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Henson v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.

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

July 15, 2019

R. HENSON, Plaintiff,



         Now before the Court is Defendant Union Pacific Railroad Company's (“UP” or “Defendant”) Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. (Doc. # 27). Plaintiff R. Henson (“Plaintiff”) opposes. (Doc. # 32). Also pending is Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint. (Doc. # 31). Defendant opposes. (Doc. # 34). For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings is GRANTED and Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint is GRANTED.


         I. BACKGROUND

         On December 18, 2018, Plaintiff filed his Petition in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri, alleging Defendants had discriminated against him because of his age and retaliated against him in violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act, Mo. Rev. Stat. § 213 et. seq. (“MHRA”). (Doc. # 1-1, pp. 4-24 (“Petition”)). Plaintiff alleges that UP had constructively terminated him and that Foster B. McDaniel, a manager at UP, had aided and abetted in UP's scheme to “get rid of him.” (Id. at ¶¶ 30, 34).

         Plaintiff alleges a series of comments and events establish that UP was discriminating against him on the basis of age and that after he filed his Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (“MCHR”), the harassment increased. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-62). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges he was demoted on April 1, 2016, to the “Truck Desk” position from Supervisor Foreman General I, following a comment by a younger manager about Plaintiff's vacation time. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-18). According to Plaintiff, UP planned to eliminate the Truck Desk position during a restructuring of the company and moved him to that position to terminate him. (Id. at ¶¶ 21-22). Plaintiff further alleges his working conditions worsened by having to work longer shifts and UP assigning him and other older employees to more physically demanding jobs. (Id. at ¶¶ 25, 27).

         Plaintiff alleges he repeatedly asked what UP's plan was for him, but never received an answer. (Id. at ¶ 28). Plaintiff states that, on or about June 21, 2017, he confronted McDaniel regarding Plaintiff's future with the company. (Id. at ¶ 29). McDaniel responded, “don't worry, this job will be yours as long as you want it. After you retire the job will be eliminated.” (Id.). McDaniel was a manager, although it is not clear from the allegations if he was Plaintiff's manager. (Id.). Based on this sole comment, Plaintiff alleges McDaniel aided and abetted UP in its scheme to “get rid of” Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶ 30).

         Plaintiff alleges that, following McDaniel's comment, company officers, including the managing director, made comments indicating Plaintiff would be terminated or should retire. (Id. at ¶¶ 31, 33, 44, 55). Plaintiff further alleges that UP made policy and workplace decisions designed to negatively impact his work. (Id. at ¶¶ 35-38, 45-47, 50-51). Plaintiff was not given the opportunity to fill a vacancy in a job position that he had previously held, and that position was given to a younger, less experienced employee. (Id. at ¶¶ 49-51). UP eliminated the Truck Desk position as of October 15, 2017. (Id. at ¶ 56). Plaintiff was on vacation and was not told where to report until October 20, 2017. (Id. at ¶¶ 57-58). Plaintiff had been promoted back to his former position as Supervisor Foreman General I, albeit to a less desirable shift. (Id. at ¶¶ 58-61). It was not the shift Plaintiff had requested. (Id. at ¶ 62).

         On October 25, 2017, Plaintiff filed his Charge of Discrimination. (Id. at ¶ 69). Plaintiff alleges his working conditions worsened following the filing of his Charge. (Id. at ¶ 70). Plaintiff recounts two specific incidents of alleged discrimination and/or retaliation. First, the managing director jokingly stated during a meeting that it might be his last day and added, “[Plaintiff], I need you to come in on your day off so [Plaintiff's former boss] can fire you too.” (Id. at ¶ 73). Second, Plaintiff claims that someone placed a cartoon with a character named Randy on a bulletin board a few days before his last day. (Id. at ¶ 78). Plaintiff alleges consequently he was forced to resign and retire on August 1, 2018. (Id. at ¶ 77). Plaintiff does not allege that he amended his Charge or filed an additional Charge following his termination. (See generally id.).

         Plaintiff filed his Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint on June 7, 2019. (Doc. # 31). The proposed amended complaint does not alter or amend any of the factual pleadings but does add a count for hostile work environment against Defendant. (See Doc. # 31-1).


         A. Rule 15(a)(2) Leave to Amend Pleading Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2), “[t]he court should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires.” Leave to amend should be freely granted unless “there exists undue delay, bad faith, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the non-moving party, or futility of the amendment.” Popalii v. Corr. Med. Servs., 512 F.3d 488, 497 (8th Cir. 2008). An amendment is futile if the proposed amended pleading “could not withstand a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” Zutz v. Nelson, 601 F.3d 842, 850 (8th Cir. 2010).

         B. Rule 12(c) Judgment on ...

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