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Hampton v. Utah Transit Authority

United States District Court, D. Utah

February 26, 2018



          Jill N. Parrish United States District Court Judge

         Plaintiff Steven Hampton brought this action against the Utah Transit Authority (“UTA”) after he was laid off in September 2015. He alleges that UTA's decision to terminate his employment constitutes age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) and that UTA breached a contract between the parties.

         On January 27, 2017, UTA filed a motion to dismiss under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim (ECF No. 5). The court denied that motion in part and granted it in part on September 7, 2017 (ECF No. 16). Specifically, the court dismissed with prejudice Mr. Hampton's age discrimination claim under 49 U.S.C. § 5332(b) and 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, and it dismissed without prejudice his breach-of-contract claim. As part of that order, the court also required Mr. Hampton to file either an amended complaint or a response to UTA's argument (first raised in its reply brief) that Mr. Hampton's complaint was untimely filed.

         On October 16, 2017, Mr. Hampton filed a supplemental response to UTA's argument and sought leave to amend his complaint (ECF Nos. 19, 20). The court granted the motion to amend and took the response under consideration. On October 30, 2017, UTA filed a consolidated motion to dismiss Mr. Hampton's amended complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) (ECF No. 24). That motion is now before the court.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Mr. Hampton is 65 years old. He worked for UTA from 2007 to 2015 as an Auditor. But on September 16, 2015, UTA informed Mr. Hampton that it intended to terminate his position as part of a reduction in force. At about the same time, UTA sought applicants for the position of Senior Internal Auditor, which Mr. Hampton posits involves substantially the same duties and responsibilities that he performed as an Auditor.

         Prior to his termination, Mr. Hampton met with Chief Internal Auditor Isaac Clark and HR representative Kenya Fail. Mr. Clark and Ms. Fail promised that UTA would provide Mr. Hampton with a permanent UTA ride pass as part of a severance package. They also promised him that his unused sick leave would be converted to a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (“HRA”). Mr. Hampton alleges that this meeting was not the first time he was informed that he would receive these benefits.

         After the meeting, UTA presented Mr. Hampton with a severance agreement, but he ultimately refused that offer. After Mr. Hampton declined the agreement, UTA terminated his employment and refused him the permanent ride pass and HRA conversion.

         On March 11, 2016, Mr. Hampton filled out a “Civil Rights Complaint Form” and submitted it to the Utah Antidiscrimination and Labor Division (“UALD”), which has a work-sharing agreement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Mr. Hampton admits that he received a phone call from the UALD indicating that his charge was untimely filed. However, Mr. Hampton never received a Notice of Right to Sue or other documentation terminating proceedings from the EEOC. To his knowledge, the EEOC never terminated the proceedings before it.


         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must “state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To do so, a plaintiff must plead both a viable legal theory and “enough factual matter, taken as true, to make [the] ‘claim to relief . . . plausible on its face.” Bryson v. Gonzales, 534 F.3d 1282, 1286 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A plaintiff is not required to include detailed factual allegations, but the complaint must contain “more than labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, ” and ultimately must “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.


         UTA argues that Mr. Hampton's age discrimination claim under the ADEA should be dismissed for three reasons: (1) Mr. Hampton failed to meet the applicable 90-day statute of limitations for an ADEA claim; (2) Mr. Hampton has not pled a claim for age discrimination; and (3) Mr. Hampton asserts claims for damages that are not available under the ADEA. UTA also argues that Mr. Hampton's breach-of-contract claim should be dismissed for two reasons: (1) the court lacks jurisdiction to hear that claim; and (2) Mr. Hampton has not stated a claim for breach of contract. Because the ADEA claim provides the basis for this court's jurisdiction, the court begins with that claim.

         A. Age Discrimination

         1. The ADEA's 90-day Limitation Period

          The ADEA provides that “[a]ny person aggrieved may bring a civil action in any court of competent jurisdiction for such legal or equitable relief as will effectuate the purposes of this chapter.” 29 U.S.C. § 626(c)(1). However, the right to bring such an action is limited. For example, an employee loses the right to prosecute an action on his or her own behalf if the EEOC commences an action to enforce the employee's rights. See Id. If the EEOC determines not to commence an action, then “the Commission shall notify the person aggrieved.” 29 U.S.C. § ...

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