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Vanover v. Samsung HVAC, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

November 28, 2018

SAMSUNG HVAC, LLC, et al., Defendants.


          David J. Hale, Judge United States District Court.

         Plaintiff Kevin Vanover claims that his former employer and supervisors, Defendants Samsung HVAC LLC, Vic Perez, and Brian O'Connor, violated the Kentucky Civil Rights Act by discriminating against him and retaliating against him when he reported the alleged discrimination. (Docket No. 28) Samsung HVAC has filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that it does not qualify as an “employer” under the KCRA. (D.N. 35) For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Samsung HVAC's motion to dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are set forth in the amended complaint and taken as true for purposes of the present motion. See Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009)).

         Kevin Vanover worked for Samsung HVAC LLC in Kentucky from December 1, 2015, until his termination on February 20, 2017. (D.N. 28, PageID # 87, 89) Samsung HVAC hired Vanover as Regional Sales Manager, with responsibilities for managing Samsung HVAC's customer relationships and selling Samsung HVAC products in Kentucky and Tennessee. (Id., PageID # 87) Vanover claims escalating harassment by his direct supervisor, Brian O'Connor. (Id., PageID # 87-89) Vanover recounts that O'Connor exhibited “bizarre behavior . . . during a customer meeting” and “began to rant about who won the Civil War” while using profane language. (Id., PageID # 87) O'Connor would call Vanover during the evenings and “humiliate [him] in a[n] openly hostile manner.” (Id.) He also spoke in an inappropriate manner to Vanover in front of other employees. (Id.)

         In May 2016, Vanover reported O'Connor's behavior to Vic Perez, O'Connor's supervisor. (Id., PageID # 88) Perez did not address Vanover's concerns, and Samsung HVAC took no action against O'Connor. (Id.) After this report, O'Connor sent Vanover several inappropriate emails and told Vanover that he was no longer allowed to contact several of his own clients. (Id.) As a result, Vanover “began having serious medical issues.” (Id., PageID # 89) Vanover eventually sought relief from Samsung HVAC's Human Resources Department, and “[a]fter an investigation, [his] reports of harassment were substantiated.” (Id.) Vanover alleges that Samsung HVAC finally terminated his employment on February 20, 2017, “for reporting the harassment and hostile environment that he endured.” (Id.) Vanover then filed this lawsuit in Jefferson Circuit Court (D.N. 1-1), and Samsung HVAC removed the action to this Court. (D.N. 1)

         II. STANDARD

         To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, “a complaint must contain 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, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible on its face “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. If “the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, ” the plaintiff has not shown that he is entitled to relief. Id. at 679. The complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ” but it must provide “more than an unadorned, the-defendant- unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). For purposes of a motion to dismiss, “a district court must (1) view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and (2) take all well-pleaded factual allegations as true.” Tackett, 561 F.3d at 488 (citing Gunasekera, 551 F.3d at 466).

         III. ANALYSIS


         As an initial matter, the Court rejects Samsung HVAC's attempt to convert the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment by attaching several exhibits to both its motion and its reply. (D.N. 35-2; D.N. 40-1, 40-2, 40-3, 40-4) “Because [these] document[s] [are] neither contained nor referenced in the pleadings, the Court must either reject the evidence or treat the motion as one for summary judgment.” Tucker v. Heaton, No. 5:14-CV-00183, 2015 WL 3935883, at *2 (W.D. Ky. June 26, 2015). The Court declines to consider matters outside the pleadings. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). Vanover has failed to state a plausible claim for relief in any event.


         Samsung HVAC argues that it cannot be held liable under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act because Vanover did not adequately allege that it is an employer within the definition of Ky. Rev. Stat. § 344.030. (D.N. 35-1, PageID # 129-30) Vanover has not alleged or argued that Samsung HVAC is in fact an employer as defined by the statute. (See D.N. 28; D.N. 37) Instead, Vanover contends that “a defendant need not meet the statutory definition of ‘employer' under KRS 344.030 to be liable under KRS 344.280.” (Id., PageID # 160)

         Vanover alleges in Count II of his complaint that he was subjected to “discrimination and harassment” and “a hostile work environment” in violation of the KCRA. (D.N. 28) The specific section of the statute that covers such conduct is Ky. Rev. Stat. § 344.040, which prohibits an employer from “discharg[ing] any individual . . . because of the individual's . . . sex.” Further, an employer may not “deprive an individual of employment opportunities or ...

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