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Cook v. MaineHealth

United States District Court, D. Maine

August 29, 2018

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

          ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' PARTIAL MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

          JON D. LEVY U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Jason Cook alleges that his former employers, Defendants MaineHealth and NorDx (“Defendants”), violated his rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (“USERRA”), 38 U.S.C.A. § 4301 et seq. (2018); the Federal Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C.A. § 2601 et seq. (2018); the Maine Family Medical Leave Requirements Law (“MFMLR”), 26 M.R.S.A. § 843 et seq. (2018); the Maine Human Rights Act (“MHRA”), 5 M.R.S.A. § 4571 et seq. (2018); and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C.A. § 1001 et seq. (2018).

         In January 2018, the Defendants filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 9), moving to dismiss Count IV of Cook's original Complaint, which alleged a violation of the MHRA, as barred by the statute of limitations and for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In an order issued June 13, 2018 (ECF No. 23), I granted the motion, concluding that Cook's MHRA claim based on his employment with NorDx was time-barred, and that his MHRA claim based on his employment with Maine Medical Partners (“MMP”) failed to state a claim. I also granted Cook leave to amend his complaint. Cook filed a First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 26) on June 24, 2018. The Defendants have filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss the First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 27), moving to dismiss all claims in connection with Cook's employment with MMP.

         For the reasons explained below, I grant the Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss the First Amended Complaint, dismissing all counts to the extent they arise from Cook's employment with MMP. This results in the complete dismissal of Count IV.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Defendant NorDx and MMP are subsidiaries of Defendant MaineHealth. Cook worked in a laboratory for NorDx from May 2014 to July 2015, when his employment was terminated for violating NorDx's employee leave policy. Cook suffers from a disability he sustained while on active duty with the United States Army, which, he asserts, caused him to be absent from work beyond what was allowed by NorDx's employee leave policy. Cook alleges that NorDx disciplined him and then terminated his employment for violating the leave policy. He contends that in so doing, NorDx violated the MHRA by failing to accommodate his disability, failing to engage in an interactive process, and requiring that he undergo a medical examination, and also retaliated against him in response to his request for an accommodation.

         In March 2015, Cook applied for a job with MMP. Sometime between July and October 2015, MMP offered Cook a job. During the hiring process, Cook informed MMP that he was a disabled veteran. Before Cook started his new job with MMP, MaineHealth Employee Health Service conducted a pre-placement evaluation of Cook, which documented his mood disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic low back pain, chronic foot pain, sleep disorder, and the medications Cook was prescribed. These medical conditions delayed Cook's medical clearance for at least a week.

         On October 30, 2015, before he had started the job at MMP, Cook e-mailed his soon-to-be supervisor that he would like to discuss his “history and personal information.” ECF No. 26 at ¶ 102. The supervisor responded that she “should not know” any medical or personal history that was not pertinent to his job. Id. at ¶ 103. Several days later on November 2, 2015, Cook began working and was provided a sitting/standing work station to assist him.

         Shortly after Cook started work, Cook alleges that MMP personnel began to criticize him and take adverse action against him for performance-related issues. On January 22, 2016, a MMP human resource partner wrote to Cook's supervisor: “Per our conversation today, this will verify that Jason Cook has never made you aware that he has a medical condition, or that a medical condition is allegedly impacting his work, or asked for an accommodation for health/medical reasons. Separation of employment will be for performance reasons. Please respond that this is a correct statement.” Id. at ¶ 111. Cook's supervisor replied that the statement was correct, and MMP terminated Cook's employment. Cook contends, in his First Amended Complaint, that in so doing, MMP treated him differently because he a disabled veteran in violation of USERRA, and violated the MHRA by failing to accommodate his disability and failing to engage in an interactive process.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint need not set forth “detailed factual allegations, ” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), but “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 of the complaint as true, ‘drawing all reasonable inferences in [the 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) (quoting Schatz v. Republican State Leadership Comm., 669 F.3d 50, 55 (1st Cir. 2012)). “In evaluating plausibility, particularly in the employment discrimination context, courts should be mindful of the facts the plaintiff is likely to know, versus the facts that are likely out of the plaintiff's reach at the pleading stage.” Brady v. Bath Iron Works Corp., No. 2:16-cv-4-NT, 2016 WL 3029948, at *2 (D. Me. May 25, 2016) (citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 511-12 (2002)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Defendants argue that Count IV and all other claims arising from Cook's employment with MMP outlined in the First Amended Complaint fail to adequately state a claim arising from Cook's employment with MMP. Cook concedes that Counts II, III, and V do not apply to Cook's employment with MMP. Accordingly, I do not analyze those counts further, and they are dismissed to the extent they concern Cook's employment with MMP. I therefore address whether Cook has adequately stated claims arising from his employment with MMP for (A) disability discrimination under the MHRA (Count IV), and (B) discrimination on the basis of military service in violation of USERRA (Count I).

         A. Disability ...


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