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Garner v. Department of Defense

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

January 14, 2020

THERESA GARNER, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, et al, Defendants.

          Vascura Magistrate Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER

          GEORGE C. SMITH, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         This matter is before the Court upon Plaintiff Theresa Garner's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction; Second Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings; and Third Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. (Docs, 37, 52, and 54). Defendants responded to all of Plaintiffs Motions. (Docs. 43, 53, and 57). Plaintiff filed a Reply in Support of her Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction and her Third Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. (Docs. 49; 58). Plaintiff failed to reply to Defendants' opposition to her second motion and the time to do so has passed. Accordingly, this matter is ripe for review. For the reasons stated herein, all of Plaintiffs motions are DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Theresa Garner ("Plaintiff' or "Garner"), a pro se litigant, commenced this action on November 29, 2018. (See generally Doc. 1, Compl.). On June 10, 2019, Plaintiff filed a six-count Second Amended Complaint[1] alleging: 1) racial discrimination; 2) age discrimination; 3) retaliation; 4) a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act; 5) hostile work environment; and 6) a violation of the False Claims Act. (See Doc. 34, SAC ¶¶ 61-74). Defendants filed an Answer to the Second Amended Complaint on June 20, 2018. (See Doc. 35, Answer to SAC).

         Plaintiff is an African-American woman who is over the age of forty and, for the time period relevant to this action, she was employed by the Defense Logistics Agency ("DLA"), a component of the Department of Defense. (Doc. 34, SAC at 2). The over-arching incident that Plaintiff complains of is the DLA's failure to properly compensate her given her qualifications and tenure as a federal employee. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that this failure was attributable to her race and age. Prior to her employment at the DLA, Plaintiff was employed by other federal agencies. (See generally Doc. 34, SAC). Plaintiff provided proof of her former federal employment to the DLA, including the benefits she received while working there as well as her annual salary. (Id. ¶ 28). Plaintiff submits that the DLA failed to:

complete transfer of earned benefits, delay of FMLA. failure to pay out earned benefits, underfunded and miscalculated annuity payments, false certification to the Unemployment Office (UI) and OPM of Plaintiffs actual salaries, dual appointment, FERS credible service, and false certification while on leave without pay (LWOP) to the Unemployment Office AZ (UI)[.]

(Doc. 34, SAC at 2) (emphasis in original). Plaintiff also alleges that approximately one month into her employment, "DLA offered Plaintiff insurance coverage and she accepted." (Id. ¶ 33). Plaintiff asserts that, after one month of health insurance coverage, Defendant, without notifying Plaintiff, ceased providing her health insurance despite deducting payment for coverage from her paycheck. (Id. ¶¶ 29, 30, 32). Because of this alleged underpayment and denial of benefits, Plaintiff filed an administrative complaint. (Id. ¶ 47). After the filing of the administrative complaint, Plaintiff submits that she was retaliated against and she and her family were threatened on at least three different occasions. (Id. ¶¶ 25, 48). Consequently, Plaintiff was on leave without pay status and/or Family Medical Leave Act leave from June 2017 until her retirement on May 8, 2018. (Id. ¶49).

         Additionally, Plaintiff submits that she was treated differently than her similarly situated co-workers after she was injured while at work on November 4, 2016. After this incident, Plaintiff sought "compassionate reassignment" or transfer. (Doc. 34, SAC ¶ 26). And despite there being openings for which she was qualified, Defendant did not select to transfer Plaintiff. (Id.). Further, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant deactivated her credentials and deleted her workers' compensation application for the November 4, 2016 incident. (Id. ¶ 56). When Plaintiffs white, under-forty co-worker filed for workers' compensation, Defendant did not take these measures against Plaintiffs co-worker. (Id.). And when Plaintiff asked for workplace accommodations after she injured herself at work, Defendant suggested Plaintiff retire. (Id. ¶¶ 58-59).

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs motions for judgment on the pleadings. (See Doc. 37, Mot. for J. on Pl. 1; Doc. 52, Mot. for J. on Pl. 2; Doc. 54, Mot. for J. on Pl. 3). In her motions, Plaintiff asserts that judgment in her favor is warranted for three reasons: 1) Defendants' defenses are time-barred; 2) Defendants failed to plead its defenses with the requisite particularity; and 3) collateral estoppel precludes the re-litigation of some of the issues presently before this Court. (See generally id.). Defendants disagree and submit that Plaintiffs motions lack merit. (See generally Doc. 43, Opp'n to Mot. for J. on Pl. 1; Doc. 53, Opp'n to Mot. for J. on Pl. 2; Doc. 57, Opp'n to Mot. for J. on Pl. 3).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Plaintiff brings this motion pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 12(c) provides that "[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings." The standard of review for a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) is the same as that used to address a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Id.; Lindsay v. Yates, 498 F.3d 434, 438 (6th Cir. 2007).

         Rule 12(b)(6) permits dismissal of a lawsuit for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." To meet this standard, a party must allege sufficient facts to state a claim that is "plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp, v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A pleading will satisfy this plausibility standard if it contains "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). In considering whether a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court must "construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept its allegations as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff." Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund v. Standard & Poor's Fin. Servs. LLC, 700 F.3d 829, 835 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Directv, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007)). However, "the tenet that a court must accept a complaint's allegations as true is inapplicable to threadbare recitals of a cause of action's elements, supported by mere conclusory statements." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663. Thus, while a court is to afford plaintiff every inference, the pleading must still contain facts sufficient to "provide a plausible basis for the claims in the complaint;" a recitation of facts intimating the "mere possibility of misconduct" will not suffice. Flex Homes, Inc. v. Ritz-Craft Corp of Mich., Inc., 491 Fed.Appx. 628, 632 (6th Cir. 2012); Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The Court, however, must "liberally construe pro se complaints and hold such complaints to a less stringent standard than pleadings prepared by attorneys." Frengler v. Gen. Motors, 482 Fed.Appx. 975, 976 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing Martin v. Overton, 391 F.3d 710, 712 (6th Cir. 2004)). Such "lenient treatment has limits[, ]" however, and the Court "should not have to guess at the nature of the claim asserted...." Id. at 977 (internal quotations omitted).

         In sum, "[f]or purposes of a motion for judgment on the pleadings, all well-pleaded material allegations of the pleadings of the opposing party must be taken as true, and the motion may be granted only if the moving party is nevertheless clearly entitled to judgment," JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Winget,510 F.3d 577, 581 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting S. Ohio Bank ...


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