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Ken Turkmenler v. Almatis

March 28, 2012

KEN TURKMENLER PLAINTIFF,
v.
ALMATIS, INC. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Cynthia Reed Eddy

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I.Procedural History

On October 11, 2011, Ken Turkmenler ["Plaintiff"] filed a Complaint in Civil Action against his former employer, Almatis Inc. ["Defendant"] alleging (1) breach of contract, (2) failure to remit payments for severance, profit sharing, management incentives and accrued vacation time in violation of the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law ["WPCL"], and (3) seeking an accounting to show the monies owed to Plaintiff. On November 29, 2011, Defendant filed a Motion for Partial Dismissal pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) [ECF No. 3], and corresponding Brief in Support of the Motion to dismiss the breach of contract claim and WPCL claims for severance and profit sharing. With the Rule 12(b)(6) Motion, Defendant attached a Declaration of Karen M. Howe, Defendant's Human Resource Manager, an Employment Agreement executed between the parties, and Defendant's Severance Pay Plan and Savings Plan as Exhibits [ECF 3-1, 3-2]. Plaintiff responded to Defendant's Rule 12(b)(6) Motion on December 22, 2011 and filed a Memorandum of Law in Support of his Response [ECF 5, 6]. In his Response, Plaintiff opposed dismissal of his breach of contract claims along with the WPCL claims for unpaid management incentives and accrued vacation time, but agreed to withdraw his claims against Defendant for severance and profit sharing monies under the WPCL. [ECF No. 5], Pl.'s Response to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss Pl.'s Compl. Pursuant to 12(b)(6) at ¶4.

II.Jurisdiction

Under the Federal Magistrate Judges Act ["Act"], a Magistrate Judge's jurisdiction may arise through the consent of the parties. 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Under the Act, "[u]pon consent of the parties, a full-time United States magistrate judge . . . may conduct any or all proceedings in a jury or non-jury civil matter and order the entry of judgment in the case, when specially designated to exercise such jurisdiction by the district court." 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). Such a referral gives the magistrate judge full "authority over dispositive motions, conduct of trial, and entry of final judgment, all without district court review." Roell v. Withrow, 538 U.S. 580, 585 (2003); In re Search of Scranton Hous. Auth., 487 F.Supp.2d 530, 535 (M.D.Pa. 2007). "[S]o long as consent [to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction] is clear and unambiguous, it is effective." In re Search of Scranton Hous. Auth.,487 F.Supp.2d at 535; Roell, 538 U.S. at 591 (consent may be inferred from parties' actions).

The instant case was reassigned to Magistrate Judge Cynthia Reed Eddy on October 27, 2011. Subsequently, both parties consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction. (Defendant submitted his consent to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(c)(1) on February 27, 2011; Plaintiff submitted his consent to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(c)(1) on March 16, 2012. Each party stated: "I voluntarily consent to have a United States Magistrate Judge conduct any and all further proceedings in the case, including trial and entry of a final judgment, with direct review by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit if an appeal is filed." See Def.'s Consent to Jurisdiction by United States Magistrate Judge, [ECF No. 10]; Pl.'s Consent to Jurisdiction by United States Magistrate Judge, [ECF No. 15]. Therefore, this Court has jurisdiction to decide dispositive motions and eventually, to enter final judgment.

III.Statement of Relevant Facts

Plaintiff is a Canadian citizen with a residence in Ontario who relocated to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to initiate work for Defendant on August 23, 2010. [ECF No. 1], Compl. at ¶ 14-15. Prior to beginning work, on August 19, 2010, the parties entered into an Employment Agreement which provided that the employment relationship was at-will. [ECF No. 3], Def.'s Mot. for Partial Dismissal at Ex. A. The at-will provision explicitly provides:

At-Will Employment.

Notwithstanding any language elsewhere in this Agreement, the employment arrangement under this Agreement is a strictly "at-will" employment relationship of no specific duration, and subject to termination at the voluntary option of either me or Almatis.

Id. at ¶ 2. The Employment Agreement further provides that "Almatis employs me and I accept employment as an at-will employee," and "ALMATIS OR I MAY TERMINATE MY EMPLOYMENT AT ANY TIME, WITH OR WITHOUT CAUSE AND WITH OR WITHOUT NOTICE." Id. at ¶ 1, 4 (capitalization in original). The Employment Agreement also includes a "no-oral modification" clause stating: "This agreement may not be superseded, amended, or modified except by a written agreement signed by me and a vice president of Almatis." Id. at ¶

14. Additionally, the Employment Agreement contains the following integration clause: "This Agreement is the entire agreement between the parties with respect to the matters covered by this Agreement and it replaces all previous agreements, oral or written, between the parties regarding such matters." Id. at ¶ 17. Plaintiff admits he executed the Employment Agreement. [ECF No. 5], Pl.'s Response to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss at ¶ 2.

After working for Defendant for approximately one year, on August 22, 2011, according to Defendant, Plaintiff was terminated for violating Defendant's "computer access policy." Compl. at ¶17-19. Plaintiff alleges he gave Defendant additional consideration for his employment, and this created an implied in fact contract that guaranteed him employment for a reasonable period of time. Id. at ¶ 30. Plaintiff alleges that his termination breached this implied-in-fact contract, and he should be permitted to recover damages for a reasonable period of time, which he quantifies as two years. Id. at ¶ 31. Plaintiff's additional consideration includes that he (1) was forced to be absent from his wife and children; (2) entered into a rental agreement for a property in Pittsburgh which required the payment of ongoing rent; (3) purchased a vehicle that cannot be returned to Canada; and (4) gave up the possibility of other employment. Id. at ¶¶16, 25-27. Defendant argues that Plaintiff cannot recover under an implied employment contract theory because the Employment Agreement executed by the parties explicitly states the employment relationship is ...


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