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Graham v. Hubbs Machine and Manufacturing, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

February 19, 2015

TONYA GRAHAM, Plaintiff,
v.
HUBBS MACHINE AND MANUFACTURING, INC. and RICK BENWARD, Defendants

Page 936

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 937

For Tonya Graham, Plaintiff: Bridget L. Halquist, Daniel John Kolde, LEAD ATTORNEYS, CHACKES AND CARLSON, St. Louis, MO.

For Hubbs Machine and Manufacturing, Inc., Rick Benward, Defendants: James N. Foster, Jr., Stephen B. Maule, LEAD ATTORNEYS, MCMAHON AND BERGER, St. Louis, MO.

For Rick Benward, Counter Claimant: James N. Foster, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, MCMAHON AND BERGER, St. Louis, MO.

For Hubbs Machine and Manufacturing, Inc., Counter Claimant: James N. Foster, Jr., Stephen B. Maule, LEAD ATTORNEYS, MCMAHON AND BERGER, St. Louis, MO.

For Tonya Graham, Counter Defendant: Daniel John Kolde, LEAD ATTORNEY, CHACKES AND CARLSON, St. Louis, MO.

Page 938

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

CAROL E. JACKSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

This matter is before the Court on defendants' partial motion to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint for failure to state a claim for relief, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Plaintiff has filed a response in opposition, and the issues are fully briefed.

I. Background

For purposes of this motion to dismiss, the court assumes as true all factual allegations in the amended complaint. See Magee v. Trustees of Hamline University, 747 F.3d 532, 534 (8th Cir. 2014).

Tonya Graham was employed by defendant Hubbs Machine and Manufacturing, Inc. from February 1996 until her termination in July 2013. At the time of her termination, Graham was vice president of the company, and had worked in that capacity since July 2008.

In May 2013, Rick Benward, a licensed broker employed by New York Life (NY Life), became the president of Hubbs Machine. Benward, through his employment at N.Y. Life, was the third party manager of Hubbs Machine's employee retirement and benefits plan. After Benward joined Hubbs Machine, Graham began voicing concerns to him and to William Hubbs, the CEO and owner of the company, that Benward's concurrent employment with N.Y. Life created a conflict of interest.

On June 10, 2013, Graham contacted a compliance representative at N.Y. Life, who told her that Benward's concurrent employment constituted outside business activity in violation of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) rules. On June 12, 2013, Graham again confronted Benward with her concerns about his conflict of interest. On June 17, 2013, Benward announced that a new third party manager at N.Y. Life would manage the company's retirement and benefits plan. At the same time, Benward also surrendered his FINRA broker's license.

Graham alleges that immediately afterward, she began suffering retaliation for her complaints, including unwarranted disciplinary actions, reductions of duties and responsibilities, and harassment. On July 29, 2013, Graham received a memo from Benward threatening her employment at Hubbs Machine and a letter from William Hubbs accusing her of engaging in conduct that violated ...


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