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Banks v. Bosch Rexroth Corporation

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

March 5, 2014

LASHAUNNA BANKS, Plaintiff,
v.
BOSCH REXROTH CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DANNY C. REEVES, District Judge.

This matter is pending for consideration of Defendants Bosch Rexroth Corporation ("Bosch"), Dan Reynolds, Geoff O'Nan, and Valenda Allen's (collectively, the "Individual Defendants") motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for a more definite statement. [Record No. 25] In response, Banks argues that her Amended Complaint meets the federal pleading standard and that the claims should not be dismissed. Alternatively, she asks for leave to file a Second Amended Complaint. [Record No. 27] For the reasons set forth below, the motion to dismiss will be granted, in part, and denied, in part. The motion for a more definite statement will also be granted. As a result, Banks will be required to file an amended pleading, subject to the restrictions outlined below.

I.

Plaintiff LaShaunna Banks was fired after working as an assembler for Defendant Bosch for approximately eight years. [Record No. 20, p. 2 ¶ 5] The Individual Defendants were employees of Bosch during the time relevant to Banks' claims. [ Id. ¶¶ 3, 4] Banks claims to suffer from disabling migraines which allegedly required her to be absent from her work station or leave work entirely. [Record No. 20, p. 2 ¶ 7] As a result, she requested, and was granted intermittent leave pursuant to the Family Medial Leave Act of 1993 ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601. [ Id. p. 3 ¶ 10] Banks claims that all of the defendants denied and/or impeded her access to her worksite, refused to accommodate her disability, and discriminated against her due to her disability. [ Id. ¶ 11] She complained to various entities, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, and her union about her employer's behavior and calculation regarding her FMLA hours. [ Id. ¶ 12; Record No. 27, p. 4] On or about July 10, 2012, following these complaints, Banks' was terminated. [Record No 20, p. 3 ¶ 13] She alleges that her termination was a result of the exercise of her FMLA rights, and that she was on approved FMLA leave when terminated. [ Id. ¶¶ 14, 15]

Banks filed her Complaint in the Fayette Circuit Court. The defendants then removed the action to this Court. [Record No. 1] After removal, Banks requested and received permission to file an Amended Complaint to assert claims against Defendant Allen based on Allen's deposition testimony. The Amended Complaint states the following claims against all of the defendants: (i) FMLA interference under 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1); (ii) FMLA retaliation under 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(2); (iii) disability discrimination in violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act ("KCRA") under KRS § 344.040; (iv) failure to accommodate in violation of the KCRA under KRS § 344.040; (v) unlawful retaliation in violation of the KCRA under KRS § 344.0280; (vi) negligence, negligent hiring, negligent training, negligent supervision, and negligent retention; (vii) punitive damages; and (viii) outrage and intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED"). [Record No. 20, pp. 3-8]

The defendants argue that all counts should be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure because: (i) Banks' KCRA claims are not properly asserted against the Individual Defendants; (ii) the IIED, FMLA, and punitive damages claims are insufficiently pled; (iii) Banks' negligence claims are improperly asserted against the Individual Defendants; and (iv) the Amended Complaint does not meet federal pleading standards because it fails to distinguish between the multiple defendants.

II.

When evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must determine whether the subject complaint alleges "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The plausibility standard is met "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Although the complaint need not contain "detailed factual allegations" to survive a motion to dismiss, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotation marks and alteration omitted).

In considering a 12(b)(6) motion, the Court is required to "accept all of plaintiff's factual allegations as true and determine whether any set of facts consistent with the allegations would entitle the plaintiff to relief." G.M. Eng'rs & Assoc., Inc. v. West Bloomfield Twp., 922 F.2d 328, 330 (6th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). However, the Court need not accept as true legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations if those conclusions cannot be plausibly drawn from the facts, as alleged. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 ("[T]he tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions."); see also Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986) (noting that in reviewing a motion to dismiss, the district court "must take all the factual allegations in the complaint as true, " but that the court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation."). Thus, Rule 12(b)(6) essentially "allows the Court to dismiss, on the basis of a dispositive issue of law, meritless cases which would otherwise waste judicial resources and result in unnecessary discovery." Glassman, Edwards, Wade & Wyatt, P.C. v. Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz, LLP, 601 F.Supp.2d 991, 997 (W.D. Tenn. Mar. 10, 2009).

III.

A. KCRA's Applicability to Individual Defendants

The Individual Defendants contend that the KCRA claims should be dismissed because it is well-established in this circuit that individuals cannot be liable under the Act. Wathen v. GE, 115 F.3d 400, 404-05 (6th Cir. 1997). In Wathen, the Sixth Circuit explained that the language of the KCRA mirrors Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1974 defining employers. Id. at 405. As a result, KCRA claims do not permit liability of individuals because they would not be considered "employers" as defined by the two statutes. Id. at 404-05. Additionally, the Supreme Court of Kentucky has held that an individual cannot qualify as an employer as defined in the KCRA and therefore cannot be liable for claims arising under the KCRA. Palmer v. Int'l Ass'n of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO, 882 S.W.2d 117, 119 (Ky. 1994).

However, the Sixth Circuit and the Supreme Court of Kentucky have limited this general rule. While KCRA claims cannot typically be asserted against individuals, an individual can be liable for retaliation. See Morris v. Oldham Cnty. Fiscal Ct., 201 F.3d 784, 793-94 (6th Cir. 1997); Brooks v. Lexington-Fayette Urban Cnty. Hous. Auth., 132 S.W.3d 790, 808 (Ky. 2004). The Sixth Circuit has indicated that the retaliation provision of the act (KRS § 344.280), states "it shall be an unlawful practice for a person, or for two (2) or more persons to... retaliate...." (emphasis in original). Morris, 201 F.3d at 793-94. "Person" is defined in the Act to include "one (1) or more individuals. " KRS § 344.010(1) (emphasis added). Due to the different definitions, individuals may be held liable for retaliation. Morris, 201 F.3d at 793-94.

While not meeting the definition of "employer", the Individual Defendants do satisfy the definition of persons. Thus, the retaliation claims in Count Five against the Individual Defendants are not barred by the language of the statute and the KCRA retaliation claims will not be dismissed. However, the discrimination and failure to accommodate claims (in Count Three and Four) will be dismissed concerning the Individual Defendants, as they do not qualify as employers under the KCRA.

B. IIED

The defendants next claim that Banks has failed to state a claim of IIED because it is based on discriminatory termination and is subsumed by the KCRA.[1] [Record No. 25-1, pp. 3-5] To state a claim for IIED, a plaintiff must show that: (i) the wrongdoer's conduct is intentional or reckless; (ii) the conduct is outrageous and intolerable in that it offends the generally accepted standards of decency and morality; (iii) there is a causal connection between the wrongdoer's conduct and the emotional distress; and (iv) the distress suffered must be severe. Osborne v. Payne, 31 S.W.3d ...


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