United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
V. S. GRANADE, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant's motion for
judgment on the pleadings as to claims for individual relief
and jury demand (Doc. 26), Plaintiff's opposition thereto
(Doc. 31), and Defendant's reply (Doc. 34). For the
reasons explained below, the Court finds that judgment on the
pleadings should be denied.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”)
filed this action alleging that Defendant Austal USA, LLC
(“Austal”) discriminated against Jimmy Cooper by
failing to provide him leave as a reasonable accommodation in
violation of the ADA. (Doc. 1). According to the complaint,
Mr. Cooper began working at Austal in 2007 as a Warehouseman.
(Doc. 1, ¶ 14). In 2008, Cooper was diagnosed with Type
II Insulin-Dependent Diabetes which sometimes required him to
be absent or late to work or to need to leave work early or
on short notice. (Doc. 1, ¶ 15). In late 2013 or early
2014, Cooper became a Logistics Associate and received
additional duties which resulted in increased physical stress
that made it more difficult for Cooper to control his blood
sugar levels and resulted in an increased number of days
Cooper was tardy or absent. (Doc. 1, ¶ 17). On May 6,
2014, Cooper's blood sugar spiked and he lost
consciousness at work and injured his wrist. (Doc. 1, ¶
18). Following the incident, Cooper was absent from work
several days due to his disability. (Doc. 1, ¶ 18).
Cooper also missed time from work in December 2014 due to his
blood sugar becoming elevated. (Doc. 1, ¶ 19). Austal
terminated Cooper on or about January 27, 2015 pursuant to
Austal's attendance policy. (Doc. 1, ¶ 21). On March
5, 2015, Cooper filed a charge of discrimination with the
EEOC alleging violations of the ADA by Austal. (Doc. 1,
¶ 7, Doc. 26-2). The EEOC filed a complaint in this
Court seeking injunctive relief regarding Austal's
general attendance policies as well as relief specific to
Cooper, to make Cooper whole by providing back pay, front
pay, compensation for Cooper's pecuniary losses,
reinstatement, and punitive damages.
moved for judgment on the pleadings asserting that Cooper
waived any right to recover individual relief from Austal via
releases he executed on April 17, 2015. (Doc. 26). Austal
attached copies of the releases to its motion. The first
release, titled “SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT AND APPLICATION
FOR APPROVAL OF AGREED SETTLEMENT UNDER LHWCA SECTION
8(i)(1)” (hereinafter “LHWCA Settlement
Agreement”), states that the parties agree “to
settle all issues and claims between themselves whether
arising under the AWCA, the LHWCA, or any other statute or
law...” (Doc. 26-1, ¶ J). The USDOL approved the
LHWCA Settlement Agreement on May 7, 2015. (Doc. 26-4). The
second release, titled “AGREEMENT AND GENERAL
RELEASE” (hereinafter “General Release”),
included the following:
Employee hereby voluntarily resigns any employment
relationship he may have with the Company and waives any
right to employment or re-employment with the Company and
also agrees he will not in the future apply for employment or
re-employment with the Company, either directly or
As part of the Settlement, Employee also waives and releases
any and all rights or claims, whether presently known or
unknown, he may have against the Company as of the date of
his signing this Agreement, including any rights or claims
which arise out of or are related in any way to his
employment with, or separation of employment from, the
Company. This release includes, but is not limited to, all
rights or claims which arise under federal, state, or local
law for discrimination, including all claims made or which
could have been made in EEOC Charge 425-2015-00523, ...
Notwithstanding anything suggested herein to the contrary,
nothing in this Agreement shall be construed to interfere
with the Employee's rights under either the Older Workers
Benefit Protection Act or Section 7 of the National Labor
Relations Act; to prohibit Employee from filing a charge with
or participating in any investigation or proceeding by any
federal, state or local agency charged with enforcement of
any law, though under such circumstances Employee agrees to
waive his right to recover monetary damages or individual
relief in any charge, complaint or lawsuit filed by him or by
anyone else on his behalf; or to waive any claims arising
after the date of execution of this Agreement, including but
not limited to claims for breach of this Agreement, or to any
claims that may not be released as a matter of law.
(Doc. 26-3, ¶¶ 1-3).
12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that
“[a]fter the pleadings are closed--but early enough not
to delay trial--a party may move for judgment on the
pleadings.” The pleadings are closed for purposes of
Rule 12(c), “when a complaint and answer have been
filed.” Lillian B. ex rel. Brown v. Gwinnett Cty.
Sch. Dist., 631 Fed.Appx. 851, 853 (11th Cir. 2015).
Pleadings include complaint, answers, and affirmative
defenses. Fed.R.Civ.P. 7(a). A Rule 12(c) motion
“provides ‘a means of disposing of cases when ...
a judgment on the merits can be achieved by focusing on the
content of the competing pleadings....' ”
Perez v. Wells Fargo N.A., 774 F.3d 1329, 1336 (11th
Cir. 2014) (quoting 5C Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R.
Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1367 (3d ed.
2004)) (emphasis in original).
standard for granting a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the
pleadings is identical to that of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss. Thomas v. Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co. of
Pittsburgh, PA, 2019 WL 1573702, at *1 (M.D. Ala. Apr.
11, 2019) (citation omitted). In “determining whether a
party is entitled to judgment on the pleadings, we accept as
true all material facts alleged in the non-moving party's
pleading, and we view those facts in the light most favorable
to the non-moving party.” Perez, 774 F.3d at
1335. “If a comparison of the averments in the
competing pleadings reveals a material dispute of fact,
judgment on the pleadings must be denied.” Id.
A judgment on the pleadings is appropriate “when there
are no material facts in dispute, and judgment may be
rendered by considering the substance of the pleadings and
any judicially noticed facts.” Horsley v.
Rivera, 292 F.3d 695, 700 (11th Cir. 2002).
Consideration of ...