United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
B. Russell, Senior Judge.
matter is before the Court upon Plaintiff Charles West's
motion for leave to amend his complaint. [DN 10.] Defendant
Pella Corp., Inc. has responded, [DN 12], and the time for
filing a reply has passed. This matter is ripe for
adjudication. For the following reasons, West's motion
[DN 10] is GRANTED.
Charles West claims that he was wrongfully discharged from
his employment at Pella Corp. in Murray, Kentucky.
See [DN 1-1.] In his original state court complaint,
West alleged that Pella discriminated against him because of
his age, ultimately resulting in his termination.
[Id. at 5-6.] He also claimed that Pella interfered
with his rights under the Family Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C.
§§ 2615 et seq. (FMLA), and retaliated
against him for his exercise of those rights. [Id.
at 6-8.] Finally, West says that Pella discharged him for
filing a lawful worker's compensation claim.
[Id. at 8.] Pella removed West's suit to this
Court and answered, denying West's allegations.
now moves to amend his complaint to add a claim for wrongful
discharge in violation of public policy. [DN 10 at 1.] In
Count VI of his proposed amended complaint, West claims that
Pella terminated his employment “in retaliation for
Plaintiff applying for unemployment insurance benefits, in
violation of the public policy of the Commonwealth of
Kentucky.” [DN 10-2 at 8.] Pella opposes that motion.
Standard of Review
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2), the Court should
freely allow a party to amend its pleading when justice so
requires. Leave to amend is liberally granted, except where
there is “undue delay in filing, lack of notice to the
opposing party, bad faith by the moving party, repeated
failure to cure deficiencies by previous amendments, undue
prejudice to the opposing party, or futility of the
amendment.” Brumbalough v. Camelot Care Ctrs.,
Inc., 427 F.3d 996, 1001 (6th Cir. 2005) (citing Coe
v. Bell, 161 F.3d 320, 341-42 (6th Cir. 1998)); see
also Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). A
proposed amendment is futile “where it would not
withstand a motion to dismiss under [Rule] 12(b)(6) for
failure to state a claim.” Kreipke v. Wayne State
Univ., 807 F.3d 768, 782 (6th Cir. 2015) (citing
Rose v. Hartford Underwriters Ins. Co., 203 F.3d
417, 420 (6th Cir. 2000). Ultimately, the decision to grant
or deny leave “is committed to [this Court's] sound
discretion.” Moore v. City of Paducah, 790
F.3d 557, 559 (6th Cir. 1989); see also Ruschel v.
Nestlé Holdings, Inc., 89 F. App'x 518, 521
(6th Cir. 2004).
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a party must
“plead enough ‘factual matter' to raise a
‘plausible' inference of wrongdoing.”
16630 Southfield Ltd. P'ship v. Flagstar Bank,
F.S.B., 727 F.3d 502, 504 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). A
claim becomes plausible “when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556
(2007)). Should the well-pleaded facts support no “more
than the mere possibility of misconduct, ” then
dismissal is warranted. Id. at 679. The Court may
grant a motion to dismiss “only if, after drawing all
reasonable inferences from the allegations in the complaint
in favor of the plaintiff, the complaint still fails to
allege a plausible theory of relief.” Garceau v.
City of Flint, 572 F. App'x 369, 371 (6th Cir. 2014)
(citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677-79).
seeks leave to amend his complaint to add an additional
count, wrongful discharge in violation of public policy.
Ordinarily, Kentucky allows “an employer [to] discharge
his at-will employee for good cause, for no cause, or for a
cause that some might view as morally indefensible.”
Firestone Textile Co. Div., Firestone Tire & Rubber
Co. v. Meadows, 666 S.W.2d 730, 731 (Ky. 1983)
(citations omitted). But Kentucky also recognizes a limited
exception to that rule for terminations against public
policy. Grzyb v. Evans, 700 S.W.2d 399, 401 (Ky.
1985); accord Hall v. Consol of Ky. Inc., 162
Fed.Appx. 587, 589-90 (6th Cir. 2006).
exception is narrow: the employee's discharge must be
“contrary to a fundamental and well-defined public
policy as . . . evidenced by a constitutional or statutory
provision.” Grzyb, 700 S.W.2d at 401. Absent
an express legislative prohibition, there are “only two
situations . . . where ‘grounds for discharging an
employee are so contrary to public policy as to be
actionable.'” Id. at 402 (quoting
Suchodolski v. Mich. Consol. Gas Co., 316 N.W.2d
710, 711 (Mich. 1982)). Those situations are (1) “where
the alleged reason for the discharge of the employee was the
[employee's] failure or refusal to violate a law in the
course of employment, ” and (2) “when the reason
for a discharge was the employee's exercise of a right
conferred by well-established legislative enactment.”
Id. (quoting Suchodolski, 316 N.W.2d at
711-12). The question of whether there is an actionable
public-policy foundation is a matter of law for the Court to
determine. Id. at 401.
does not allege his discharge was explicitly prohibited by
statute. Therefore, West must allege that Pella discharged
him because he either refused to violate the law in the
course of his employment, or because he exercised a right
conferred by well-established legislative enactment. West
relies on only the latter theory. In his proposed amended
complaint, West avers he was terminated on January 4, 2015,
and applied for unemployment insurance benefits that same
day. [DN 10-2 at 3-4.] He was rehired on January 13, 2015,
but then terminated a second time on February 12, 2015.
[Id. at 4.] West claims that “[i]n response to
Plaintiff's application for unemployment benefits,
Defendant reinstated Plaintiff's employment and then
discharged Plaintiff a second time on or about February 12,
2015, citing excessive absenteeism.” [Id. at
argues that West's proposed claim is futile because it
contains no “employment-related nexus” necessary
to maintain a viable wrongful termination claim.
Grzyb, 700 S.W.2d at 402. However, Pella does not
seem to dispute that by applying for unemployment benefits,
West “exercise[d] . . . a right conferred by a
well-established legislative enactment”; here,
Kentucky's unemployment benefits scheme. Id.
Drawing all reasonable inferences in West's favor, and
keeping in mind its sound discretion to grant leave to amend,
this Court does believe that West's complaint plausibly
alleges Pella retaliated against West for exercising his
statutory right to apply for unemployment. As Pella correctly
points out, in wrongful termination cases “the public
policy must be defined by statute and must be directed at
providing statutory protection to the worker in his
employment situation.” Shrout v. The TFE
Grp., 161 S.W.3d 351, 355 (Ky. Ct. App. 2005) (emphasis
added). Typically, it is impossible for an employer to
terminate a former employee in retaliation for seeking
unemployment benefits, because the termination will have
already occurred. However, under this particular set of
circumstances, where Pella rehired and re-fired West in rapid
succession after his application for benefits, the Court
believes West has alleged “more than the mere
possibility of misconduct.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
none of the other relevant factors weigh against allowing
West to amend his complaint. See Brumbalough, 427
F.3d at 1001. This is West's first attempt to amend, and
he satisfied this Court's deadline for doing so.
See [DN 8.] There is no indication that West has
engaged in bad faith, or that Pella will be unduly prejudiced
by allowing the amendment. Mindful that this case is in its