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Tognozzi v. Mastercard International Inc.

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

May 22, 2017

AMY TOGNOZZI, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Amy Tognozzi worked as a vice president for defendant Mastercard International Incorporated from 2011 until her termination in January of 2015. She alleges that her supervisor, defendant Mary Griffin, continually gave preferential treatment to Tognozzi's male counterpart, interfered with Tognozzi's right to take FMLA leave, and ultimately terminated her for discriminatory reasons in January 2015. Tognozzi brings claims of sex and disability discrimination and retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Missouri Human Rights Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, and Title VII.

         Defendants Mastercard and Griffin have moved to dismiss certain of the claims. Mastercard argues that plaintiff's FMLA claim is barred by the two-year statute of limitations to the extent it is based on a claim that Mastercard wrongfully discouraged her from taking leave. It also argues that she has failed to allege sufficient facts to show that she was discriminated against on the basis of her gender or in retaliation for complaints of sex discrimination. Griffin makes the same arguments but also seeks to dismiss the ADA and Title VII claims against her. Tognozzi concedes that her claims under the ADA and Title VII against defendant Griffin must be dismissed because these claims cannot be brought against an individual supervisor, and so I will grant the motion to dismiss those claims. Plaintiff's claims otherwise are pleaded sufficiently to survive the motions to dismiss, so I will deny the motions in all other respects.

         I. Motion to Dismiss Standard

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. When considering a 12(b)(6) motion, the court assumes the factual allegations of a complaint are true and construes them in favor of the plaintiff. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989).

         Rule 8(a)(2), Fed. R. Civ. P., provides that a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, the Supreme Court clarified that Rule 8(a)(2) requires complaints to contain “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); accord Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). Specifically, to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain enough factual allegations, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief “that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. The issue in considering such a motion is not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether the plaintiff is entitled to present evidence in support of the claim. See Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327.

         II. Background [1]

         Tognozzi began working as a Vice President/Senior Business leader of Financial Analysis for Mastercard in March 2011. At the time of the events in question, she managed a team of twelve people - four managers and eight supporting team members. During her employment, Tognozzi consistently received positive performance reviews.[2] In April 2013, defendant Griffin became Tognozzi's supervisor and at the same time became supervisor to David Lillis, a male employee with the same job title and a similar skill set to Tognozzi. From April 2013 through October 2014, Griffin consistently gave preferential treatment to Lillis, primarily by increasing Tognozzi's responsibilities and workload, while decreasing Lillis's. On several occasions from March through September 2014, Tognozzi discussed these problems with Griffin, but Griffin refused to consider rebalancing the workload and told Griffin her team was overstaffed for its relative workload.[3] In August 2014, Tognozzi shared her frustrations about the workload inequities with a human resources representative, but received no response. Two of the managers on Tognozzi's team also expressed concerns about the unequal work distribution between Tognozzi's and Lillis's teams to the same HR representative.

         In July 2014 Tognozzi had surgery on her hand and was required to wear a cast for ten weeks afterward that immobilized two fingers, her hand, and forearm. The hand caused Tognozzi constant, extreme pain, affected her ability to type and drive a car and required her to take pain medication. Tognozzi's doctor recommended she take some medical leave after her surgery. When Tognozzi approached Griffin about the possibility of taking FMLA leave to recuperate, Griffin discouraged Tognozzi from doing so by recounting her own history of working while recovering from leg surgery. Based on this discussion, Tognozzi did not take FMLA leave because she feared retaliation from Griffin. No accommodations were made for Tognozzi during this time, and Griffin's attitude became increasingly hostile. Tognozzi began to experience physical symptoms of the stress caused by her job situation, including severe hair loss, weight loss, an unexplained rash, and loss of sleep. However, Tognozzi continued to perform and complete her work duties. In September 2014, Griffin stated Tognozzi was not performing “at her level, ” but was unable to articulate any specifics as to what Tognozzi should do differently and acknowledged that the work was getting done.

         In October 2014, upon the advice of her doctor, Tognozzi took three months' FMLA leave to address her deteriorating health problems. She was not advised of any performance deficiencies or intent to terminate her employment at any point during her leave. On the same day she returned to work, January 5, 2015, Griffin and Mastercard terminated Tognozzi's employment.

         In Count I of her complaint, Tognozzi alleges disability discrimination and retaliation in violation of the MHRA. In Count II she alleges disability discrimination and retaliation in violation of the ADA; in Count III she alleges interference and retaliation in violation of the FMLA; in Count IV she alleges sex discrimination and retaliation in violation of the MHRA; and in Count V she alleges sex discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII. All five counts are asserted against both defendants.

         III. Discussion

         In her opposition to the motions to dismiss, Tognozzi concedes Counts II and V should be dismissed as to defendant Griffin. Therefore, I will grant Griffin's motion to dismiss as to these two counts without further discussion. As to the remaining counts, I will address defendants' essentially identical arguments to dismiss Count III together. Then I will consider defendants' discrimination and retaliation claims under Count IV and Mastercard's discrimination and retaliation claim under Count V.

         A. Count III - Interference and Retaliation (Family ...

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