United States District Court, D. Maryland
THEODORE D. CHUANG, District Judge.
Plaintiff Audra Ruyter is a former 13-year employee of Defendant Maryland CVS Pharmacy, LLC ("CVS"). After CVS terminated her employment in December 2013, Ruyter filed suit for wrongful termination (Count I), false imprisonment (Count II), defamation (Count III), and retaliation in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C, § 201 el seq. (2012) (Count IV), Presently pending is CVS's Motion to Dismiss Ruyter's claims for wrongful termination and defamation. See ECF No. 12. The Motion is fully briefed, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the following reasons, the Motion is GRANTED as to the wrongful termination claim and DENIED as to the defamation claim.
Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are presented as alleged in the First Amended Complaint See Pl's 1st Am. Compl., ECF No, 4, Ruyter worked for CVS for 13 years. Id. ¶ 5. In 2010, Ruyter was an assistant manager at CVS when Andy Kiler, a district manager, asked her to become store manager at a CVS store in Baltimore County, Maryland. Id. ¶ 7. After she declined the offer, Ruyter was demoted to working as a front-of-store supervisor at CVS Store #1735 in Glen Burnie, Maryland. Id. ¶¶ 6-7. In 2012, Ruyter, who had previously received worker's compensation for various claims she had filed, joined a class action suit against CVS that, after settlement, awarded damages for unpaid overtime wages. Id ¶ 8.
In 2013. Bianca Sloan became the manager of Store #1735. Id ¶ 9. Sloan and Ruyter began to clash over Ruyter's hours and overtime pay, prompting Ruyter to request a transfer to CVS Store #4017 in Pasadena, Maryland. Id. CVS granted her request to transfer stores, and Ruyter's last day at Store #1735 was scheduled to be October 26, 2013. Id. In the meantime, Ruyter left for vacation on October 17, 2013. Id. ¶ 10. When she returned to work the night shift on October 23, 2013, Kiler questioned her about a $3, 367.87 deposit that went missing on October 22, 2013, while she was away. Id. Ruyter denied knowing anything about the missing deposit and transferred to Store #4017 on October 26, 2013. as planned. Id. ¶¶ 10-11. On October 31, 2013, Kiler and Ruyter spoke again about the missing deposit. Id. ¶ 11. Kiler told Ruyter that she would be hearing from Mr. Logerhan, CVS's loss prevention officer. Id.
On November 6, 2013, Logerhan arrived at Store #4017, look Ruyter to an upstairs office along with another employee, and extensively questioned her about the missing deposit. Id ¶¶ 12-13. Logerhan repeatedly accused Ruyter of stealing the missing deposit and insisted that the theft was caught on a security camera, but he did not show her the video. Id. ¶ 13. Ruyter, who maintained her innocence, was detained throughout the encounter and was prevented from leaving the office until Logerhan completed his questioning. Id Distraught, Ruyter was sent home for the evening. Id. ¶ 14. Logerhan contacted Ruyter again the following day to ask if she had any additional information to add to the investigation. Id ¶ 15. Ruyter again disavowed any knowledge of or involvement with the missing deposit. Id
On December 11, 2013, Kiler fired Ruyter and gave her a document entitled "Counseling, " id ¶ 16, which Ruyter attached to the Complaint, see 1st Am. Compl. Ex. A, ECF No. 4-1. The document explained that Ruyter can be seen on security camera footage the morning of October 25, 2013 preparing the deposits from the previous night. 1st Am. Compl. Ex. A. The footage showed Ruyter taking something from a cash register drawer, turning her back to the camera, and then placing the item in her pants. Id. After looking back and forth. Ruyter left to take the October 23 and October 24 deposits to the bank. Id This was the only suspicious behavior that CVS found in the footage. Id The "Counseling" document explained that deposit procedures were not being followed because, among other reasons, deposits were not taken to the bank on a daily basis, the deposit logs were incomplete, and the deposit log for October 26, 2013 could not be located. Id It also notes that Ruyter "refused to participate in the investigation by providing a statement" and states that "all employees are expected to cooperate with any investigation regarding the non-compliance of [deposit] procedures." Id. Under the section labeled "Corrective Action(s), " the document states that Ruyter was "terminated for suspicion of stealing the deposit, she did not follow proper deposit procedures and she refused to participate in the investigation." Id.
After her termination, Ruyter applied for unemployment insurance benefits with the State of Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation Division of Unemployment Insurance ("Unemployment Insurance Division" or the "Division") on February 16, 2014. 1st Am. Compl. ¶ 17. According to Ruyter, "Evidently in response to that application, the Defendant informed the Maryland Division of Unemployment Insurance of [its] false allegations against the Plaintiff." Id ¶ 18. To support this allegation, Ruyter attached her unemployment insurance determination letter, which reads:
The claimant was discharged from employment with Maryland CVS Pharmacy LLC... allegedly for failing to continue participating in an investigation and for stealing a deposit. However, the employer failed to provide additional information as requested.... As a result, it is determined that the circumstances surrounding the separation do not warrant a disqualification under Section 8-1002 or 8-1003 of the Maryland Unemployment Insurance Law. Benefits are allowed, if otherwise eligible.
1st Am. Compl. Ex. B., ECF No. 4-2. Ruyter alleges that she suffered damage to her reputation and standing in the community as a result of CVS's disclosure to the Unemployment Insurance Division. 1st Am. Compl. ¶ 20.
On May 1, 2014, Ruyter filed suit against CVS in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, Maryland, asserting claims for wrongful termination, false imprisonment, and defamation. See ECF No. 2. On July 24, 2014, she amended her Complaint to include a claim for retaliation in violation of the FLSA, see ECF No. 4, after which, on August 11, 2014, CVS removed the action to this Court, see ECF No. 1. On August 18, 2014, CVS moved to dismiss Ruyter's wrongful termination and defamation claims. See ECF No. 12. Ruyter opposed the Motion. See ECF No. 15.
1. Legal Standard
To defeat a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the complaint must allege enough facts to state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal556 U.S. 662, 696 (2009). A claim is plausible when the facts pled allow the Court "to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id, Legal conclusions or conclusory statements do not suffice, id The Court must examine the complaint as a whole, consider the factual allegations in the complaint as true, and construe the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Albright v. Oliver. 510 U.S. 266. 268 (1994); Lambeth v. Bd. of Comm'rs of Davidson Cnty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005). In addition, when deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court may consider the complaint and ...