PHILADELPHIA – Due to improper service, Pizza Hut has successfully vacated a prior default judgment and damage award to two former employees who claimed they were fired due to their age.
Per a May 13 decision from Judge Harvey Bartle III of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, prior damages totaling nearly $200,000 which were awarded to Carol A. Grieb and Tammy A. Reynolds, have been vacated due to improper service.
Grieb, 65, and Reynolds, 43, filed suit against JNP Foods (doing business as Pizza Hut) in March 2015 for violations of the Age Discrimination Employment Act (ADEA), after exhausting their administrative remedies through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Both Grieb and Reynolds had spent their entire careers at Pizza Hut working as part-time food servers, with Grieb’s length of service lasting 37 years and Reynolds’ tenure lasting 27 years, until both were terminated in July 2014 from the restaurant chain’s location in Morgantown. Both were more than 10 years older than all of their co-workers there, outside of one employee who served as a dishwasher.
The suit says Grieb and Reynolds left the Morgantown Pizza Hut restaurant during their shifts due to suffering heat-related health complications, resulting from an air conditioner on the premises which had been inoperable for several days.
Though they both reported the situation to their manager Kevin Quinter, he allegedly refused to let them leave the premises, despite allowing their younger co-workers to do so. Grieb and Reynolds left the restaurant regardless, and Quinter summarily fired them on July 4, 2014 and July 6, 2014, respectively.
Bartle previously found Pizza Hut did in fact “willfully” violate the ADEA in their treatment of Grieb and Reynolds and stated a default judgment was “appropriate” in this particular case, because Pizza Hut had not pleaded or defended itself against the complaint in any way. Grieb and Reynolds were then awarded a variety of damages with a combined total value of nearly $200,000 in December.
Counsel for Pizza Hut then entered an appearance on Feb. 26 and filed a motion on March 11 to vacate the default judgments. In its motion, Pizza Hut argued the default and the default judgments are void because of improper service.
Pizza Hut asserted the complaint was served to a store manager at a Pizza Hut restaurant at 60 East Street Road in Feasterville owned by Ronak Foods, as opposed to the JNP Foods. The JNP Foods office and principal place of business is located just down the road at 210 East Street Road, also in Feasterville.
In examining this evidence and the arguments presented by both sides, Bartle decided the default judgments should in fact be overturned.
“The plaintiffs, who have the burden of proof, have not shown that Ronak Foods and JNP Foods are parent and subsidiary of one another such that one acts as the agent of the other,” Bartle said. “This is not a close case. A declaration…states that Ronak Foods and JNP Foods are separate corporate entities.”
Bartle explained it was not a close case, and even if it were, the same result would be reached.
“Accordingly, we will grant the motion of JNP Foods, LLC to vacate the entry of default and the default judgments. We will allow the plaintiffs 30 days (until June 13) from the date of the accompanying order to serve process on JNP Foods, LLC,” Bartle said.
The plaintiffs are represented by John A. Gallagher of Gallagher Law Group, in Berwyn.
The defendant is represented by Gregory D. Hanscom, James M. Hux Jr. and Joel W. Rice of Fisher & Phillips, in Radnor and Chicago, Ill.
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:15-cv-01575
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org