United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
RONALD S. NICKELL, Plaintiff,
OLD DOMINION FREIGHT LINE, INC., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION & ORDER [RESOLVING ECF NO.
Y. PEARSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Defendant Old Dominion Freight Line,
Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 20. Plaintiff
Ronald Nickell responded. ECF No. 22. Defendant replied. ECF
No. 23. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants
applied for employment with Defendant on June 10, 2009. ECF
17-1 at PageID #: 151. His application included a statement
acknowledging that, if he were employed by Defendant, his
employment would be at will. Id. at PageID #: 418.
Defendant hired Plaintiff as a driver in March 2010.
Id. at PageID #: 157. He obtained a position as a
line-haul driver in August 2015. Id. As a line-haul
driver, Plaintiff was responsible for driving trailers
between Defendant's terminals in Girard, Ohio and
Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Id. at PageID#: 159.
Employment with Defendant
start of his employment with Defendant in February 2010,
Plaintiff received a copy of the Employee Handbook, which
stated the following: "I understand this handbook does
not constitute a contract of employment with Old Dominion
either express or implied, but that my employment is an
'employment at will' which may be terminated at any
time by Old Dominion." ECF No. 17-1 PageID #: 151; ECF
No. 20-2 at PageID #: 740. In March 2015, Plaintiff received
a revision to the Employee Handbook, which stated, "...
[Old Dominion's] relationship with its employees is and
always will be one of voluntary employment 'at
will.'" ECF No. 17-1 at PageID #: 154, 423. The
revised Handbook also provided that:
Neither this handbook nor any other company document confers
any contractual right, either express or implied, to remain
in the company's employ or places any limitations on its
right to terminate the employment relationship. Employment
for a specific term cannot be guaranteed or promised except
pursuant to an employment contract separate from this
handbook. Only the Chief Executive Officer (and no other
company representative) has the authority to enter into any
agreement for employment for any specific duration. Moreover,
no such separate agreement is enforceable unless it is signed
by the employee and by the Chief Executive Officer.
Id. at PageID#:423.
September 29, 2015, Plaintiff drove from Girard to Carlisle.
ECF No. 17-1 at PageID #: 167; ECF No. 1-1 at PageID #: 7,
¶¶ 7-8. Plaintiff felt the need to urinate when he
arrived, but "decided he could wait" until he had
finished picking up the return trailers. Id. at
¶ 12. After preparing the first of the trailers his need
to urinate became overwhelming, and he believed he could not
wait to use a restroom. Id. at ¶ 13. Plaintiff
stepped behind his truck and urinated in the terminal yard.
Id. at¶ 14.
September 30, 2015, the Girard terminal supervisor called
Plaintiff into his office about a complaint that Plaintiff
had urinated in the yard. ECF No. 17-1 at PageID#: 176. Upon
questioning, Plaintiff admitted he had urinated and was
made several calls to Defendant's management, including
Human Resources Director DeeDee Cox, Vice President of
Operations David Bates, and Chief Executive Officer David
Congden. ECF No. 17-1 at PageID #: 178-80. All three told
Plaintiff that the decision to terminate him was final.
Id. at 179-80. Plaintiff states he had the
impression that if he performed his duties professionally and
did not receive customer complaints, his employment would
continue. Id. at PageID #: 150. He was unable,
however, to identify any specific promise made to him by an
employee of Defendant that informed this belief. Id.
at PageID #: 156.
has a policy of terminating drivers "when there is
sufficient evidence and/or the driver admits he or she
urinated in public...." ECF No. 20-1 at PageID #:
738-739. Defendant has terminated at least eleven drivers for
such behavior between April 2014 and November 2017.
Id. at PageID #: 739.
February 2017, Plaintiff was diagnosed with an enlarged
prostate (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia) and an "agitated
bladder." ECF 17-1 at PageID #: 525.
filed suit in the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas. ECF
No. 1-1. Defendant removed the action. ECF No. 1. Plaintiffs
complaint contains two claims, each under Ohio law: (1)
wrongful termination in violation of public policy; and (2)
breach of implied contract.