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Kennedy v. Stericycle Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 3, 2014

JOSEPH ROBERT KENNEDY, Plaintiff,
v.
STERICYCLE INC., Defendant.

ORDER ON PENDING MOTIONS

SARAH EVANS BARKER, District Judge.

This cause is now before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 14], filed on February 11, 2014, pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff Joseph Robert Kennedy, proceeding pro se, brings this action against his former employer, Defendant Stericycle, Inc., alleging that he was constructively discharged in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 ("ADAA") for a perceived mental health disability after he raised concerns to his employer regarding alleged regulatory compliance issues. Stericycle has moved for summary judgment, requesting dismissal based on the following grounds: (1) that Mr. Kennedy failed to file a timely charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") before filing suit; and (2) that Mr. Kennedy signed a valid release waiving his right to file an employment discrimination suit against Stericycle in exchange for Stericycle agreeing to drop its then-pending state court lawsuit against him.

Factual Background[1]

Mr. Kennedy began working for Stericycle as a Waste Management Specialist on March 19, 2012. As a Waste Management Specialist, it was Mr. Kennedy's job to determine how to classify various pharmaceutical waste products. Mr. Kennedy was instructed that, in making this determination, he was to research the particular product's National Drug Code number in order to determine the product's chemical composition so that he could decide whether the product should be categorized as hazardous, nonhazardous, or some other form of regulated waste. According to Mr. Kennedy, within a few months of his employment, however, he began to believe that many of the pharmaceutical products were misbranded and he also became concerned that Stericycle was engaging in various anti-competitive marketing practices.

Mr. Kennedy alleges that he brought his concerns to the attention of his supervisor in May 2012, but that he was told only that he was being "paranoid." Mr. Kennedy continued to raise concerns through July 2012 at which point he alleges that he was told by his supervisor to start looking "for other opportunities." According to Mr. Kennedy, he became offended and humiliated by Stericycle's failure to investigate his complaints and insinuations that he was suffering from a debilitating mental health condition. Mr. Kennedy contends that this treatment created a hostile work environment for him in which he was referred to as a "risk to the company." Ultimately, this prompted Mr. Kennedy to submit his resignation following his final meeting with his supervisor on July 30, 2012. Mr. Kennedy's employment with Stericycle officially ended on August 17, 2012.

On September 25, 2013, Mr. Kennedy filed a Charge of Discrimination ("Charge") against Stericycle with the EEOC. In his Charge, Mr. Kennedy alleged disability discrimination and retaliation under the ADA. Specifically, he alleged that he was forced to resign on August 1, 2012 "because of a perceived disability and in retaliation for reporting concerns, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended." Exh. H. In his Charge, he noted that the last date of alleged discriminatory action occurred on July 31, 2012, over a year prior to filing his Charge. On November 18, 2013, the EEOC dismissed Mr. Kennedy's Charge on the grounds that it was not timely filed. Mr. Kennedy subsequently filed this instant lawsuit on December, 9, 2013. In his Amended Complaint, he alleges that he was constructively discharged on or about July 30, 2012 from his employment with Stericycle as a result of a perceived mental health disability.

Stericycle filed the instant summary judgment motion on February 11, 2014. Mr. Kennedy filed an initial response on February 13, 2014, and then an additional response on February 19, 2014. Stericycle filed its reply on February 27, 2014. Mr. Kennedy has since filed two additional submissions in opposition to Stericyle's motion for summary judgment on March 4, 2014 and March 26, 2014, respectively. Both parties have also filed a number of additional motions since the summary judgment motion was filed, which have been fully briefed and are addressed below.

Legal Analysis

I. Related Motions

Before addressing Defendant's summary judgment motion, we turn first to address several related motions that have been filed by the parties.

A. Plaintiff's Motion for Oral Arguments [Docket No. 21]

On February 19, 2014, Mr. Kennedy filed a Motion for Oral Arguments, arguing that his arguments would be "better heard and understood" if presented to the Court in person because, as a pro se plaintiff, he is "extremely unfamiliar with the processes and rules of civil procedure." Dkt. No. 21 at 1. However, because we are able to rule based solely on the parties' written submissions, we DENY that motion.

B. Plaintiff's Motion for Extension of Time [Docket No. 24]

On March 20, 2014, Mr. Kennedy filed a Motion for Extension of Time, requesting that we suspend our rulings in this cause until the EEOC answers his complaint in a second lawsuit that is currently pending, or until that lawsuit is fully resolved. Mr. Kennedy's motion for extension or suspension of time is DENIED because the relief sought in such motion is ...


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