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Jones v. Westlake Management Services, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah

December 21, 2018

RONALD L. JONES, PLAINTIFF
v.
WESTLAKE MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AN ORDER

          Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge

         This matter is before the Court upon a motion by Defendant, Westlake Management Services, Inc. (“Westlake Management”), to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as to all claims of Plaintiff Ronald L. Jones (“Jones”). [DN 5]. Plaintiff has responded, [DN 7], and Defendant has filed a reply. [DN 8]. Fully briefed, Defendants' motion is ripe for review, and for the following reasons, it is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The factual allegations as set out in the Complaint, [DN 1], and taken as true are as follows.[1]Westlake Management hired Jones as a Safety Engineer in March 2000. [DN 1 at 2]. During the course of Jones's employment, he also became Westlake Management's fire chief and emergency response coordinator at the company's Calvert City facility. Id. at 3. Jones was a competent employee, and in fact the only issues raised about Jones's performance occurred after he made complaints about two instances of supervisor misbehavior to Westlake Management's local human resources representative. Id.

         First, Jones informed the local human resources representative about inappropriate comments made by his supervisor in 2014. Id. After reporting the inappropriate comments to human resources, Jones was placed on a “performance improvement plan.” Id. Jones successfully completed the performance improvement plan. Id. Second, in the spring of 2017, Jones reported to the local human resources representative that he had observed a manager standing over a young female employee, pointing his finger at her, and yelling at her while the employee cried over the inappropriate treatment. Id. After reporting that he had observed disparate treatment of the female employee on the basis of her sex, Jones was kept out of functions that were part of his job. Id. at 3-4. For example, Jones was not allowed to participate in an audit with the fire safety vendor and was not allowed to attend a training session in Mississippi which he regularly attended. Id. at 3.

         During the audit that Jones was not allowed to attend, the fire safety vendor found problems. Id. at 4. However, the problems would not have been listed if Jones was present to answer questions about the fire safety system for the safety vendor. Id. After the audit, Westlake Management placed Jones on a performance improvement plan identical to the plan he had completed in 2014. Id. Again, Jones completed the performance improvement plan. Id. Then, on August 15, 2017, Westlake Management terminated Jones. Id.

         Jones claims that Westlake Management terminated him in retaliation for his complaints about the harassment or disparate treatment of an employee on the basis of her sex, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         In a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), “[t]he defendant has the burden of showing that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim for relief.” Directv, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing Carver v. Bunch, 946 F.2d 451, 454-55 (6th Cir. 1991)). A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In order to survive a motion to dismiss under Civil 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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (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, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (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 Fed.Appx. 369, 371 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677-79).

         III. DISCUSSION

         In its motion to dismiss, Westlake Management presents two arguments: (1) that Jones has not stated a claim because he did not engage in protected activity under Title VII or the KCRA; and (2) Jones has not attempted to demonstrate a causal connection between the alleged protected activity and his termination. The Court will address each of these arguments individually.

         a. Protected Activity.

         Plaintiff's claim is based on Title VII's “opposition clause.” The Supreme Court has explained:

The opposition clause makes it "unlawful . . . for an employer to discriminate against any . . . employe[e] . . . because he has opposed any practice made . . . unlawful . . . by this subchapter." § 2000e-3(a). The term "oppose," being left undefined by the statute, carries its ordinary meaning, Perrin v. United States,444 U.S. 37, 42, 100 S.Ct. 311, 62 L.Ed.2d 199 (1979): "[t]o resist or antagonize . . .; to contend against; to confront; resist; withstand," Webster's New International Dictionary 1710 (2d ed. 1957). Although these actions entail varying expenditures of energy, "resist frequently implies more active striving than oppose." Ibid.; see also Random House Dictionary of ...

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