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LaFont v. Federal Express Corp.

United States District Court, D. Oregon

September 23, 2019

VÉRONIQUE M. LAFONT, Plaintiff,
v.
FEDERAL EXPRESS CORPORATION, dba FedEx, a Delaware corporation, Defendant.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

          STACIE F. BECKERMAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Véronique LaFont (“LaFont”) sues her former employer, defendant Federal Express Corporation (“FedEx”), alleging claims for breach of express and implied-in-fact contract. FedEx moves for summary judgment on LaFont's claims and LaFont moves to strike portions of FedEx's reply brief. The Court has jurisdiction over this matter under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). For the reasons explained below, the Court recommends that the district judge grant FedEx's motion for summary judgment and deny LaFont's motion to strike.[1]

         BACKGROUND[2]

         In October 2013, LaFont responded to one of FedEx's job postings on a private recruitment site. (Decl. Véronique LaFont Supp. Pl.'s Opp'n Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. (“LaFont Decl.”) ¶ 2, ECF No. 60.) LaFont answered some of the job posting's questions but was called away from her computer before she could complete the application process. (LaFont Decl. ¶ 2.) LaFont never completed the application process, provided any electronic signatures, or knowingly populated any fields in the job posting's candidate profile. (LaFont Decl. ¶¶ 2, 4, 8; see also LaFont Dep. 40:20-23, 63:2-8, 74:3-6, Sept. 5, 2018, reflecting that LaFont testified that she did not recall viewing the posting's candidate profile or “digitally signing” the candidate profile).

         Around the same time, FedEx's online recruitment system, known as My Staffing Pro, received pre-employment paperwork about LaFont, including a digitally signed candidate profile.[3] (See Smith Decl. ¶¶ 3-5; LaFont Dep. Ex. 6, at 10; LaFont Decl. ¶ 5.) The candidate profile stated, among other things, that the applicant's employment would be “at will” and terminable “with or without cause.” (LaFont Dep. Ex. 6, at 7) (all caps omitted). The candidate profile also included a six-month deadline to file claims against the company:

To the extent the law allows an employee to bring legal action against the company or any manager employed by the company and acting in his or her managerial capacity, I agree to bring any claim within the time provided by law or no later than six (6) months from the date of the event forming the basis of my claim, whichever expires first. I realize and acknowledge that I am agreeing to bring any claim I may have within a shorter time than may otherwise be provided by law.

(LaFont Dep. Ex. 6, at 9) (all caps omitted).

         Soon thereafter, Tim Palmer (“Palmer”), a FedEx operations manager, contacted LaFont about a job. (LaFont Dep. 39:8-14; LaFont Decl. ¶ 7; Decl. Tim Palmer Supp. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. (“Palmer Decl.”) ¶ 2, ECF No. 51.) LaFont met with Palmer two times. (LaFont Decl. ¶ 7.) Palmer offered LaFont a job but never showed LaFont the candidate profile FedEx received, asked LaFont to sign a candidate profile, or mentioned an employment agreement. (LaFont Decl. ¶ 7.) LaFont accepted Palmer's offer of employment and signed a hiring letter. (LaFont Decl. ¶ 7; Palmer Decl. Ex. A.) The hiring letter did not include, or refer to, a six-month limitations period.

         LaFont started working at FedEx in early January 2014. (LaFont Dep. Ex. 5; LaFont Dep. 47:7-10.) The following month, in mid-February 2014, LaFont used FedEx's computer-based training system to participate in FedEx's workplace violence training and to acknowledge her receipt of, among other things, FedEx's employee handbook. (Decl. Roberta Garner Supp. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. (“Garner Decl.”) ¶¶ 9-10, ECF No. 54.)

         LaFont's employee handbook acknowledgment included a bold-typed, all-caps “DISCLAIMER, ” stating that FedEx's employee handbook was “not a contract of employment, nor should its provisions be read or implied to provide for one.” (Garner Decl. Ex. F, at 1) (bold type, all caps, and underline omitted). The Disclaimer explained that LaFont's employment was “at-will which means that either [LaFont] or [FedEx could] terminate the relationship at any time.” (Garner Decl. Ex. F, at 1.) The Disclaimer also stated that (1) FedEx's “people manual” addresses personnel policies that FedEx references throughout the employee handbook, (2) FedEx's people manual is “not a contract of employment and no such contract may be implied from its provisions, ” (3) FedEx's people manual “does not create legal rights or obligations regarding any aspect of your employment relationship, ” (4) FedEx's employees can access the people manual on FedEx's intranet site or by asking a manager for a copy of the manual, and (5) FedEx's employees cannot “alter the nature of his or her at-will employment by taking any unilateral action.” (Garner Decl. Ex. F, at 1.)

         Also in mid-February 2014, LaFont used FedEx's computer-based training system to acknowledge her receipt of FedEx's acceptable conduct policy. (Garner Decl. ¶ 12.) FedEx's acceptable conduct policy is part of FedEx's people manual, and it included a provision stating that the relationship between FedEx and “any employee may be terminated at the will of either party” and “the policies and procedures set forth in this [people] manual provide guidelines for . . . employees during employment but do not create contractual rights regarding termination or otherwise.” (Garner Decl. Ex. G, at 9.) The acceptable conduct policy also included a provision governing workplace violence. (See Garner Decl. Ex. G, at 1.) The workplace violence provision provided:

Violent or threatening behavior is not tolerated in the workplace. ‘Workplace Violence' is aggressive and/or other unwelcome and offensive physical contact. It can also include, but is not limited to, bullying, threats, threatening gestures, stalking, or any verbal or physical act of hostility or aggression that is perceived to put anyone's safety at risk. All employees are responsible for advising management, the FedEx Express Security Department, HR, or People Help of any actual or potentially serious or violent situations as stated in the Workplace Violence guideline of 8-80 Security.

(Garner Decl. Ex. G, at 1) (emphasis added).

         Like the acceptable conduct policy, FedEx's security policy is part of FedEx's people manual. (See Garner Decl. Ex. J, at 1.) The security policy defined workplace violence in the same way it is defined in the acceptable conduct policy. (Garner Decl. Ex. J, at 1.) The security policy also provided employees with instructions on how to report any actual or potentially serious or violent situations:

When Violence Occurs. Dial 911 immediately when workplace violence is occurring or is about to occur. In cities and areas that do not have the 911 system, call the local police or state agency that can respond immediately. After contacting 911 (or the appropriate law agency), contact the FedEx Express Security Department.
Note: Managers should use discretion in accessing 911 for situations that are routinely resolved through the application of Corporate policies-such as 2-5 Acceptable Conduct.
How to Report Threats or Potential Situations. When unusual actions, threats, or situations indicate a potential for violence exists but does not pose immediate danger, employees should report the situations to one or more of the following resources:
• Your management
• The FedEx Express Security ...

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