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Murdock v. CSX Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division

March 29, 2017

Michael J. Murdock, Plaintiff
v.
CSX Transportation, Inc., Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Jeffrey J. Helmick United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Before me is Defendant CSX Transportation, Inc.'s motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 7), Plaintiff's opposition (Doc. No. 11), and Defendant's reply (Doc. No. 12). Defendant argues dismissal is appropriate because Plaintiff's off-duty personal illness falls outside the scope of the anti-retaliation provisions to the Federal Railway Safety Act (“FRSA”), allegedly violated by CSX. For the reasons that follow, I find the Defendant's motion to dismiss well taken.

         II. Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for dismissal of a lawsuit for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Courts must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint when ruling on a motion to dismiss. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Thurman v. Pfizer, Inc., 484 F.3d 855, 859 (6th Cir. 2007). To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “even though a complaint need not contain ‘detailed' factual allegations, its ‘factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true.'” Ass'n of Cleveland Fire Fighters v. City of Cleveland, Ohio, 502 F.3d 545, 548 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         Conclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual allegations will not suffice. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (stating that the complaint must contain something more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action”). A complaint must state sufficient facts to, when accepted as true, state a claim “that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (explaining that the plausibility standard “asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully” and requires the complaint to allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct).

         III. Discussion

         A. Positions of the Parties Plaintiff was an employee of CSX at the time of his termination. He claims the Defendant violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. § 20109(b) (1) and (c) (2), insofar as he was terminated after missing work due to illness. Plaintiff alleges he was engaged in protected conduct when he missed work due to illness, nevertheless the Defendant terminated him from employment in violation of the FRSA.

         In contrast, Defendant contends Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted as he neither reported a work-related illness nor missed work pursuant to a physician's orders or treatment plan. Alternatively, the Defendant argues Plaintiff failed to properly exhaust his administrative remedies or that he pled facts sufficient to sustain a claim for relief under 49 U.S.C. § 20109(b)(1)(B).

         Both sides dispute whether Plaintiff was engaged in FRSA-protected activity. The Defendant states this activity was not protected because the Plaintiff did not suffer from a work- related illness or injury. The Plaintiff contends § 20109(c)(2) protects an employee whether or not his illness or injury is work-related.

         B. Employee protections under § 20109(c)

         The FRSA's anti-retaliation provision addresses prompt medical attention as follows:

(c) Prompt medical attention.--
(1) Prohibition.--A railroad carrier or person covered under this section may not deny, delay, or interfere with the medical or first aid treatment of an employee who is injured during the course of employment. If transportation to a hospital is requested by an employee who is injured during the course of employment, the railroad shall promptly arrange to have the injured employee transported to the nearest hospital where the employee can receive safe and appropriate medical care.
(2) Discipline.--A railroad carrier or person covered under this section may not discipline, or threaten discipline to, an employee for requesting medical or first aid treatment, or for following orders or a treatment plan of a treating physician, except that a railroad carrier's refusal to permit an employee to return to work following medical treatment shall not be considered a violation of this section if the refusal is pursuant to Federal Railroad Administration medical standards for fitness of duty or, if there are no pertinent Federal Railroad Administration standards, a carrier's medical standards for fitness for duty. For purposes of this paragraph, the term “discipline” ...

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