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Bastille v. Maine Public Employee Retirement System

United States District Court, D. Maine

August 10, 2016



          Nancy Torresen, United States Chief District Judge

         Before the Court are the Defendants’ motions to dismiss the Plaintiff’s Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) (ECF Nos. 5, 7). For the reasons stated below, the motions are GRANTED.


         The Plaintiff in this case is Sandra Bastille, a former toll booth collector and customer service representative for the Maine Turnpike Authority (the “MTA”). Compl. ¶ 1 (ECF No. 1); Ex. A to Maine Public Employees Retirement System’s Mot. to Dismiss 4 (“Ex. A”) (ECF No. 5). The Defendants are the MTA and the Maine Public Employees Retirement System (“MainePERS”), which Bastille describes as “quasi-governmental divisions of the State of Maine.” Compl. ¶ 3. The MTA has statutory authority “to operate and maintain the turnpike from a point at or near Kittery in York County to a point at or near Augusta in Kennebec County.” 23 M.R.S.A. § 1963. MainePERS is a retirement system established “for the purpose of providing retirement allowances and other benefits” for state employees. 5 M.R.S.A. § 17101(1).

         Bastille started working for the MTA in 2004. Ex. A at 4. In 2011, she began to face challenging medical issues. In order to attend to personal medical care, Bastille requested leave pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Compl. ¶ 6; Ex. A at 5. The MTA granted her request and Bastille began FMLA leave sometime in March of 2011. Ex. A at 5. On March 11, 2011, Bastille’s doctor informed the MTA that she needed surgery and would not be able to return to work for an undetermined amount of time. Ex. A at 5. At this point, according to the MTA, Bastille had exhausted all of her paid leave, and thus March 11, 2011 was the last day she received payment for her work. Ex. A at 7 n.1. Bastille alleges that the MTA was wrong on this point, as she “still had time on the books” as of March 11, 2011. Compl. ¶ 9. After she extended her unpaid leave, the MTA ultimately formally terminated Bastille on December 27, 2011. Ex. B to MainePERS’s Mot. to Dismiss 2 (“Ex. B”) (ECF No. 5). On January 5, 2012, the MTA paid Bastille $2.36 for 0.13 hours of unused vacation time. Ex. B at 3; Ex. 9 to Pl.’s Answer to Def. MTA’s Mot. to Dismiss (ECF No. 12-1).

         In July of 2011, Bastille applied to MainePERS for disability retirement benefits. Ex. A at 1. Under Maine law, covered employees “qualif[y] for a disability retirement benefit if disabled while in service.” 5 M.R.S.A. § 17924(1). A “disabled” employee is one who “is mentally or physically incapacitated” where the incapacity is expected to be permanent, it is impossible for the employee to perform his or her job duties, the incapacity continues for two years and renders the employee “unable to engage in any substantially gainful activity for which the member is qualified by training, education or experience, ” and the incapacity “may be revealed” by statutorily-permitted medical exams or tests. Id. at § 17921(1). “Service” is defined as “service as an employee for which compensation was paid.” Id. at § 17001(37).

         In December of 2011, MainePERS denied Bastille’s application for disability retirement benefits. Ex. A at 1. Bastille appealed, and in January of 2014 the MainePERS Board of Trustees (the “Board”) upheld the denial of benefits in a twelve-page written decision. Ex. A at x, 12. In its decision, the Board acknowledged that Bastille does indeed face challenging medical conditions, but it concluded she was not disabled at the time of her last date in service with the MTA, which was March 11, 2011. Ex. A at 10-11. On March 17, 2014, Bastille filed a petition for reconsideration with the Board, noting that since their decision, she had located her 2012 W-2 tax form, which showed that she was paid for unused vacation time in January of 2012. Ex. 14 to Pl.’s Answer to Def. MTA’s Mot. to Dismiss (“Ex. 14”) (ECF No. 12-1). The wages reflected on that tax form, she posited, meant that she had remained “in service” with the MTA beyond March 11, 2011. Ex. 14.[1]

         Two days later, on March 19, 2014, Bastille filed a Rule 80C Petition for Review of Final Agency Action in York County Superior Court, arguing as grounds for relief that MainePERS “defined the term ‘in service’ under Title 5, MRSA § 17924 in such a way that the Plaintiff could not qualify for benefits.” Ex. B at 1. On June 30, 2015, the Superior Court denied the petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Ex. C to MainePERS’s Mot. to Dismiss 2 (“Ex. C”) (ECF No. 5). MainePERS contends, and Bastille does not challenge, that the Superior Court based its dismissal on Bastille’s failure to file her Rule 80C petition within the applicable 30-day statute of limitations. MainePERS Mot. to Dismiss 3 (ECF No. 5); see also 5 M.R.S.A. § 11002(3). Bastille appealed the Superior Court’s dismissal of her Rule 80C petition to the Law Court. Ex. C at 2. That appeal was recently denied. Bastille v. MainePERS, 2016 Me. 124, __A.3d__.

         Six months after filing her notice of appeal with the Law Court, Bastille filed the instant federal action. In her Complaint, she alleges five counts: (1) interference with FMLA leave; (2) retaliation for taking FMLA leave; (3) failure to maintain and supply records as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”); (4) breach of contract; and (5) unjust enrichment.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a complaint may be dismissed for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” In order to state a claim, a plaintiff must satisfy Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)’s limited notice pleading standard, which requires “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” While a complaint need not set forth “detailed factual allegations, ” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), “it must nonetheless ‘contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ ” SEC v. Tambone, 597 F.3d 436, 442 (1st Cir. 2010) (en banc) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). Applying this standard requires two steps: first, “ ‘isolate and ignore statements in the complaint that simply offer legal labels and conclusions or merely rehash cause-of-action elements[, ]’ ” and second, “take the facts in the complaint as true, ‘drawing all reasonable inferences in [plaintiff’s] favor, and see if they plausibly narrate a claim for relief.’ ” Carrero-Ojeda v. Autoridad de Energía Eléctrica, 755 F.3d 711, 717 (1st Cir. 2014) (alteration in original) (quoting Schatz v. Republican State Leadership Comm., 669 F.3d 50, 55 (1st Cir. 2012)).

         On a 12(b)(6) motion, a court is normally limited to “ ‘facts and documents that are part of or incorporated into the complaint; if matters outside the pleadings are considered, the motion must be decided under the more stringent standards applicable to a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment.’ ” Rivera v. Centro Médico de Turabo, Inc., 575 F.3d 10, 15 (1st Cir. 2009) (quoting Trans-Spec Truck Serv., Inc. v. Caterpillar, Inc., 524 F.3d 315, 321 (1st Cir. 2008)). However, it is also well-established that a court “ ‘may properly consider the relevant entirety of a document integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint, even though not attached to the complaint, without converting the motion into one for summary judgment.’ ” Clorox Co. P.R. v. Proctor & Gamble Commercial Co., 228 F.3d 24, 32 (1st Cir. 2000) (quoting Shaw v. Digital Equip. Corp., 82 F.3d 1194, 1220 (1st Cir. 1996)). Here, Bastille’s Complaint makes specific references to her administrative proceedings with MainePERS, proceedings that form the basis for her claims in this action. Compl.

         ¶¶ 5, 7, 8. Moreover, where a motion to dismiss is based on the defense of res judicata, a “court may take into account the record in the original action.” Andrew Robinson Int’l, ...

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