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Romanowich v. Ashford Columbus Easton LP

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

July 10, 2019

JUSTIN ROMANOWICH, Plaintiff,
v.
ASHFORD COLUMBUS EASTON LP, et al., Defendants.

          Chelsey M. Vascura Magistrate Judge.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          EDMUND A. SARGUS, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 8) filed by Defendants Ashford Columbus Easton LP, Ashford Columbus Easton GP LLC, and Hilton Worldwide Holdings, Inc. (collectively "Defendants"). Plaintiff Justin Romanowich ("Romanowich") filed a Response (ECF No. 16), and Defendants filed a Reply (ECF No. 17). For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 8.)

         I.

         A. Factual Background

         On August 23, 2018, Romanowich checked in for an 11-day stay at the front desk of the Hampton Inn & Suites, located at 4150 Stelzer Road in Columbus, Ohio. (Pl.'s Compl. at ¶ 7 [ECF No. 5].) While checking in, Romanowich spoke to both managers on duty and arranged for his own baptism in the hotel pool, which they scheduled for September 1, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. (Id. at ¶ 8.) According to Romanowich, as employees and staff of the hotel learned about his ceremony they shared genuine excitement. (Id. at ¶ 10.) In Romanowich's view, "[e]verything was going swimmingly" and Defendants provided "[g]reat to OUTSTANDING service" to him. (Id., Ex. A.)

         On September 1, 2018, the morning of Romanowich's scheduled baptism, the hotel's General Manager informed Romanowich that the ceremony was cancelled because it violated Defendants' Company Policy. (Id. at ¶ 13.) Romanowich alleges Defendants discriminated against him due to his religion, in violation of Ohio law. He asserts that Defendants regularly allow weddings and other religious ceremonies on their properties. (Id. at ¶ 18.) Romanowich alleges that the General Manager cancelled the baptism in a "most unpleasant and absurd solitary conversation," which occurred "within feet of the front desk" and "in full view and earshot" of employees and guests. (Id. at ¶ 15, Ex. A.)

         B. Procedural Background

         On February 20, 2019, Romanowich filed suit against Defendants in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. Defendants removed the case to this Court on March 25, 2019. (See ECF No. 1.) Romanowich alleges Defendants unlawfully discriminated against him in violation of Ohio Revised Code Section 4112(G). On April 22, 2019, Defendants moved this Court to dismiss for failing to state a claim. The matter is ripe for review.

         II.

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court may dismiss a cause of action for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Such a motion "is a test of the plaintiffs cause of action as stated in the complaint, not a challenge to the plaintiffs factual allegations." Golden v. City of Columbus, 404 F.3d 950, 958-59 (6th Or. 2005). Therefore, the Court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Total Benefits Planning Agency, Inc. v. Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, 552 F.3d 430, 434 (6th Cir. 2008). The Court is not required, however, to accept as true mere legal conclusions unsupported by factual allegations. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Generally, 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). Plaintiff need not allege detailed facts but must "give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is, and the grounds upon which it rests." Nader v. Blackwell, 545 F.3d 459, 470 (6th Cir. 2008) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007)). In short, a complaint's factual allegations "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). It must contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570.

         III.

         Ohio Revised Code Section 4112.02(G) governs religious discrimination and states, in relevant part:

It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice ... [I]or any proprietor or any employee, keeper, or manager of a place of public accommodation to deny to any person, except for reasons applicable alike to all persons regardless of... religion ..., the full enjoyment of the accommodations, ...

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