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Buren v. PPG Industries Inc

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

April 24, 2018

DOREEN VAN BUREN, et al., Plaintiff,



         Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Party Plaintiff Steven Van Buren and Public Policy Claims. Doc #: 10. This action stems from the termination of Doreen Van Buren from PPG Industries, Inc., on November 11, 2016. For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's Motion is GRANTED.

          I. Background

         Plaintiff Doreen Van Buren (“Ms. Van Buren”) is a former employee of Defendant PPG Industries, Inc. (“PPG”). She worked as a Development Assistant in PPG's Cleveland plant for over 38 years. Doc #: 9, ¶ 19. Sometime in 2013, Ms. Van Buren noticed safety concerns within the plant, which she reported to her immediate supervisors. Doc #: 9, ¶ 16. These safety concerns included open wiring and running water near electrical outlets. Id. Ms. Van Buren alleges that these unsafe conditions went on without repair until she reported them to PPG's regional management. Id. Although these hazards were eventually addressed and corrected, Ms. Van Buren alleges that she was subject to discrimination and harassment as a result of reporting these hazards directly to PPG's regional management. Id.

         Ms. Van Buren asserts that the harassment and discrimination that she experienced began in 2015, by her direct supervisor, Jeffrey Clark. Doc #: 9, ¶ 16. Such harassment and discrimination included Ms. Van Buren being denied overtime hours in other departments within plant, despite her ability to competently work in these departments; being threatened with sanctions if she attempted to work overtime in other departments; the denial of promotions or other financial incentives; and being publicly degraded in front of her peers. Doc #: 9, ¶ 14-15.

         In 2015, Ms. Van Buren was placed on probationary status for violating PPG's employment practices, which she asserts was implemented without justification. Doc #: 9, ¶ 13. As a result of her probationary status, Ms. Van Buren was subject to a performance improvement plan. In addition, she was deprived of performance bonuses, as well as other financial incentives, which were offered to her male counterparts who allegedly had less experience. Id. Ms. Van Buren further asserts that she was “spied on” by another employee, which she alleges was done simply to further harass her. Id.

         In response to the conduct exhibited by her superiors, Ms. Van Buren sought assistance from PPG's Human Resources Department, but this conduct allegedly continued. Doc #: 9, ¶ 18. Ms. Van Buren then went through PPG's “chain of command” to report the conduct in question, however, she alleges that PPG's management turned a blind eye. Id. On or about November 11, 2016, Ms. Van Buren was terminated from her employment with PPG. Doc #: 9, ¶ 19.

         Ms. Van Buren, along with her husband Steven Van Buren (“Mr. Van Buren”), filed suit against PPG on November 8, 2017 in the Cuyahoga Court of Common Pleas, Case No. CV-17-888714. Doc #: 1. PPG filed its Notice of Removal on December 12, 2017. Doc #: 1. PPG filed a combined partial motion to dismiss and motion for more definite statement on December 19, 2017. Doc #: 4. Plaintiffs filed a Response on January 22, 2018 and requested leave to file an Amended Complaint. Doc #: 5. The Court granted Plaintiffs leave until January 26, 2018 to file an Amended Complaint. Doc #: 6. Plaintiffs filed their First Amended Complaint on January 26, 2018. Doc #: 7. The Court ordered Plaintiffs to correct the deficiencies in their First Amended Complaint by January 31, 2018. Doc #: 8. On that day, Plaintiffs filed their Second Amended Complaint (the “SAC”). Doc #: 9. In the SAC, Ms. Van Buren alleges claims of wrongful termination in violation of public policy, wrongful termination, and gender discrimination. Mr. Van Buren alleges a loss of consortium claim. PPG filed its second partial motion to dismiss on February 13, 2018. Doc #: 10. Plaintiffs filed their Response on March 15, 2018. Doc #: 11. PPG filed its Reply on March 29, 2018. Doc #: 13. PPG's motion, fully briefed, is now before the Court.

         II. Standard of Review

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” and not merely “conceivable.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The factual allegations must be sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. at 555. Although Rule 12(b)(6) does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, a plaintiff must present enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary elements of a cause of action. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court must accept as true all well-pled material allegations in the complaint and “determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         III. Analysis

         In its Motion to Dismiss, PPG first seeks to dismiss Steven Van Buren as a party to this action. PPG also seeks to dismiss Ms. Van Buren's claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy. The Court will address each argument in turn.

         A. Steven Van Buren

         Mr. Van Buren's only claim is that he suffered loss of consortium as a result of the emotional pain that his wife experienced from her termination. Doc #: 9, ¶ 49. PPG argues that Mr. Van Buren cannot state a loss of consortium claim because the Van Burens fail to allege facts ...

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