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Woodruff v. Jefferson City Area Young Men's Christian Association

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

January 27, 2018

KATHLENE WOODRUFF, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFERSON CITY AREA YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION, ET. AL., Defendants.

          ORDER

          Willie J. Epps, Jr. United States Magistrate Judge.

         Pending before the Court is defendants Craig Lammers and Michelle Poire's motion to dismiss plaintiff Kathlene Woodruff's Complaint (Doc. 12), and suggestions in support thereof (Doc. 13). Plaintiff has filed suggestions in opposition to the motion (Doc. 18), to which Defendant has filed a reply (Doc. 21). The motion to dismiss is now ripe for consideration. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim will be granted in part and denied in part as set forth below.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff Kathlene Woodruff brought this action against Defendants Jefferson City Area Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA); YMCA finance director Kathleen Frese, in her individual and official capacities; YMCA chief executive officer Craig Lammers, in his individual and official capacities; and YMCA supervisor Michelle Poire, in her individual and official capacities, alleging retaliation against Plaintiff for exercising her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) and disability discrimination in violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA). The following facts are alleged in Plaintiff's amended complaint.

         Plaintiff was an employee of the YMCA from April 2008 until her termination in July 2016. (Doc. 1-1 at ¶ 7). She alleges that due to an illness, surgery, and a recovery period, she was absent from work, on approved medical leave, from November 2015 thru January 2016. (Doc. 1-1 at ¶¶ 10-12). Plaintiff claims that once she returned to work in February 2016, she was retaliated against for taking medical leave. (Doc. 1-1 at ¶¶ 14-22). Plaintiff states that she unfairly was issued written warnings for failing to properly staff a desk, given a verbal warning for wearing a hat, disciplined for not responding to email in a timely manner, given poor performance ratings, prohibited from terminating poor performing subordinates, and terminated from employment at the YMCA in July 2016. (Doc. 1-1 at ¶¶ 17-22).

         Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on October 31, 2017. She alleges in Count I that the retaliation to which she was subjected for exercising her rights under FMLA entitles her to damages, reinstatement, and other relief. (Doc. 1-1 at ¶¶ 31-33). She alleges in Count II that the disability discrimination that she endured in violation of the MHRA entitles her to an award of various damages, pay, and other relief. (Doc. 1-1 at ¶¶ 34-36).

         Defendants Craig Lammers and Michelle Poire filed this motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Defendants Lammers and Poire argue that claims against them in their official capacity are the same as bringing suit directly against the YMCA itself and should be dismissed as redundant. Defendants Lammers and Poire also assert Count II should be dismissed against them because the MHRA no longer permits individual liability.

         In opposition to the motion to dismiss, Plaintiff does not address the issue of whether her proffered claims against Defendants Lammers and Poire in their official capacities are the same as Plaintiff's claims brought directly against Defendant YMCA. Plaintiff does argue, however, that Count II should not be dismissed. She claims that the MHRA does impose individual liability and that the August 2017 amendment to MHRA is not retroactive. Plaintiff further argues that even if the 2017 amendment did have such retroactive language, Article I, Section 13 of the Missouri Constitution prohibits ex post facto laws.

         In reply, Defendants Lammers and Poire again argue that claims against them in their official capacities should be dismissed because those claims are the same as Plaintiff's claims brought directly against Defendant YMCA. Further, Defendant Lammers and Poire state that the MHRA amendment abrogating individual liability is a remedial amendment that does not violate the constitutional prohibition against ex post facto laws.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD FOR MOTION TO DISMISS

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a claim for relief must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) (2010). The purpose of the short and plain statement is to provide defendants with “fair notice of what … the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007). The rule requires more than an “unadorned” complaint, but requires less than “detailed factual allegations.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Thus, in order 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.'” Id. at 678 (quoting Twombly, at 570). Courts ruling on a motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim, must “construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Carton v. General Motor Acceptance Corp., 611 F.3d 451, 454 (8th Cir. 2010). Nevertheless, courts “are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A court's evaluation of a plaintiff's complaint is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.

         Additionally, in ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court is not limited to the four corners of the complaint. Outdoor Cent., Inc. v. GreatLodge.com, Inc., 643 F.3d 1115, 1120 (8th Cir. 2011). “The court may consider the pleadings themselves, materials embraced by the pleadings, exhibits attached to the pleadings, and matters of public record.” Mills v. City of Grand Forks, 614 F.3d 495, 498 (8th Cir. 2010) (citing Porous Media Corp. v. Pall Corp., 186 F.3d 1077, 1079 (8th Cir.1999)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff brings two claims -- retaliation in violation of FMLA and disability discrimination in violation of MHRA -- against Defendant YMCA as well as against Defendants Craig Lammers, Michelle Poire, and Kathleen Frese in their official and individual capacities. Defendants Lammers and Poire here move to dismiss claims brought against them in their official capacities as redundant with the claims brought ...


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