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Cook v. Mainehealth

United States District Court, D. Maine

April 17, 2018

JASON COOK, Plaintiff
v.
MAINEHEALTH, et al., Defendants

          RECOMMENDED DECISION ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          John C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge

         In this action, Plaintiff Jason Cook alleges that his former employers, Defendants MaineHealth and NorDx, violated his rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, federal and Maine medical leave law, the Maine Human Rights Act, and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

         The matter is before the Court on Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. (ECF No. 9.) Through their motion, Defendants contend that Plaintiff has failed to state an actionable claim under the Maine Human Rights Act (MHRA) against Defendant MaineHealth for events that occurred after the termination of Plaintiff's employment with NorDx; that Plaintiff failed to exhaust any such claim administratively; and that Plaintiff's MHRA claim against Defendant NorDx is barred by the applicable statute of limitation.

         Following a review of the pleadings and after consideration of the parties' arguments, I recommend the Court grant in part and deny in part the motion.

         Background

         The following facts are drawn from Plaintiff's complaint and are accepted as true for purposes of evaluating the pending motion to dismiss. McKee v. Cosby, 874 F.3d 54, 59 (1st Cir. 2017).

         MaineHealth, a non-profit organization, offers employee benefits to its wholly-owned subsidiaries through what it describes as “eligible employer groups” or “single member organizations.” The subsidiaries/benefit groups/organizations include NorDx and Maine Medical Partners (MMP). (Complaint ¶¶ 5, 8, 13.)[1]

         Plaintiff worked for NorDx as a Phlebotomist I in a laboratory at the Maine Medical Center (MMC) from May 12, 2014, through July 16, 2015, when his employment was terminated. (Id. ¶¶ 6, 26.) Plaintiff then briefly worked for MMP, but MMP terminated Plaintiff's employment in November 2015. (Id. ¶¶ 14 - 15.) While Plaintiff was employed by NorDx and MMP, MaineHealth issued Plaintiff's pay. (Id. ¶¶ 7, 16.)

         Plaintiff alleges that MaineHealth is the “actual employer” of persons who work at NorDx and MMP. (Id. ¶ 17.) Alternatively, Plaintiff alleges that MaineHealth, NorDx, MMP, and MMC constitute an “integrated enterprise.” (Id. ¶ 18.)

         NorDx and MaineHealth human resources records reflect that Plaintiff has a disability he acquired while on active duty with the United States Army, prior to his employment with NorDx and MMP. (Id. ¶¶ 27 - 34, 36, 42.) Due to his disability, Plaintiff called out of work more than the applicable leave policy allowed. (Id. ¶¶ 40 - 41.) According to Plaintiff, Defendants invoked their disciplinary process without engaging in a process to determine Plaintiff's need for an accommodation. (Id. ¶¶ 41, 46.) Plaintiff alleges that with this approach, “Defendants treated [him] differently than other disabled employees with medical conditions which were not service related.” (Id. ¶ 47.)

         After co-workers complained to NorDx about Plaintiff's condition at work, Plaintiff explained the nature of his disability and the related medications, and asked to be referred to Employee Health for an evaluation, but NorDx refused his request. (Id. ¶ 55.) Subsequently, Plaintiff was offered the opportunity to have his physician complete a form for Employee Health, and to undergo an examination by Employee Health. (Id. ¶¶ 60, 62 - 66.) Plaintiff evidently declined the opportunity. (Id. ¶¶ 67, 69.)

         Plaintiff's physician did provide a letter stating that due to his disability, Plaintiff must be limited to six collections (in his job as a phlebotomist) per hour. (Id. ¶ 72.) On April 20, 2015, Plaintiff received a letter stating the interactive process for assessing his request for an accommodation had ended, and that he was able to perform all the essential functions of his job without an accommodation. (Id. ¶¶ 74 - 75.)

         In May and June 2015, NorDx took additional corrective action toward Plaintiff and/or issued write ups for attendance problems. (Id. ¶¶ 78 - 81.) As of June 2015, Plaintiff qualified for leave under state and federal medical leave laws. (Id. ¶ 84.) Plaintiff called the medical leave administrator, but NorDx terminated his employment without further process following another absence. (Id. ¶ 85.)

         Plaintiff applied for a medical assistant position with MMP after the termination of his employment with NorDx. According to Plaintiff, “MaineHealth rehired [Plaintiff] to work at MMP, but fired him in November of 2015 for reasons that demonstrate disability discrimination similar to the allegations set forth above [in the complaint].” (Id. ¶ 92.) Additionally, Plaintiff asserts that “MaineHealth, by and through its two divisions MMP and NorDx, knowingly and willfully violated multiple state and federally protected rights of Plaintiff.” (Id. ¶ 93.)

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated the MHRA by failing to accommodate his disability, failing to engage in an interactive process, requiring that he undergo a medical examination, and retaliating against him in response to his request for accommodation and report of disability discrimination. (Id. ¶¶ 119 - 121.) Plaintiff contends “MaineHealth subjected Plaintiff to a continuing violation of the MHRA based on disability discrimination, starting with his employment at NorDx and continuing through his employment with and termination from MMP.” (Id. ¶ 22.)

         Plaintiff filed an administrative charge of discrimination with the United States Equal Opportunity Commission. (Id. ΒΆ 20, ECF No. 9-1.) The charge and the notice are both directed to NorDx Labs and asserts a claim of disability discrimination. In the charge, which Plaintiff signed on May 4, ...


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