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Lennon v. Unumprovident Corp.

January 8, 2008

ELLEN LENNON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNUMPROVIDENT CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Curtis L. Collier

MEMORANDUM

Before this Court is Defendant UnumProvident Corporation's ("Defendant") Motion to Dismiss or, in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (Court File No. 19). Defendant asserts plaintiff Ellen Lennon's ("Plaintiff") discrimination and retaliation claims are time-barred (id.). In ruling on this motion, the Court considers Plaintiff's response (Court File No. 21), and Defendant's reply (Court File No. 22). Due to the Court's consideration of matters outside the pleadings, the Court will treat Defendant's motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Fed. R. Civ. P.") 12(b)(6), as a motion for summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d).

For the following reasons the Court with GRANT Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or, in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (Court File No. 19).

I. Relevant Facts and Procedural History

Plaintiff is a woman over forty years old, who worked for Defendant (Court File No. 1, ¶¶ 3, 24). On November 3, 2005, Defendant sent Plaintiff a memorandum at her office and a letter to her home, informing her her position with Defendant would be eliminated on December 30, 2005 (Court File No. 1, Exhibits A, B).

On November 4, 2005, Defendant held a "Benefits Center Open Hour," from 9 am to 10 am, where Joyce Lee ("Lee"), a representative of Defendant, discussed the outplacement process with employees whose positions were being eliminated (see Court File No. 1, Exhibit E). Plaintiff attended the meeting (Court File No. 1, ¶ 12). During the meeting, Lee threatened the employees in attendance by saying "[i]f you are thinking of suing, think again, UnumProvident is a large employer and employers talk" (Court File No. 1, ¶ 17). After the November 4, 2005 meeting, Plaintiff and other employees whose positions were being eliminated were permitted to retrieve their personal belonging from their work areas (Court File No. 1, ¶ 11; id., Exhibit E).

On November 7, 2005, a memorandum was sent, reiterating to the displaced employees, including Plaintiff, they would not be required to be physically at work from the date when they were informed of their termination, November 3, 2005, to the date of their official termination, December 30, 2005 (Court File No. 1, Exhibit D). The displaced employees were informed they would need to be reachable by telephone during that period, however, so they could answer any questions which might arise concerning the claims on which they had been working (id.).

On December 18, 2005, Plaintiff sent a letter to Lee, detailing Plaintiff's displeasure with her termination (Court File No. 1, Exhibit F). Plaintiff asserted her termination was unjustified because she had been moved among departments, but did not receive appropriate training for her new tasks or a timely review of her work quality prior to her dismissal (id.). She also challenged the limitation of the severance package, because she was the only displaced employee who had sufficient years of service to be affected by the cap on the severance amount (id.). Plaintiff notes in the letter she had been in communication with legal counsel (id.).

On January 9, 2006, Lee responded to Plaintiff's letter, reiterating the terms of Plaintiff's dismissal (Court File No. 1, Exhibit G). Lee also informed Plaintiff, due to Plaintiff's failure to contact management at the time Plaintiff felt her training was inadequate or her work environment was hostile, Defendant was unable to investigate the claim and rectify any problems while they still existed (id.).

On or about February 10, 2006, Plaintiff's legal counsel, James P. Hartz ("Hartz"), telephoned Angela Ripper ("Ripper"), Defendant's counsel, and Hartz was informed Defendant had a policy preventing Ripper from discussing legal matters with attorneys not licensed in Tennessee (Court File No. 1, ¶ 20). On or about that same day, Plaintiff called Ripper due to Ripper's refusal to speak with Hartz (id.). Ripper informed Plaintiff, after investigation, she had determined Plaintiff was not subjected to any discriminatory conduct (id.).

On or about May 2, 2006, Plaintiff filed a grievance with the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility ("Board"), presumably due to Ripper's refusal to speak with Plaintiff's attorney (Court File No. 1, ¶ 21). The Board found Plaintiff's claims insufficient and they were dismissed (id.).

On September 6, 2006, Plaintiff filed an age and gender discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") (Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, Court File No. 21, p. 2; Court File No. 19, Exhibit A). The EEOC dismissed the claim as untimely (Court File No. 19, Exhibit B).

On December 8, 2006, Plaintiff filed her action with this Court alleging discrimination*fn1 and retaliation pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e-3(a) and The Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), ...


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