United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER
PATRICIA A. GAUGHAN United States District Court Chief Judge
matter is before the Court upon plaintiff's Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 27) and defendant's
Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment of No Release (Doc. 32). This
case arises out of the termination of defendant's
employment with plaintiff. For the following reasons,
plaintiff's motion is GRANTED and defendant's motion
Sheffield M s Cleveland, LLC filed this Verified Complaint
for Temporary Restraining Order, Preliminary Injunction and
Permanent Injunctive Relief and Other Causes of Action
against defendant Kimberly Kevwitch.
the Complaint alleges that plaintiff hired defendant on March
4, 2013. As a condition of her employment, defendant was
required to enter into an Employment Agreement. On September
9, 2016, plaintiff terminated defendant's employment. In
consideration for a separation payment, defendant signed a
Confidential Separation Agreement and General Release
(hereafter, the Release). Plaintiff then filed its lawsuit
against defendant for misappropriation of trade secrets and
breach of contract. The parties entered into an agreed
temporary restraining order through November 30, 2017.
asserts three Counterclaims which are the subject of the
herein motion: Public policy wrongful discharge (First),
intentional infliction of emotional distress (Second), and
declaratory judgment that no release exists as a result of
duress (Third). At the August 14, 2017 status conference,
this Court agreed to decide, via motion for summary judgment,
whether defendant released her counterclaims in exchange for
compensation. The Court set an expedited briefing schedule
for plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment. The
Court thereafter granted an extension of the briefing
schedule. The parties agreed to take defendant's
deposition only on the matters relating to the Release.
following relevant facts are before this Court. Defendant
testified at deposition that on the date of her termination,
September 9, she was called into the conference room and Joe
LaCrue, her supervisor, handed her a document which was the
Release and told her to “sign it if I wanted to get my
last pay.” LaCrue told her not to ask him anything
about the document because “he didn't know what was
on it and didn't understand it.” Defendant
“kind of” or “not really” looked at
the paper. She could not remember whether she read the
document but “I don't think I did” and she
was “crying a lot.” Defendant signed and dated
the document. Defendant signed it because LaCrue told her to
sign it if she wanted to get her last check. (deft. depo.
submits her declaration wherein she states that during the
September 9 meeting, at which she was fired, Joe LaCrue
presented her with a piece of paper and told her to sign it
to receive her final pay. Defendant understood this to mean
that she had to sign the paper to receive pay she had already
earned during her employment. She was crying so hard that she
was physically unable to read the paper. LaCrue told her that
he did not know what the paper was, and not to ask him
anything about it because he did not know anything about it.
He refused to answer defendant's questions about the
paper. (deft. decl.)
page Release states, in part:
I. [Plaintiff] will give me a separation payment of $7, 700,
less withholding for applicable taxes... I agree that I am
not currently entitled to this money, and that [plaintiff] is
only agreeing to pay it because of what I [ ] agreeing to in
3. I release [plaintiff] ... from all claims of any kind that
arose before I signed this Agreement, except for claims which
cannot be released under applicable law....
11. [Plaintiff] did not pressure me into signing this
Agreement, nor did [plaintiff] promise me anything in
exchange for signing this Agreement other than what is in
writing on this document.
(deft. depo.Ex. 1)
September 12, 2016, defendant sent a letter, via email, to
plaintiff 's human resources department stating, in part:
Re: My Refusal of the Severance Package at this time, on the
Grounds of a 21 day legal period to review the severance
letter document before signing it, and not receiving a copy
of the severance letter document and I was not advised of any
of my legal rights by Joe LaCrue, regarding the 21 day legal
period of review before signing it.
Hello I am writing in regards to refuse the severance check
at this time, due to signing the paperwork under extreme
emotional distress and shock and feeling as if I did not have
any other option but to sign the severance letter document,
and then I subsequently sought legal advice, which has made
me aware of right to review this document and its contents,
which I have still not received a copy of and have legally up
to 21 days to review the document before signing it, I would
like to have a copy forwarded to me via email... so that I
may forward to my lawyer to review the document with me, and
to determine and confirm that I will be eligible for all my
unemployment insurance benefits that I am entitled to...
(deft. depo.Ex 2) The letter further states, “After I
have the 21 day, legal allotted period of time to
sufficiently review the severance document with my lawyer, we
will advise on how we will proceed at this time. I do expect
my final pay, commissions and vacation time payout.”
had not consulted a lawyer, but had consulted her aunt who is
a human resources director. (deft. depo. 23-30)
was asked at deposition why she was under “extreme
emotional distress” (as referenced in her letter) when
she signed the Release. She responded, A. I just lost my job.
Q. Any other reason?
A. I was pretty upset.
Q. Why were you upset?
A. I lost my job.
Q. Did anyone make you sign the paperwork?
Q. Who made you sign it?
Q. How did he make you sign it?
A. He said I have to sign it if I want to get my final pay.
Q. Was there anything else he did to make you sign the