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Strickland v. GE Capital Retail Bank

United States District Court, D. Arizona

May 1, 2015

Robert Earl Strickland, Plaintiff,
v.
GE Capital Retail Bank, Defendant.

ORDER

BRIDGET S. BADE, Magistrate Judge.

In this employment action, Plaintiff Robert Earl Strickland alleges that Defendant GE Capital Bank (GECRB or Defendant)[1] violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101-12103. (Doc. 9.) Specifically, in the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that GECRB violated the ADA by issuing him a corrective action notice on December 23, 2013 based on his alleged disability, diabetes mellitus.[2] (Doc. 9 at 4-6.) On March 4, 2015, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) arguing two reasons why the Court should dismiss the Amended Complaint. (Doc. 12.) First, Defendant argues that the Amended Complaint fails to state claim for which relief can be granted because Plaintiff released all claims he may have had against Defendant when he executed a release in exchange for a layoff benefit payment. ( Id. at 1-2.) Second, Defendant argues that Plaintiff fails to state a claim because his ADA claim is time barred. ( Id. ) Specifically, Defendant argues the Court should dismiss Plaintiff's ADA claim because Plaintiff did not file suit within ninety days of receiving his right-to-sue notice. ( Id. )

On March 19, 2015, Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to Defendant's motion. (Doc. 18.) Plaintiff does not dispute that he signed a release. (Doc. 18 at 2.) Rather, he argues that he was forced to sign the release to receive lay off pay. ( Id. ) Second, Plaintiff argues that this action was timely filed because he did not receive the right-to-sue notice until September 30, 2014. ( Id. ) Defendant filed a reply in support of its motion to dismiss. (Doc. 21.) Plaintiff then filed a supplemental response to Defendants' motion.[3] (Doc. 23.)

After reviewing the parties' filings, on April 17, 2015, the Court converted the motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56. (Doc. 22.) The Court gave the parties until April 24, 2015 to file supplemental materials relevant to the motion for summary judgment. ( Id. ) On April 23, 2015, Plaintiff filed a response to the Court's order and asserted that he stated a claim for which relief can be granted and established that the Court has jurisdiction over his claims. (Doc. 24.) Defendant did not file any additional materials in response to the April 23, 2015 Order. As discussed below, the Court finds that this action is timely, but grants Defendant's motion and dismisses this action with prejudice because Plaintiff released his claims.[4]

I. Summary Judgment Standard

A party seeking summary judgment "bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, shows "that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit will preclude the entry of summary judgment, and the disputed evidence must be "such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

II. Background

Defendant provides financing services; Plaintiff worked for Defendant as a collection representative. (Doc. 9 at 3; Doc. 12 at 2.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant discriminated against him by issuing him a corrective action on December 23, 2013 based on his disability. (Doc. 9 at 4-6.) He asserts that because of the corrective action he could not apply for another position with Defendant after a layoff was announced a week later and, therefore, he was forced into unemployment. ( Id. at 4.)

On December 31, 2013, Defendant notified Plaintiff that the collection department was being relocated and that his job was being eliminated. (Doc. 9 at 4; Doc. 12 at 3, Exs. 1, 2.) On January 15, 2014, Defendant offered Plaintiff a "Layoff Benefit" and presented him with a release. (Doc. 12, Ex. 2.) On March 12, 2014, Plaintiff executed the release. ( Id. ) In exchange for executing the release, Plaintiff received the "Layoff Benefit, " or a severance payment, of approximately six weeks' pay. (Doc. 12, Ex. 1, 2.) Plaintiff also received subsidized insurance benefits for a total of six months. ( Id. ) Plaintiff's signed release includes an agreement to "waive and release all waivable claims of any kind (whether known or unknown, to the fullest extent permitted by law)... which arise from or relate to [his] employment and/or the termination of [his] employment with the Company."[5] (Doc. 12, Ex. 2.) Plaintiff also agreed that the claims he was releasing include "any and all claims of discrimination... on the basis of... disability." Id.

According to his Amended Complaint, on September 11, 2014, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging disability discrimination. (Doc. 9 at 2.) In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that the EEOC dismissed his charge and that he received his ninety-day right-to-sue notice on September 24, 2014. ( Id. at 3.) However, in his response and supplemental response, Plaintiff alleges that he received the right-to-sue notice on September 30, 2014. (Docs. 18 at 2; Doc. 23 at 1.)

III. Timeliness of Plaintiff's ADA Claim

Defendant argues that the Court should dismiss this action because Plaintiff's ADA claim is time-barred. (Doc. 12 at 5.) Plaintiff argues that this action was timely filed because he received his right-to-sue notice on September 30, 2014. (Docs. 18, 23.)

The federal limitations period for bringing an ADA claim is ninety days from the receipt of a right-to-sue notice from the EEOC. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1) (Title VII limitations period is ninety days); 29 U.S.C. § 626(e) (ADEA limitations period is ninety days); 42 U.S.C. § 12217(a) (ADA limitations period is borrowed from Title VII actions, which is ninety days). If a litigant does not file suit within ninety days, the claim is time-barred. See Nelmida v. Shelly Eurocars, Inc., 112 F.3d 380, 384 (9th Cir. 1997) (recognizing that the ninety-day period is a statute of limitations); Scholar v. Pacific Bell, 963 F.2d 264, 267 (9th Cir. 1992) (holding that the requirement of filing a civil action within ninety days from the date the EEOC dismisses a claim constitutes a statute of limitations); Edwards v. Occidental Chem. Corp., 892 F.2d 1442, 1445 (9th Cir. 1990) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1)). This limitations period is enforced strictly against pro se and represented litigants. Payan v. Aramark Mgmt. Servs. Ltd. P'Ship., 495 F.3d 1119, 1127 (9th Cir. 2007); see also Baldwin Cnty. Welcome Cntr. v. Brown, 466 U.S. 147, 150 (1984) (dismissing a pro se Title VII complaint filed outside of limitations period). Because the statute of limitations is an affirmative defense, Defendant bears the burden of proving that Plaintiff filed his ADA claim beyond the limitations period. See Tovar v. U.S.P.S., 3 F.3d 1271, 1284 (9th Cir. 1993) ("In every civil case, the defendant bears the burden of proof as to each element of an affirmative defense.").

In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff states that he received the right-to-sue notice on September 24, 2014. (Doc. 9 at 3.) Defendant argues that the cause of action is untimely because it was filed on December 29, 2014, more than ninety days after Plaintiff received the notice of right to sue. (Doc. 12 at 5-6.) In response to Defendant's motion, Plaintiff argues that he received the right-to-sue notice on September 30, 2014, which would make his lawsuit timely filed on the last day of the limitations period. (Doc. 18 at 2; Doc. 23 at 1.) Plaintiff attaches the right-to-sue notice to his response. (Doc. 18-1 at 2-3.) The notice indicates that it was mailed on September 24, 2014. ( Id. ) Defendant argues that Plaintiff's cause of action ...


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