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Manna v. Phillips 66 Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

June 11, 2019

WILLIAM MANNA, Plaintiff,
v.
PHILLIPS 66 COMPANY, a foreign Company, and PHILLIPS 66 SEVERANCE PAY PLAN, Defendants

          OPINION AND ORDER

          TERENCE C. KERN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are Plaintiff William Manna's Motion for Judgment or Motion to Reopen Cause for Entry of Judgment Awarding Benefits (Docs. 82-83) and Motion for Attorney Fees (Doc. 76). Defendant Phillips 66 Severance Pay Plan opposes both motions.

         I. Motion for Judgment or Motion to Reopen Cause for Entry of Judgment (Docs. 82-83)

         A. Procedural History

         On July 27, 2016, Plaintiff filed his Complaint, asserting claims against Defendant Phillips 66 Company (“Phillips”) for discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), violation of the Oklahoma Standards for Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Act (“OSWDATA”), and retaliation in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). (Doc. 2). A year later, on July 25, 2017, Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint, adding the Phillips 66 Severance Pay Plan (“Plan”) and asserting a claim for severance benefits under the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”). (Doc. 33).

         On January 7, 2018, following full briefing of the issues raised in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, the Court entered its Opinion and Order, granting summary judgment to Phillips on all claims asserted against it, but reversing and remanding the Plan's decision denying Plaintiff's request for severance benefits. (Doc. 68). In its Opinion and Order, the Court found that the Plan's decision to deny Plaintiff's claim for severance pay was “arbitrary and capricious, ” and it ordered that Plaintiff's claim for benefits be remanded to the Plan for further findings and explanation. Id. The Opinion and Order was silent on the issue of whether Plaintiff was entitled to severance benefits. Id.

         Subsequently, the Plan filed a Motion to Amend and Clarify the Court's Judgment of January 17, 2018, seeking clarification on the question of whether the Court had determined conclusively that Plaintiff was entitled to severance pay from the Plan or had referred that determination to the Plan for reconsideration in light of the Court's Opinion and Order. Doc. 70 at 1. On February 2, 2018, the Court entered an Amended Judgment, in which it stated, inter alia, “The Plan's decision denying Plaintiff's claim for severance pay benefits is reversed and remanded to the Plan for further proceedings, including consideration of whether Plaintiff is entitled to severance pay benefits, consistent with the Court's Opinion and Order of January 17, 2018.” Doc. 71. In a footnote, the Court stated, “This Amended Judgment is entered to clarify that the court has not directed the Plan to find that Plaintiff is entitled to severance pay.” Id.

         On February 23, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Clarify Judgment or Enforce Judgment, in which he stated that he had “inquired with the Defendant Plan as to a decision to process severance pay benefits, ” but had not received any communication of any nature from the Plan. (Doc. 75). However, on March 8, 2018, Plaintiff received notification by mail that the Plan had denied his benefit request on remand. Doc. 82. Accordingly, he seeks review of the Plan's denial of the benefit request. Id.

         B. Factual Background

         Pursuant to the provisions of ERISA, the Plan is a welfare plan. AR 2. Under the terms of the Plan, “a Participant is eligible to receive benefits under this Plan and does not have a Disqualifying Circumstance.” AR 8-9. The Plan provides that:

• “[a] Participant has all Qualifying Circumstances if . . . [h]e has a Layoff on or after May 1, 2012.” AR 9.
• “the term ‘Layoff' or ‘Laid Off” applies if . . . Phillips 66 Company (“Phillips 66”) gives the Participant Notice of Layoff.” AR 4.
• “the term ‘Notice of Layoff' means a written notice provided by [Phillips 66] to the Participant in a form acceptable to the Plan Administrator stating the Date of Layoff.” AR 6.
• “such notice is a Notice of Layoff only if approved by . . . [t]he applicable business line's Human Resources General Manager or the highest level Human Resources manager with responsibility for staffing the applicable business line in the case of an Employee who is ...

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