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MONTALVO v. USPS

April 26, 1995

EUGENE MONTALVO, Plaintiff, against UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, MARVIN RUNYON, POSTMASTER GENERAL, GEORGE SCHNEIDER, FORMER POSTMASTER OF FLORAL PARK, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN R. BARTELS

 Defendants United States Postal Service and Marvin Runyon, Postmaster General (collectively, the "Government"), move this Court for an order pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure granting defendant Postmaster General summary judgment on plaintiff's second claim for breach of contract and his third claim requesting punitive damages. Further, the Government petitions, pursuant to Rule 39(a) (2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, that the Court strike Montalvo's jury demand on his claim for breach of contract. Finally, the Government requests that Montalvo's action against defendant Postal Service be dismissed in its entirety.

 BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff Eugene Montalvo was employed by the Postal Service from October 1981 to March 1990. During that period, Montalvo filed numerous Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints, alleging racial discrimination in violation of Title VII. On March 20, 1987, Montalvo and the Postal Service entered into a settlement agreement ("Settlement Agreement") whereby Montalvo agreed to withdraw ten pending EEOC cases in exchange for, inter alia, the Postal Service's agreement to expunge past disciplinary actions from Montalvo's personnel file. *fn1" The Postal Service further agreed not to use the expunged records in any future disciplinary actions.

 Following the Agreement, the Postal Service disciplined Montalvo on a number of occasions, culminating in his termination from the Postal Service on March 5, 1990. Montalvo brought this action against the Government for (1) retaliatory discharge and (2) breach of contract, alleging that the Postal Service violated the Settlement Agreement by failing to expunge pre-March 1987 disciplinary actions from his personnel file and by using such actions in post-March 1987 disciplinary proceedings.

 DISCUSSION

 I. Breach of the Settlement Agreement

 The Government contends that it is entitled to summary judgment on Montalvo's breach of contract action because, although the Postal Service appears to have breached the Settlement Agreement, in fact it did not. The Postal Service admits that it took into consideration disciplinary actions said to have occurred on January 5, 1987 and February 8, 1987 -- dates which precede the Settlement Agreement -- in two 1989 disciplinary actions and in terminating Montalvo. The Government urges, however, that the pre-March 1987 citations were clerical errors. The Government theorizes that, because the charges listed for January 5, 1987, and February 8, 1987, correspond exactly to charges levelled against Montalvo in May and August of that year, the only possible conclusion is that the January and February dates are typographical errors that refer to post-settlement actions.

 II. Montalvo's Jury Demand

 The Government moves to strike Montalvo's jury demand on his breach of contract claim, arguing that breach of an EEOC agreement is not a pendent state law contract claim, but rather a cause of action arising under Title VII. Accordingly, the Government contends that, because the 1991 amendments to Title VII are not retroactive, Landgraf v. USI Film Products, 128 L. Ed. 2d 229, U.S. , 114 S. Ct. 1483 (1994), Montalvo's claim is governed by the procedures and remedies provided by Title VII at the time the alleged breach occurred. Since Title VII, prior to its amendment by the 1991 Civil Rights Act, provided primarily equitable remedies and did not specifically allow for trial by jury, the Government argues that Montalvo is not entitled to a jury trial on his breach of contract claim. In order to resolve this issue, the Court first must determine whether jurisdiction for breach of an EEOC settlement agreement is derived from Title VII or is a pendant state law claim and, second, if jurisdiction is derived from Title VII, the Court must decide whether Montalvo is entitled to a jury.

 a. Pendent Common Law Claim or Title VII Action?

 Courts directly considering the nature of a cause of action for the enforcement of an EEOC agreement have concluded that district court jurisdiction is derived from Title VII. See E.E.O.C. v. The Henry Beck Co., 729 F.2d 301 (4th Cir. 1984) (action to enforce EEOC agreement is brought directly under Title VII); E.E.O.C. v. Safeway Stores, Inc., 714 F.2d 567 (5th Cir. 1983), reh'g denied, 720 F.2d 677 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 467 U.S. 1204, 104 S. Ct. 2384, 81 L. Ed. 2d 343 (1984) (district court empowered to specifically enforce EEOC conciliation agreement under Title VII); Evans v. Waldorf-Astoria Corp., 827 F. Supp. 911, 914 n.1 (E.D.N.Y. 1993), aff'd, 33 F.3d 49 (2d Cir. 1994) (jurisdiction derived from Title VII in action to set aside EEOC agreement); Robles v. United States, 1990 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9084, 1990 WL 155545 (D.D.C. ...


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