United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
J. BOYLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendant Arbor E&T, LLC's Motion for
Summary Judgment (Doc. 19) on all of Plaintiff's claims.
Because-as outlined below-the Court finds that a genuine
issue of material fact exists as to whether the parties
intended that a previous settlement agreement covered these
claims, the Court DENIES Arbor's Motion
for Summary Judgment.
invokes this Court's federal question and supplemental
jurisdiction based on her alleged Title VII and state-law
claims. Doc. 1, Compl., ¶¶ 3, 25-45 (alleging
retaliation, hostile work environment, constructive
discharge, cat's paw liability, and wrongful
discharge). Plaintiff worked for Arbor as a Talent
Development Specialist from May 2012 through November 2014,
during which time the alleged discrimination and retaliation
took place. Id. ¶¶ 2, 9. Specifically, she
alleges that Arbor and its employees discriminated against
her “because she was a woman who had recently given
birth and exercised her rights under the Fair Labor Standards
Act related to lactation, ” as well as engaged in other
protected activities. Id. ¶¶ 2, 43. The
majority of the alleged discrimination took place in the
later half of 2014, after Plaintiff returned from her Family
Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave in September. See Id.
response to this perceived discrimination, Plaintiff lodged
complaints with the both the Department of Labor-Wage and
Hour Division (DOL-WHD) and the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC). Plaintiff filed her charge with the
DOL-WHD on or about October 16, 2014. Doc. 23, Pl.'s
Resp. App'x, 1 (Pl.'s Decl., ¶ 3). While the
DOL-WHD investigation was pending, Plaintiff filed her charge
with the EEOC on January 20, 2015. Id. at 2
(Pl.'s Decl., ¶ 4).
September 4, 2015, the parties entered into a settlement
agreement facilitated by the DOL-WHD. Id. at 6. Plaintiff
signed both the settlement agreement and a form acknowledging
receipt of the settlement monies (DOL Form WH-58, the
“receipt form”) on that date. Id. at
4-6. Both documents described the claims that Plaintiff was
settling. The Settlement Agreement itself stated:
Complainant agrees that acceptance of this Agreement
constitutes settlement in full of any and all claims
against Employer arising out of Complainant's complaint
filed with the Wage and Hour Division on October 16,
2014 and will result in closure of the investigation.
23, Pl.'s Resp. App'x, 6 (emphasis added). Meanwhile,
the receipt form contained more narrow language-that in
exchange for back wages and liquidated damages, Plaintiff
gave up her right to bring suit under Section 16(b) of the
FLSA or Section 107 of the FMLA:
Notice to Employee: Your acceptance of this payment of wages
and/or other compensation due under the Fair Labor Standards
Act (FLSA) or Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), based on the
findings of the [DOL-WHD] means that you have given up
the right you have to bring suit on your own behalf for
the payment of such unpaid minimum wages or unpaid overtime
compensation for the period of time [April 6, 2013 to April
4, 2015] and an equal amount in liquidated damages, plus
attorney's fees and court costs under Section 16(b)
of the FLSA or Section 107 of the FMLA. Generally, a
suit for unpaid wages or other compensation, including
liquidated damages, must be filed within two years of a
violation of the FLSA or FMLA. Do not sign this receipt
unless you have actually received this payment in the amount
Id. at 4 (emphasis added). Although both Plaintiff
and Arbor were aware of Plaintiff's still-pending EEOC
charge, neither the settlement agreement nor the receipt form
acknowledged that outstanding investigation. See Id.
at 2 ¶ 5; 4-6.
it was not until two years after the DOL-WHD agreement was
reached that the EEOC terminated its processing of
Plaintiff's charge and Plaintiff received her Notice of
Right to Sue on her Title VII claims. Doc. 23, Pl.'s
Resp. App'x, 9. She filed her claims in this Court within
the requisite 90-day window, on May 10, 2018. See
Doc. 1, Compl.
then filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on October 9, 2018
with brief and appendix in support (Docs. 19, 20 & 21).
Instead of addressing the elements of Plaintiff's claims
directly, Arbor moved for summary judgment on the affirmative
defenses of accord and satisfaction, release, and waiver,
citing predominately Texas law. Doc. 20, Def.'s Br. Summ.
J., 10-14. Plaintiff responded that whether a Title VII
release was properly obtained is actually a matter of
federal, not state law, and the prior settlement agreement
did not waive her Title VII claims because, inter
alia, (1) the DOL did not have jurisdiction over Title
VII claims and therefore could not have intended for her to
have waived these claims; (2) a waiver of her Title VII
claims would be impermissibly “prospective”; (3)
the receipt form limited the waiver of her claims to the FLSA
and FMLA; (4) and neither signed document mentioned Title
VII. Doc. 22, Pl.'s Resp., 10-12. She too attached an
appendix (Doc. 23).
replied with federal caselaw to support its arguments on
release and waiver: that Title VII need not be explicitly
mentioned in a settlement agreement for Plaintiff's
waiver of such claims to be valid. Doc. 24, Def.'s Reply,
2. While Arbor admits that the totality of the circumstances
must be considered, Arbor objects to the use of certain
portions of Plaintiff's Declaration, in which she
describes her understanding of the settlement, and which was
attached as evidence to Plaintiff's Response.
Id. at 2-3. ...