Gadbois v. Rock-Tenn Co., Mill Div. Inc., No. 2:96-CV-176.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
Writing for the CourtSessions
Citation984 F.Supp. 811
PartiesPauline W. GADBOIS, Plaintiff, v. ROCK-TENN CO., MILL DIVISION, INC., Defendant.
Docket NumberNo. 2:96-CV-176.
Decision Date05 November 1997
984 F.Supp. 811
Pauline W. GADBOIS, Plaintiff,
v.
ROCK-TENN CO., MILL DIVISION, INC., Defendant.
No. 2:96-CV-176.
United States District Court, D. Vermont.
November 5, 1997.

Page 812

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

Page 813

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

Page 814

Mary L. Desautels, Law Offices of Anthony B. Lamb, Burlington, VT, for Plaintiff.

Heather Briggs, Downs, Rachlin & Martin, P.C., Christine M. MacIver, Larry E. Forrester, Smith, Currie & Hancock, Atlanta, GA, for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

SESSIONS, District Judge.


Plaintiff Pauline Gadbois ("Gadbois") has sued her former employer, Defendant Rock-Tenn Co., Mill Division, Inc. ("Rock-Tenn") alleging sex discrimination, age discrimination, and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in connection with her discharge from employment. Gadbois has requested a jury trial. Rock-Tenn has filed a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment (Paper 18). For the reasons that follow, Rock-Tenn's Motion to Dismiss is denied, and its Motion for Summary Judgment is denied in part and granted in part.

Factual Background

For the purpose of these motions, the Court assumes the following facts are true. Gadbois was employed in the Accounting Department

Page 815

at the Missisquoi Mill ("Mill") for twenty-five years under five different ownerships. In March 1991, the Mill was purchased by Rock-Tenn, a Tennessee corporation with its home office in the state of Georgia.

Rock-Tenn reduced the overall staff from 205 to 115 employees soon after purchasing the Mill. At that time, Jim Hansen, the Division Manager, consulted with Tammy Ayyoub, the Accounting Manager, and decided to maintain the accounting department at full staff. Ayyoub told Gadbois that as long as she was in a position that Rock-Tenn needed, her job was secure. At the time, the Accounting Department consisted of Ayyoub (Accounting Manager), Gadbois (Senior Accountant), Jeanette Rice (Receptionist), and Sharan Kalahan (Accounts Payable/Billing).

The Mill continued to struggle financially even with the significant reduction in staff. To save money, General Manager Tom Pease eliminated three positions. Greg Lanternier, 34, a Project Engineer, and Wanda Clossey, 29, an Environmental Engineer, were offered positions outside the Mill. Greg Pedrick, 29, an Electrical Engineer, was terminated when no other position could be found for him. Pedrick's severance package included two months full salary and insurance, with an additional two months provided to him when he did not find work within the first eight weeks of being unemployed. In all of these cases, Pease consulted with the male department supervisors and the head of Human Resources, Christina Casey, before acting on the transfers and termination.

In December 1992, Ken Brian, aged 53, replaced Pease as General Manager. Shortly thereafter Hansen advised Brian that the Mill staff needed further reduction. Hansen instructed Brian to make the termination decisions without supervisor input. A week later Brian received approval from Hansen to dismiss three employees: Technical Director Larry Wood, 44, and the two oldest employees in the Accounting Department, Jeanette Rice, 55, and Gadbois, 47. Wood declined an offer to stay on as Office Manager and resigned from the Mill.

On April 15, 1993, Gadbois and Rice were terminated without warning or notice. Brian and Hansen told Gadbois that her termination had nothing to do with performance. Gadbois' severance package consisted of what she was told was the company maximum of thirteen weeks of severance pay and insurance coverage.

Immediately after Gadbois and Rice had been terminated, Brian called Ayyoub, Gadbois' supervisor, and notified her. At a meeting with office employees immediately following the terminations, Hansen informed the group of the staffing changes. When asked why Ayyoub or Casey had not been consulted, Hansen replied that it was because "they didn't want you ladies to have to make this decision."

After Gadbois and Rice were dismissed, Brian and Hansen moved Ayyoub to the position of Office Manager and transferred Kathy Swallick, aged 46, from Purchasing to Accounting. Swallick was to replace Ayyoub as Accounting Manager, continue her previous duties as assistant to the head of purchasing, and absorb Gadbois' duties.

Brian made the decision to terminate Gadbois and transfer Swallick with no knowledge of Gadbois' or Swallick's relative education, seniority, performance at their jobs, or even whether Swallick was capable of performing her new duties. Unlike the process used in previous terminations, Brian, as instructed by Hansen, consulted neither Casey, as head of Human Resources, nor the female supervisors of the Purchasing and Accounting Departments regarding the pending changes. If Ayyoub had been consulted she would have recommended retaining Gadbois.

In mid-October, Gadbois was offered an office position in Rock-Tenn's new recycling department. Despite the pay decrease of $15,000 per year, Gadbois took the job. She resigned after four days, citing the emotional strain of working for the company which had terminated her. She subsequently applied to four other employers without success. Gadbois currently works as an administrative assistant for her husband.

An attorney contacted the Vermont Attorney General's Office on behalf of Gadbois on September 28, 1993. Gadbois then contacted the Attorney General's Office on October 6

Page 816

and October 7, 1993, and spoke with an investigator on October 7 and November 5, 1993. Gadbois filed a discrimination complaint with the EEOC on February 4, 1993, 295 days after her termination. At the time she was not represented by counsel. Pursuant to a worksharing agreement between the EEOC and the Vermont Attorney General, the EEOC sent notification to the Attorney General of Gadbois' charge and the EEOC's intent to be the initial investigator of the claim. The notice to the Attorney General was sent February 11, 1994, 302 days after Gadbois' termination. Gadbois filed suit in Vermont State court on April 12, 1996. She received a right to sue letter from the EEOC on October 17, 1996.

Gadbois alleges violations of Title VII (Count I), the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e to -17, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) (Count II) § 7(d), 29 U.S.C. § 621-634, the Vermont Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA) (Count III), 21 V.S.A. § 495, Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 21, § 495 (1987 & Supp.1996), and contends that her termination violates the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing (Count IV). Following removal of the suit to this Court, Rock-Tenn moved for dismissal for defective complaint, or in the alternative, summary judgment on all counts of the complaint.

Analysis

I. Motion to Dismiss, Defective Complaint

A complaint should not be dismissed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) unless it appears "beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts supporting its claim that would entitle [it] to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 102, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957). The complaint's allegations are construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accepted as true. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 1686, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1970).

There is no statement in Gadbois's complaint concerning her exhaustion of administrative remedies and receipt of a requisite right to sue letter from the EEOC. Similarly, the complaint does not inform the Court that Rock-Tenn is subject to Title VII, the ADEA, or FEPA. Thus the plaintiff's complaint fails to comply with Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), which requires pleadings to contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

Failure to allege a sufficiently precise cause of action need not prove fatal to a case. Leave to amend pleadings "shall be freely given when justice so requires." Fed. R.Civ.P. 15(a); see Blessing v. Lancaster County, 609 F.Supp. 485, 486 (E.D.Pa.1985) (plaintiff entitled to amend complaint to allege timely filed EEOC charge and subsequent receipt of right to sue letter). The Plaintiff is hereby given thirty days to amend her complaint to allege that she has exhausted her administrative remedies, and that Rock-Tenn is an employer for the purposes of federal and state statutes. The Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is denied without prejudice to renew should plaintiff fail to amend her complaint.

II. Motion for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). A party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id., at 323, 106 S.Ct. at 2552-53. The party opposing summary judgment may not rest on its pleadings, but must set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The evidence of the nonmoving party is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in its favor. Id. at 255, 106 S.Ct. at 2513, (citing Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 1608-09, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970)). Unless there is sufficient evidence to enable a jury to return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party, there is no issue for trial. "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted."

Page 817

Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50, 106 S.Ct. at 2511 (citations omitted).

A. Untimely Filing

In a deferral state such as Vermont, a plaintiff who has initially instituted proceedings with a state agency is allowed three hundred (300) days after a discriminatory act to file a...

To continue reading

Request your trial
6 practice notes
  • Dicks v. Jensen, No. 00-102.
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • February 9, 2001
    ...is unmodified and at-will." Ross v. Times Mirror, Inc., 164 Vt. 13, 23, 665 A.2d 580, 586 (1995). See also Gadbois v. Rock-Tenn Co., 984 F.Supp. 811, 820 (D.Vt.1997). Plaintiff's reliance on Carmichael v. Adirondack Bottled Gas Corp., 161 Vt. 200, 635 A.2d 1211 (1993), is not persuasive. In......
  • Sall v. George, Civil Action 2:20-cv-214-cr
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
    • January 26, 2022
    ...a state with its own antidiscrimination enforcement mechanisms.” Id. Vermont is such a state. See Gadbois v. Rock-Tenn Co., Mill Div., 984 F.Supp. 811, 817 (D. Vt. 1997). [8] According to the YMCA, Sall “references his last working for the YMCA in 2016.” (Doc. 82 at 9 (citing Doc. 7-2 at 31......
  • Green v. Vermont Country Store, No. 1:01-CV-60.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
    • March 14, 2002
    ...29 U.S.C. § 621, and its precedent provide useful analytical tools [in deciding a claim under VFEPA]."); Gadbois v. Rock-Tenn Co., 984 F.Supp. 811, 818 (D.Vt.1997) ("The ADEA and Vermont FEPA are analyzed under the same framework as Title VII."). "Under this framework ... a plaintiff must f......
  • Ahmad v. Int'l Bus. Machines Corp., Case No. 5:10-cv-310
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
    • May 29, 2012
    ...973 F.2d 122, 125 (2d Cir. 1992) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Gadbois v. Rock-Tenn Co., Mill Div., Inc., 984 F. Supp. 811, 817 (D. Vt. 1997) (noting that Vermont residents have 300 days in which to file charge).Page 7 Here, Mr. Ahmad Is "piggybacking" on admini......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 cases
  • Dicks v. Jensen, No. 00-102.
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • February 9, 2001
    ...is unmodified and at-will." Ross v. Times Mirror, Inc., 164 Vt. 13, 23, 665 A.2d 580, 586 (1995). See also Gadbois v. Rock-Tenn Co., 984 F.Supp. 811, 820 (D.Vt.1997). Plaintiff's reliance on Carmichael v. Adirondack Bottled Gas Corp., 161 Vt. 200, 635 A.2d 1211 (1993), is not persuasive. In......
  • Sall v. George, Civil Action 2:20-cv-214-cr
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
    • January 26, 2022
    ...a state with its own antidiscrimination enforcement mechanisms.” Id. Vermont is such a state. See Gadbois v. Rock-Tenn Co., Mill Div., 984 F.Supp. 811, 817 (D. Vt. 1997). [8] According to the YMCA, Sall “references his last working for the YMCA in 2016.” (Doc. 82 at 9 (citing Doc. 7-2 at 31......
  • Green v. Vermont Country Store, No. 1:01-CV-60.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
    • March 14, 2002
    ...29 U.S.C. § 621, and its precedent provide useful analytical tools [in deciding a claim under VFEPA]."); Gadbois v. Rock-Tenn Co., 984 F.Supp. 811, 818 (D.Vt.1997) ("The ADEA and Vermont FEPA are analyzed under the same framework as Title VII."). "Under this framework ... a plaintiff must f......
  • Ahmad v. Int'l Bus. Machines Corp., Case No. 5:10-cv-310
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
    • May 29, 2012
    ...973 F.2d 122, 125 (2d Cir. 1992) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Gadbois v. Rock-Tenn Co., Mill Div., Inc., 984 F. Supp. 811, 817 (D. Vt. 1997) (noting that Vermont residents have 300 days in which to file charge).Page 7 Here, Mr. Ahmad Is "piggybacking" on admini......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT