton's Holdings, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois

November 9, 2016

Ronald Hughes, Plaintiff,
v.
Napleton's Holdings, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          FREDERICK J. KAPALA District Judge.

         Plaintiffs motion to strike [31] is granted with leave to replead.

         STATEMENT

         Plaintiff, Ronald Hughes, has filed a complaint against Napleton's Holding, LLC; Napleton's Auto Werks, Inc.; Napleton Motor Corp.; and Napleton Autowerks Rockford (collectively "defendants") alleging retaliation under ERISA in violation of 29 U.S.C. §§ 1132, 1140 (Count I); failure to pay contributions under ERISA in violation of 29 U.S.C. § 1132 (Count II); breach of the Fair Labor Standards Act in violation of 29 U.S.C. § 206(a) and retaliation in violation of 29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3) (Count III); violation of Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, 820 ILCS 115/14(c) (Count IV); and violation of Illinois Minimum Wage Law, 820 ILCS 105/4(a) (Count V).[1] Before the court is plaintiffs motion to strike fourteen of defendants' sixteen amended affirmative defenses.[2] For the reasons that follow, plaintiffs motion to strike is granted with leave to replead.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are taken from the complaint and are accepted as true for the purposes of this motion. Plaintiff was hired by defendants on June 2009 as a sales consultant. In March 2012, plaintiff was instructed to complete forms for a new employee health insurance. Included in the forms was a union authorization card for the Chemical and Production Workers, Local 30 (CPW). Defendants assured plaintiff that they were "piggybacking" on the union health insurance and that "[plaintiff] would not really be a union member." Plaintiff completed the forms, including the union authorization card, but no dues were taken from his paycheck. Thereafter, plaintiff learned that he was an employee under the collective bargaining agreement between defendants and the CPW. Pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement, defendants were required to pay 80% of plaintiff s health care premium and $10 per hour of work, which plaintiff contends defendants did not pay. Thereafter, plaintiff contacted the CPW to inform them that dues were not being subtracted from his paycheck.

         On September 9, 2013, defendants informed plaintiff that as a result of his telephone call the CPW was terminating defendants' health insurance plans which would cost defendants "millions and millions of dollars." A few days later, defendants informed plaintiff he could no longer work as a Porsche sales manager and could either transfer to a sales consultant position out of the Cadillac showroom, transfer to the Loves Park location, or be terminated. Plaintiff was demoted to a sales consultant position out of the Rockford Cadillac showroom but was not assigned necessary equipment for the position such as a computer or a telephone. Thereafter, plaintiff transferred to the Loves Park showroom but was not given access to a functioning computer or access to his client list. Plaintiff was assigned to sell cars that were not popular, was given unrealistic sales quotas, and did not receive the assistance other salespersons were provided.

         On September 30, 2013, defendants began deducting union dues from all employees who were enrolled in their health plan, but did not deduct dues from employees in the bargaining unit not receiving health insurance or those that were in the bargaining unit and receiving health insurance but did not have health insurance premiums deducted from their pay. At this time, union dues were being deducted from plaintiffs paycheck. Plaintiff thereafter contacted the CPW and was advised that he was a member in good standing. Thereafter, plaintiff s weekly salary was reduced from $350 to $250.

         In February 2014, plaintiff was diagnosed with cancer and received treatment. In March 2014, plaintiff learned that his health insurance claims were not being paid and that defendants had not been paying his health insurance premiums since September 1, 2013. On March 25, 2014, plaintiff was told that his health insurance benefits had been reinstated.

         Plaintiff filed charges against defendants and the CPW with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on April 24, 2014. On September 30, 2014, the NLRB approved a settlement which plaintiff declined to accept. On November 1, 2014, defendants created a new pay plan for plaintiff which reduced his pay from $250 to $100 per week, plus commission and imposed unrealistic sales goals. Plaintiff was required to agree to the new pay plan. Plaintiff refused and was thereafter terminated on November 7, 2014. At all times during his employment, plaintiff asserts he performed his job duties satisfactorily and was the second highest grossing salesperson from December 2011 to August 2013.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 12(f) provides that "[t]he court may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). Motions to strike are generally disfavored because they can cause delay, but may be warranted when striking portions of a pleading "remove[s] unnecessary clutter from the case, " Heller Fin., Inc. v. Midwhey Powder Co., 883 F.2d 1286, 1294 (7th Cir. 1989), such as an affirmative defense that "merely raises matters already at issue, " Allstate Ins. Co. v. Electrolux Home Prod., Inc., No. 11 C 7494, 2012 WL 1108424, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 2, 2012). An affirmative defense asserts that even if the allegations of the complaint are true, additional facts excuse the defendant from some or all liability. See Tucker Law Firm, LLC v. Alise, No. 1 l-CV-1089, 2012 WL 252790, at *7 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 25, 2012); Sloan Valve Co. v. Zurn Indus., Inc., 712 F.Supp.2d 743, 756 (N.D. Ill. 2010), as corrected (May 6, 2010) ("The concept of an affirmative defense under Rule 8(c) requires a responding party to admit a complaint's allegations but then permits the responding party to assert that for some legal reason it is nonetheless excused from liability (or perhaps from full liability)."). This court applies a three-part test for examining the sufficiency of an affirmative defense: (1) the matter must be properly pleaded as an affirmative defense; (2) the matter must be adequately pleaded under the requirements of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8 and 9; and (3) the defendant must set out facts in support that would defeat the complaint sufficient to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) challenge. Tucker Law Firm, 2012 WL 252790 at *6; see also Renalds v. S.R.G. Rest. Grp., 119 F.Supp.2d 800, 802-03 (N.D. Ill. 2000).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff moves to strike fourteen of defendants' sixteen affirmative defenses contending that defendants' amended affirmative defenses are insufficient because they lack factual detail, are pleaded as conclusions of law, are deficient as a matter of law, fail to state a claim, or fail to state the count or counts to which they are intended to apply. For the following reasons, the court grants plaintiffs motion to strike defendants' affirmative defenses with leave to replead.

         A. Third and Tenth Affirmative Defenses

         Defendants' third and tenth affirmative defenses state:

Plaintiffs claim is barred, in whole or in part, because Plaintiff was not performing the essential functions of his job in a satisfactory manner. Plaintiffs failure to perform essential functions of his job in a satisfactory manner resulted in his termination of employment that is the subject of his Complaint.
The Complaint and each purported cause of action therein are barred since good cause existed for the termination of Plaintiff s employment. Plaintiffs failure to perform essential functions of his job in a satisfactory manner resulted in his termination of employment that is the subject of his Complaint. Thus, good cause existed for Plaintiffs termination.

         Defendants' third and tenth affirmative defenses are insufficient and must be stricken for two reasons. First, defendants have not provided any authority to show that these are recognized affirmative defenses to plaintiffs claims. Second, they are impermissible conclusory allegations that simply state that "plaintiffs failure" led to his termination without alleging what "essential functions" of plaintiff s job were not performed in a "satisfactory manner" or what "good cause existed" for plaintiffs termination. Therefore, defendants' third and tenth affirmative defenses are stricken without prejudice.

         B. Fourth Affirmative Defense

         In their fourth affirmative defense, defendants assert:

         The Complaint fails to state sufficient facts to support a ...


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