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CUMMINGS v. GREATER CLEVELAND REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY (2018)

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United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

Noel A. CUMMINGS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. GREATER CLEVELAND REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Michael C. York, Joseph Calabrese, and Scott Ferraro, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 18-3169

Decided: September 26, 2018

Before: GILMAN, KETHLEDGE, and BUSH, Circuit Judges. Sylvester Summers, Jr., Law Office, Cleveland, OH, for Plaintiff-Appellant Edward Chyun, Jeffrey J. Moyle, Robert M. Wolff, Littler Mendelson, Cleveland, OH, for Defendants-Appellees

OPINION

In this employment-discrimination case, Noel A. Cummings seeks to proceed with a lawsuit against the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) and three of its employees based on the termination of her employment. But she settled an earlier case against GCRTA that released GCRTA and all of its employees from any and all claims related to Cummings’s employment with the company. At issue here is whether that settlement agreement precludes the current suit under the doctrine of res judicata.

In August 2014, Cummings filed a complaint against GCRTA and four of its employees, asserting claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Title VII), and under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Cummings v. Greater Cleveland Reg’l Transit Auth., 88 F.Supp.3d 812, 815 (N.D. Ohio 2015) (Cummings I ). That complaint alleged that Cummings was discriminated against by being placed on “crisis suspension” for refusing training and refusing to sign a mandatory “employee-assistance-program referral.” While that case was still pending, Cummings’s employment with GCRTA was terminated. Two days later, the parties settled Cummings I. That settlement released and discharged GCRTA and all of its employees “from any and all claims ․, whether presently known or unknown, arising out of or related in any way to her employment with the GCRTA․”

In the present suit, Cummings sued GCRTA, Michael C. York (individually and as Deputy General Manager of Operations at GCRTA), Joseph Calbrese (individually and as General Manager and Chief Executive of GCRTA), and Scott Ferraro (individually and as Director of Labor and Employee Relations at GCRTA). The complaint asserts two Title VII violations and two § 1983 violations.

Cummings alleges that by wrongfully terminating her employment, the defendants treated her differently than they subsequently treated a similarly situated male employee. Specifically, she alleges that Richard Newell—Director of Service Quality Management at GCRTA and Cummings’s former supervisor—initiated a physical confrontation with another GCRTA employee and was placed on “decision-making leave” by the defendants but was not discharged. All of the disciplinary actions regarding Newell took place after Cummings’s employment was terminated and her prior case was settled.

The district court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss because the doctrine of res judicata precludes Cummings’s claims. Specifically, the court held that Cummings’s claims in the present suit are covered by the settlement agreement. [Id.]

After carefully considering the record on appeal, the briefs of the parties, and the applicable law, we agree with the district court’s dismissal of Cummings’s complaint. Because the reasoning that supports the dismissal of her complaint has been clearly articulated by the district court, the issuance of a detailed written opinion by this court would be unduly duplicative. Accordingly, the decision rendered by the Honorable Sara Lioi, United District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, is AFFIRMED on the basis of the reasoning detailed in her Memorandum Opinion and Order dated January 17, 2018.

RONALD LEE GILMAN, Circuit Judge.

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