United States District Court, D. Maine
ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS
TORRESEN UNITED STATES CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE.
me is the Defendant's motion to dismiss the
Plaintiff's Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim for
which relief may be granted (ECF No. 16). For the reasons
that follow, the Defendant's motion is
Plaintiff is Robert Couture. Couture began working for
Defendant AmeriGas Propane, Inc. in November, 1998. Am.
Compl. ¶ 5 (ECF No. 15). On Thursday, October 23, 2014,
AmeriGas Operations Manager for the Lewiston District Fred
Clavet asked Couture to respond to a suspected gas leak at
the Biddeford Olive Garden. Am. Compl. ¶ 7. Couture told
Clavet that he was not certified to work on commercial gas
equipment, and so he was “not qualified to do anything
at this location if there was an issue.” Am. Compl. ¶
8. In the course of that conversation, however, Clavet
prevailed on Couture to go to the Olive Garden, and Couture
agreed to “turn off the gas to secure the area.”
See Am. Compl. ¶ 8.
speaking with Clavet, Couture called Russell Bryant, a
technician with certification to work on commercial gas
equipment. Am. Compl. ¶ 9. Couture arrived at the Olive
Garden thirty minutes before Bryant and turned off the gas
supply. Am. Compl. ¶ 10. Once Bryant arrived, he and
Couture walked around the restaurant and smelled gas in two
areas. Am. Compl. ¶ 11. Bryant fixed the problem in the
first area, but could not fix the problem in the second
“because it was too corroded.” Am. Compl. ¶
11. Bryant later told AmeriGas that he “released
Couture from this call out (as he is a driver . . .)[,
]” performed “a check of every
‘appliance' in the building as well as the gas
piping, ” and found “everything in order.”
Am. Compl. ¶ 22.
following Friday and Saturday, the Olive Garden called
AmeriGas twice more to complain that the gas leak had not
been resolved. Am. Compl. ¶ 12. On Monday, October 27th,
the AmeriGas district manager called a meeting with Couture
and Bryant. Am. Compl. ¶ 13. The manager asked Couture
why he had not performed a “pressure test” at the
Olive Garden, “as it was policy to do so whenever a
client complained of a leak.” Am. Compl. ¶ 13.
Couture responded that he had not performed the pressure test
because he was “not certified to work on commercial
equipment and that it would have been illegal for him to do
so.” Am. Compl. ¶ 13. The manager suspended both
Couture and Bryant, pending an investigation. Am. Compl.
that day, Couture called the AmeriGas ethics hotline to
complain that he had been wrongfully suspended. Am. Compl.
¶ 15. The following day, AmeriGas terminated Couture and
Bryant. Am. Compl. ¶ 16. Couture believes he was
wrongfully terminated for his refusal to perform the test
despite his lack of certification. Am. Compl. ¶ 17.
October 28th, the day Couture was terminated, he wrote an
email to Warren Patterson in AmeriGas “upper
management, ” describing the recent events and
complaining that he had been “unlawfully” and
“wrongfully” terminated. Am. Compl. ¶ 19. On
October 29th, Couture also wrote an email to Kevin Rumbelow
in AmeriGas “upper management” with the same
information and complaint. Am. Compl. ¶ 20. On November
16th, the AmeriGas area manager reinstated Couture. Am.
Compl. ¶ 23. Couture observed that the area manager
“was clearly forced” to rehire Couture because
upper management determined that the area manager “had
made a bad judgment call for firing [Couture] for something
[he] was not responsible to handle.” Am. Compl. ¶
months later, on January 22, 2015, AmeriGas terminated
Couture again. Am. Compl. ¶ 24-25. Earlier that day,
Couture was sitting in his stopped truck when an AmeriGas
employee named Sullivan unexpectedly approached the vehicle
to “check up on him.” Am. Compl. ¶ 24.
Sullivan noticed that Couture had covered the truck's
driving camera with a napkin. Am. Compl. ¶ 24. Couture
explained that he had done so because he wanted privacy while
taking a “coffee break.” Am. Compl. ¶ 24.
Approximately thirty minutes later, an AmeriGas employee
named Dennis called Couture to the office and terminated him.
Am. Compl. ¶ 25. Couture asserts that other
employees' driving cameras “go off numerous times
while in motion, ” but they have never been
“written up.” Am. Compl. ¶ 26.
believes that this termination was retaliation for his
refusal to perform the pressure check and for his complaints
to upper management. Am. Compl. ¶ 27. He received a
right to sue letter from the Maine Human Rights Commission.
Am. Compl. ¶ 28.
complaint 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). To survive a Rule
12(b)(6) motion, the complaint need not demonstrate that the
plaintiff is likely to prevail, nor even “plead facts
sufficient to establish a prima facie case.”
Rodríguez-Reyes v. Molina-Rodríguez,
711 F.3d 49, 54 (1st Cir. 2013). The complaint only must
“state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007)). The First Circuit follows a two-step
Step one: isolate and ignore statements in the complaint that
simply offer legal labels and conclusions or merely rehash
cause-of-action elements. Step two: take the complaint's
well-pled (i.e., non- conclusory, non-speculative)
facts as true, drawing all reasonable inferences in the
pleader's favor, and see if they plausibly narrate a
claim for relief.
Schatz v. Republican State Leadership Comm., 669
F.3d 50, 55 (1st Cir. 2012) (citations omitted). This is
“a ‘context-specific' job” that
requires the Court to “ ‘draw on' [its]
‘judicial experience and common ...