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Fuller v. Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

June 12, 2017

RODERICK I. FULLER, Plaintiff,
v.
OLD DOMINION FREIGHT LINE, INC., a Virginia corporation, as known, doing business or sometimes referred to as “Old Dominion, ” Defendant.

          ORDER

          R. Brooke Jackson United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on defendant Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc.'s (“OD”) partial motion to dismiss plaintiff Roderick Fuller's breach of contract claim [ECF No. 18]. For the reasons below, the Court GRANTS that motion.

         I. FACTS

         Plaintiff Roderick Fuller is a former truck driver for OD. Pl.'s First Am. Compl., ECF No. 17, at ¶¶5-6. He claims in this action that while employed by OD his coworkers and managers harassed, humiliated, and ultimately retaliated against him because of his race.[1] See, e.g., id. at ¶17. This harassment included an incident in April of 2009 where Mr. Fuller's then-supervisor, Mr. Chris Silvas, allegedly pushed Mr. Fuller on a loading dock and directed a racial epithet towards him. Id. at ¶9.

         Mr. Fuller alleges that shortly after this incident occurred he reported his supervisor to another manager, Mr. Alan Thorson. Id. Rather than believe Mr. Fuller, however, Mr. Thorson accused plaintiff of lying about what had transpired. Id. Allegedly because of the company's belief that Mr. Fuller lied about Mr. Silvas' conduct, OD fired Mr. Fuller shortly thereafter. Id.

         Mr. Fuller's hiatus from work did not last long. Allegedly after learning that Mr. Fuller might file a claim against OD for racial discrimination, OD reached out to Mr. Fuller to offer him his job back. Id. at ¶¶10-11. As part of its overture, OD management, including Mr. Thorson, allegedly assured Mr. Fuller that the mistreatment he suffered while employed by OD would not continue should he return. See id.at ¶14. OD employees also allegedly told Mr. Fuller that he would be valued and treated as “family” if he came back and that the company promised to treat Mr. Fuller in “good faith” and “fairly” going forward. Id. Finally, OD also fired Mr. Silvas, Mr. Fuller's former manager, apparently in an attempt to further persuade Mr. Fuller that the company had changed its ways. Id.at ¶¶12-14.

         Mr. Fuller subsequently accepted OD's offer of reemployment. Id. at ¶15. However, for all of the company's supposed promises that it had changed, the racial harassment and humiliation Mr. Fuller earlier experienced allegedly continued. See, e.g., id. at 16. For instance, Mr. Fuller alleges that after returning to work several OD employees openly expressed their opinion that Mr. Fuller had “played the race card” to get himself re-hired and their friend, Mr. Silvas, fired. See Id. at ¶13. Mr. Fuller's new managers at OD also allegedly continued to harass him by, for example, altering aspects of his employment such as by cutting his driving runs. Id. at ¶17. Mr. Fuller claims he complained to management about this treatment in 2014-15. Id. His complaints, however, allegedly fell on deaf ears. See id.

         Thereafter, Mr. Fuller alleges that he continued to experience harassment until OD fired him in late April 2016 because of supposedly minor damage to the mud flaps on his truck. See Id. at ¶¶51-57. It appears that defendant will argue that it fired Mr. Fuller for being involved in an accident (damaging his truck's mud flaps) that he subsequently failed to report. See Id. at ¶¶ 61-64, 74-75.

         Procedural History

         After he was fired Mr. Fuller brought suit against OD in Denver District Court on December 7, 2016. ECF No. 1-1 (state court pleadings). In his initial complaint, Mr. Fuller alleged two claims for relief. Id. First, a claim for breach of contract stemming from the statements OD employees allegedly made to him in 2009 that he would be treated “fairly” and “in good faith” if he returned to work-alleged “promises” that he claims were reiterated in several of OD's company employment documents.[2] Id. at 8-14 (¶¶42-80). Second, he brought a claim for racial discrimination under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, C.R.S. § 24-34-301, et seq. Id. at 14- 17 (¶¶81-103).

         On January 10, 2017 OD removed Mr. Fuller's lawsuit to this Court. Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1. Plaintiff subsequently amended his complaint on March 22, 2017. ECF No. 17. In his amended complaint plaintiff continues to assert the same two claims for relief. Id. Roughly two weeks after plaintiff amended his complaint OD filed a partial motion to dismiss plaintiff's first claim for breach of contract. ECF No. 18. That motion is ripe for review and currently the only motion pending before the Court with respect to this matter.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         To survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ridge at Red Hawk, L.L.C. v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A plausible claim is a claim 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). While the Court must accept the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Robbins v. Wilkie, 300 F.3d 1208, 1210 (10th Cir. 2002), conclusory allegations are not entitled to be presumed true, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681. However, so long as the plaintiff offers sufficient factual allegations such that the right to relief is raised above the speculative level, he has met the threshold pleading standard. See, e.g., Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556; Bryson v. Gonzales, 534 F.3d 1282, 1286 (10th Cir. 2008).

         III. ...


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