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Durrell v. Tech Electronics Inc.

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

November 15, 2016

ROBERT DURRELL, Plaintiff,
v.
TECH ELECTRONICS, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CATHERINE D. PERRY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Robert Durrell worked at Tech Electronics, Inc., since 1994. After taking medical leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)[1] in 2016, Durrell returned to work only to be terminated by Tech a few weeks later. In this action, Durrell claims that Tech unlawfully retaliated against him for taking FMLA leave, in violation of the FMLA; and unlawfully terminated him because of his disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act[2] and the Missouri Human Rights Act.[3] Durrell also brings state tort claims of slander/invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Finally, Durrell seeks a declaration that portions of his employment agreement with Tech are void and/or unenforceable.

         Durrell now seeks leave to file a second amended complaint, which does not add claims but merely adds a factual allegation to support his claim for declaratory relief. I will grant this motion. Because the second amended complaint does not change the nature or substance of Durrell's claims, I will consider Tech's pending motion to dismiss as being directed to the second amended complaint. For the following reasons, I will grant the motion in part and deny it in part.

         Legal Standard

         Tech seeks to dismiss Durrell's tort claims and his claim for declaratory relief under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. When reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, I assume the allegations in the complaint to be true and construe the complaint in plaintiff's favor. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007); Huggins v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc., 592 F.3d 853, 862 (8th Cir. 2010); Anzaldua v. Northeast Ambulance & Fire Prot. Dist., 978 F.Supp.2d 1016, 1021 (E.D. Mo. 2013). To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ” but it must contain facts with enough specificity “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The issue in determining a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether the plaintiff is entitled to present evidence in support of the claim. See Skinner v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521, 529-30 (2011) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)).

         Background[4]

         Robert Durrell began working at Tech as an estimator/account manager in 1994. He was an at-will employee. Contained within his employment agreement with Tech is a non-compete clause and a clause that permitted Tech to terminate him if he became unable to perform his duties because of illness, accident, or other physical or mental incapacity.

         Beginning in 2015, Durrell began experiencing job-related anxiety for which he received medical treatment. Beginning January 18, 2016, Durrell took a five-week period of leave under the FMLA. Tech was aware that his leave was on account of work-related stress. When Durrell was ready to return to work after five weeks, Tech delayed his return for an additional four-to-five-week period. Upon Durrell's return, Tech presented him with a document outlining mandatory work-related changes to Durrell's work activities. Durrell signed the agreement under threat of immediate termination if he did not sign it. On April 22, 2016, Tech terminated Durrell's employment.

         During Durrell's medical leave, Tech sent Durrell many emails that required responses. United States Marshals also went to Durrell's home during this time and demanded to examine the home and Durrell's personal belongings. Durrell claims that Tech was responsible for sending the marshals to his home.

         After Durrell was terminated, a Tech supervisor demanded that Durrell surrender the contents of his briefcase, which included Durrell's personal items. The marshals again visited Durrell at his home and demanded to examine his home and personal belongings. Durrell claims that it was Tech who sent the marshals.

         Sometime after all of these events occurred, Durrell suffered a heart attack.

         In November 2016, Tech informed Durrell that it had obtained information that Durrell may be employed by a competitor and thus was acting inconsistently with the non-compete clause of the employment agreement. Tech advised that it would asserts its rights thereunder.

         Discussion

         A. Slander/Inva ...


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