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Hall v. The Nutro Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

August 16, 2017

MAURICE L. HALL, Plaintiff,
v.
THE NUTRO COMPANY, and MARS PETCARE US, INC., Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          ORTRIE D. SMITH, SENIOR JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Pending is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Count III and any claim for punitive damages in Plaintiff's Complaint. Doc. #12. For the reasons below, the Court grants the motion in part and denies it in part.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff brings claims against Defendants Mars Petcare US, Inc., and The Nutro Company, alleging Defendants jointly employed Plaintiff.[1] Plaintiff began working for Defendants in April 2011 as a “utility packer, ” and was a “packing operator II” in May 2015 when Defendants terminated his employment.

         Plaintiff sustained an injury in February 2015 which required him to be absent from work. Due to his injury, Plaintiff requested and received leave pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Prior to taking leave, Plaintiff regularly worked the 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (“day shift”). However, while Plaintiff was on FMLA leave, his supervisor informed him that employees had voted on new shift assignments based on seniority. Despite Plaintiff's seniority, he was not given the opportunity to participate in the vote, and was informed he was required to work the 6:00 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. (“night shift”) upon his return from FMLA leave. Plaintiff complained about his lack of a vote despite his seniority, and expressed an inability to work the night shift due to childcare obligations, but his supervisor indicated they would “work something out.” Although Plaintiff was required to work the night shift, he was informed he could arrive late and use vacation time for the missed time.

         On April 28, 2015, Plaintiff was cleared to return to work, and did so that same day. However, Plaintiff slipped and fell only hours into that shift, aggravating his previous injury. Plaintiff was unable to return to work until May 4, 2015, when he reported at 10:00 p.m. for the night shift. Plaintiff continued “in this practice” until Defendants terminated his employment on May 27, 2015. In June 2015, Plaintiff complained to Defendants' human resources department that his termination was unfair because he did not vote on the new shift assignments, and he was required to use vacation time for the hours he was unable to work on the night shift.

         Plaintiff brings claims for FMLA violations, retaliation in violation of Missouri's Workers' Compensation Law (“MWCL”), and infliction of emotional distress. Defendants, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), move to dismiss Count III and any claims for punitive damages in Plaintiff's Complaint.

         II. STANDARD

         The liberal pleading standard created by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). "Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only 'give the defendant fair notice of what the…claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Id. (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court "must accept as true all of the complaint's factual allegations and view them in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff[ ].” Stodghill v. Wellston Sch. Dist., 512 F.3d 472, 476 (8th Cir. 2008).

To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. 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. The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

In keeping with these principles a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.

Id. at 679.

         A claim is facially plausible if it allows the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the conduct alleged. See Horras v. Am. Capital Strategies, Ltd., 729 F.3d 798, 801 (8th Cir. 2013); Braden ...


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