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DEILY v. WASTE MANAGEMENT OF ALLENTOWN

October 23, 2000

KRIS DEILY, PLAINTIFF,
V.
WASTE MANAGEMENT OF ALLENTOWN, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lowell A. Reed, Jr., S.J.

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Kris Deily brought this action against defendant Waste Management of Allentown under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. ("ADA"), the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. C.S.A. §§ 951, et seq. ("PHRA"), the Family and Medical Leave Act,29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq. ("FMLA"), the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq. ("ERISA"), and Pennsylvania common law. Defendant has filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Document No. 5). For the following reasons, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

Background*fn1

Plaintiff Deily claims that defendant fired him for illegitimate reasons from his job as a truck driver in 1997. Plaintiff had worked for defendant and its predecessor in interest since 1987, during which time he was out of work on two occasions, once in 1990-91 because of a skin condition called Sweet's Syndrome that causes red nodules to appear on the skin, and again in 1995 due to a work-related hernia. Plaintiff last worked for defendant on June 25, 1996, and thereafter filed a request for leave under FMLA, claiming he was unable to work because he suffered from schizophrenia. Plaintiff never returned to work, and he was not terminated until June 25, 1997, one year after he last worked for defendant. According to his complaint, plaintiff received notice of his termination on December 15, 1997.

Plaintiff then brought this action, and defendant now seeks to dismiss most of the counts in the complaint on the ground that each fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Specifically, defendant argues that it is apparent on the face of the complaint that plaintiff failed to timely exhaust his administrative remedies as to some of his claims, and failed to file this action within the appropriate statute of limitations as to other claims. Defendant also argues that summary judgment is appropriate on plaintiff's ERISA claim.

Analysis

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the sufficiency of the complaint. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99 (1957). The Court must determine whether the plaintiff is entitled to relief under any set of facts consistent with the allegations of the complaint. See Piecknick v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 36 F.3d 1250, 1255 (3d Cir. 1994). In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the factual allegations in the complaint must be accepted as true and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See id. A court may, however, also consider matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint, and items appearing in the record of the case. See Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n. 2 (3d Cir. 1994). A motion to dismiss should only be granted if "it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S.Ct. 2229 (1984).

The statute of limitations may be the basis for a motion to dismiss, provided the complaint on its face shows noncompliance with the applicable limitations period and the affirmative defense clearly appears on the face of the pleading. See Oshiver, 38 F.3d at 1384 n. 1; 5A C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure §§ 1357, at 299 (2d ed. 1993).

Count I — ADA Claim

Defendant argues that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies under the ADA in a timely fashion. In order to properly exhaust his ADA claim, plaintiff was required to file a "charge" with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 300 days of the date the last "unlawful employment practice." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5 (e).*fn2

The parties offer dueling characterizations of the relevant events and their dates. Defendant argues that the last unlawful employment practice was plaintiff's termination, which took effect on June 25, 1997, and that plaintiff did not file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC until October 19, 1998, long after the 300 days had passed. Thus, defendant contends, plaintiff failed to exhaust his ADA claim in a timely fashion, and plaintiff's ADA claim should be dismissed. Plaintiff counters that the last unlawful employment practice was defendant's effort to secure his signature on a general release on June 8, 1998, and that plaintiff's submission of EEOC intake questionnaires on July 16, 1998 constituted the filing of a charge for the purpose of the 300-day limitations period.

Settlement agreements and general releases are not inherently violative of the ADA, Title VII, or any other federal civil rights statute. On the contrary, such agreements are to be encouraged, as they provide a fair, reliable, cost-efficient means of resolving discrimination cases short of litigation. See Carson v. American Brands, Inc., 450 U.S. 79, 88 n. 14, 101 S.C. 993 (1981). My research revealed no instances of a court concluding that a settlement agreement or general release constitutes an unlawful employment practice and therefore a violation of the ADA.*fn4 Therefore, I conclude that the presentation of the general release to plaintiff was not an unlawful employment action and did not violate the ADA.

Thus, it is not the date of plaintiff's receipt of the general release, but the date of plaintiff's termination that is the effective date for purposes of starting the 300-day filing period. There is a question, however, as to when plaintiff discovered that he had been terminated. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has held that the discovery rule — under which a limitations period is tolled until plaintiff knows or reasonably should know of his or her injury — is applicable in federal discrimination cases. See Oshiver, 38 F.3d at 1385-86 (discussing Title VII) (citing Cada v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 920 F.2d 446 (7th Cir. 1990)). Here, plaintiff has averred that he did not discover his June 25, 1997, termination until he was notified of it by defendant on December 15, 1997. Drawing all ...


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