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Mitchell v. Brennan

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

July 29, 2019

TASHANA MITCHELL, Plaintiff,
v.
MEGAN J. BRENNAN, Defendant.

          Chelsey M. Vascura, Magistrate Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER

          EDMUND A. SARGUS, JR. CHIEF JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court for consideration of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 13), Plaintiffs Memorandum in Opposition (ECF No. 15), and Defendant's Reply Brief (ECF No. 17). For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. (ECF No. 13).

         I.

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff Tashana Mitchell ("Plaintiff') brought this suit against Defendant Megan J. Brennan, Postmaster General ("Defendant"), alleging violations of the Family Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq. ("FMLA"); the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 791, et seq.; and Tide VII of the Civil Rights Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2000(e), et seq. ("Title VII").[1] Plaintiff is a resident of Ohio. (Am. Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 9). Plaintiff has been employed by the United States Postal Service ("USPS") since 2013, and began working in her current Custodial Services position at the Columbus, Ohio location in June 2016. (Id. ¶ 6).

         On December 7, 2016, Plaintiff informed Defendant that, beginning that day, she would be taking intermittent FMLA leave to care of her disabled daughter. (Id. ¶ 6). Plaintiff alleges that on at least ten occasions in 2017, she requested and was denied promotional opportunities for 204B supervisory positions, Facilitator Training, and Safety Captain Training. (Id. ¶ 7). Plaintiff claims that Defendant cited Plaintiffs numerous absences and "excessive" use of FMLA as the reason for the denials. (Id.) Additionally, Plaintiff claims that her supervisor suggested that Plaintiffs use of FMLA was seen as "exaggerating" her daughter's condition and stated: "[y]ou have to be here." (Id.). On November 10, 2017, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") (No. 1C-0002-18), asserting that she was denied opportunities for upward job mobility due to FMLA-protected absences. (Id. ¶ 9).

         Plaintiff contends that, as a result of filing her EEO complaint, facility managers "began to mentally and physically harass and intimidate her" by regularly following Plaintiff around while she performed her duties, and making repeated comments about her "excessive" use of FMLA. (Id. ¶ 10). Additionally, Plaintiff asserts that after filing her first EEO complaint, she was denied a promotional training opportunity for which a person of less seniority was selected. (Id. ¶ 12). Plaintiff then filed a second complaint with the EEO (No. 1C-415-0089-18), asserting that management made rude comments about Plaintiffs work ethic, threatened her with physical violence, and made repeated comments about her "excessive" use of FMLA in response to Plaintiffs FMLA absences and association with a disabled person, (Id. ¶¶ 10-11).

         On October 22, 2018, Plaintiffs second EEO complaint was dismissed as redundant to the subject matter of her first EEO complaint. (Id. ¶ 14). On October 25, 2018, Plaintiff received a Final Agency Decision on her first EEO complaint giving her the option to file a lawsuit in district court on the facts of the EEO complaint. (Id. ¶ 13).

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed suit on November 7, 2018, claiming that Defendant violated the FMLA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. (Id. ¶ 27). On May 1, 2019, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 9). On June 5, 2019, Defendant moved to dismiss Plaintiffs Amended Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 13). Plaintiff responded (ECF No. 15), and Defendant replied (ECF No. 17). Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is ripe for review.

         II.

         To determine whether a complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court must: (1) accept the factual allegations contained in the pleadings as true, and (2) determine whether the factual allegations present any plausible claim. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (clarifying the plausibility standard articulated in Twombly). "A claim has facial plausibility 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. The factual allegations of a pleading "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . ." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Consequently, a complaint will not be dismissed pursuant to rule 12(b)(6) unless there is no law to support the claims made, the facts alleged are insufficient to state a claim, or there is an insurmountable bar on the face of the complaint.

         Defendant contends that Plaintiffs allegations under the FMLA, the Rehabilitation Act, Title VII, and "any other legal theory" should be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. (Mot. to Dismiss at 5). The Court will consider the sufficiency of Plaintiffs FMLA, Rehabilitation Act, and Title VII claims in turn.

         A. Is it Factually Plausible that Defendant Violated the FMLA?

         It is "unlawful for any employer to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of or the attempt to exercise, any right provided under" the FMLA. 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1). "[Interfering with" the exercise of an employee's rights under the FMLA includes "discouraging an employee from using [FMLA] leave." Arban v. W. Pub. Corp.,345 F.3d 390, 402 (6th Cir. 2003) (quoting 29 C.F.R. § 825.220(b)). The FMLA also prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee by using her "FMLA leave as a negative factor in employment actions, such as hiring, promotions, or disciplinary actions . . ." 29 C.F.R. § 825.220(c). Thus, an employer cannot interfere with an ...


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