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Moore v. Granite Bay Care Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maine

July 18, 2018

JOANNA MOORE, Plaintiff,


          Nancy Torresen, United States Chief District Judge.

         In this employment action, Plaintiff Joanna Moore asserts three claims against Defendant Granite Bay Care, Inc. (“Granite Bay”). Count I of Ms. Moore's First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) alleges that Granite Bay retaliated against Ms. Moore for reporting poor conditions in one of Granite Bay's facilities, in violation of the Maine Whistleblower Protection Act (“MWPA”) and the Maine Human Rights Act (“MHRA”). FAC ¶¶ 66-79 (ECF No. 1-3). Counts II and III allege, respectively, that Granite Bay subjected Ms. Moore to impermissible disparate treatment because of her age and to a hostile work environment, both in violation of the MHRA. FAC ¶¶ 1, 80-95. Before me is Granite Bay's motion under Federal Rule of Procedure 12(b)(6) to dismiss Count II outright and to dismiss Count III to the extent it asserts an age-based hostile work environment claim. (ECF No. 7.) For the reasons that follow, I DENY the motion to dismiss.


         Ms. Moore is a 58-year-old Maine resident. FAC ¶¶ 2, 13. Granite Bay is a New Hampshire corporation that operates residential treatment centers in Maine. FAC ¶ 4; see FAC ¶¶ 15, 16. Beginning in February 2014, Granite Bay employed Ms. Moore as a Direct Support Professional and Certified Residential Medication Aide. FAC ¶ 14. In that role, Ms. Moore worked with developmentally disabled adults in a facility located at 23 Cape Road in Raymond, Maine. FAC ¶¶ 15-16.

         Danielle Holmes supervised Ms. Moore at the Cape Road home. FAC ¶ 17. In the fall of 2014, Ms. Holmes began to harass Ms. Moore. FAC ¶¶ 19, 20, 22-27. Ms. Holmes openly directed animosity towards the older employees at the home and specifically told Ms. Moore's colleagues that she hoped to replace the older staff, including Ms. Moore, with younger workers. FAC ¶ 19. By the end of Ms. Moore's tenure at Granite Bay, all of the older staff had been terminated and supplanted by younger hires. FAC ¶ 88.

         On December 3, 2014, Ms. Moore arrived for her shift to find that a resident had been neglected for an entire day. FAC ¶ 28. She had not been given food, and, as she had not left her bed, she was soaked in her own urine. FAC ¶ 28. Ms. Moore reported these conditions to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”). FAC ¶ 30.

         After the report of neglect, Ms. Holmes redoubled her harassment of Ms. Moore, making threatening comments toward Ms. Moore in front of her co-workers, reducing her hours, refusing to allow her to take breaks, and giving her excessive lists of tasks. FAC ¶¶ 40-41, 45-49, 51-54. Things came to a head on January 30, 2015, when Ms. Holmes falsely reported to Granite Bay's human resources department that Ms. Moore had refused to assist other staff in restraining a client and that Ms. Moore had brought a can of bear spray to the home to use on patients. FAC ¶¶ 57-61. Although Ms. Moore vigorously denied these allegations, Granite Bay eliminated her hours and, on February 6, 2015, formally terminated her employment. FAC ¶¶ 62-64.

         On April 23, 2015, Ms. Moore filed a Complaint of Discrimination with the Maine Human Rights Commission (“MHRC”) (the “Charge”). (ECF No. 7-1). The complaint form used by the MHRC provides space for employees to describe the particulars of their charge, into which Ms. Moore entered the following information:

I believe I have been unlawfully discriminated against in employment because I engaged in activity protected under Title 26. I believe this to be in violation of rights accorded me by the Maine Human Rights Act, the Whistleblowers' Protection Act, as well as state employment regulations, in that: . . .
b) On December 3, 2014, I found that a client had been in a soaked bed and her clothing wet with urine while two staff people had been there with her all morning. The client had not eaten, her clothes had not been changed and the bed had not been cleaned. Therefore, I reported this situation to DHHS. . . .
d) After this, Housing Manager Danielle Holmes cut my hours down to 30 and then harassed me physically, verbally and by showing me a hateful video. I tried to bring this retaliatory treatment to the attention of management, but was told they heard I “was afraid” of the clients and, for the client's safety, they would move some of the employees. . . .
f) On February 6, 2015, I received a note from the H.R. Dept. indicating that for the safety of the staff and the client, I was being terminated. I let them know a staff person said the current house manager was wanting “to get rid of the older people on the weekend staff, ” which included me. I was then called to the office, where the employer claimed I was afraid of the client and unwilling to do restraints, which was not at all true.
g) I believe the reasons given by the employer for my termination are a pretext. I believe the real reasons for my termination are retaliation after reporting unsafe and/or illegal activity in the workplace and because I reported the activity to an outside agency after no appropriate action was taken by the employer to rectify the situation.

         Charge at 2. The complaint form also includes a series of check-boxes through which employees may indicate the basis for their discrimination charge-for example, “race, ” “age, ” and “sex.” Charge at 1. Ms. Moore ticked only the box labelled ...

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