United States District Court, D. Maryland
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
K. BREDAR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
brings the instant case against her former employer, alleging
interference under the Family Medical Leave Act
(“FMLA”) (Count I), retaliation under the FMLA
(Count II), and discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act
of 1973 (Count III). (Am. Compl., ECF No. 3.) Her Amended
Complaint indicates that she expects to seek class
certification on Counts I and III. (Id.) Pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), Defendant has moved
to dismiss the class action portions of the Amended Complaint
(ECF No. 9), and has filed an answer to Plaintiff's other
allegations (ECF No. 10). Plaintiff has opposed
Defendant's motion (ECF No. 15), which is now ripe. No
hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md.
2016). For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion
will be denied.
STANDARD FOR DISMISSAL FOR FAILURE TO STATE A
order to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted, a
complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
Facial plausibility exists “when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. An inference
of a mere possibility of misconduct is not sufficient to
support a plausible claim. Id. at 679. As the
Twombly opinion stated, “Factual allegations
must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” 550 U.S. at 555. “A pleading
that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do.' . . . Nor does a complaint suffice if it
tenders 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further
factual enhancement.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557).
Although when considering a motion to dismiss a court must
accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint, this
principle does not apply to legal conclusions couched as
factual allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
was employed by Defendant as a student support liaison
beginning on August 1, 2011. (Am. Compl. ¶ 2.) On August
4, 2013, Plaintiff suffered a head injury. (Id.
¶ 20.) She subsequently informed Defendant of her
medical condition and her need to undergo surgery.
(Id. ¶ 22). Despite Plaintiff's physician
clearing her to return to work beginning on January 21, 2014,
Defendant required Plaintiff to undergo a psychological
fitness-for-duty evaluation by its own medical professional.
(Id. ¶¶ 29, 34.) Subsequent to an
examination that Plaintiff alleges was incompletely and/or
improperly conducted (id. ¶¶ 37-42),
Defendant refused to permit Plaintiff to return to her
previous position (id. ¶¶ 43, 44) and
ultimately terminated her employment in August of 2016
(id. ¶ 53).
moves to dismiss only the class action portions of the
Amended Complaint. (Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 9.) However,
analysis of a prospective class's compliance with Rule 23
is not appropriately considered on a motion to dismiss, but
should instead be addressed in a motion brought pursuant to
Rule 23(c)(1)(A). See Popoola v. Md-Individual Practice
Ass'n, Inc., 230 F.R.D. 424, 433 (D. Md. 2005)
(citing 7B Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal
Practice & Procedure § 1798 (3d ed. 2005)).
Accordingly, Defendant's motion will be denied.
Defendant's motion purports to address only the class
action portions of the Amended Complaint (Def.'s Mot.),
its memorandum in support also appears to challenge the
sufficiency with which Plaintiff alleged willful
violations of the FMLA. (See Def.'s Mem. in
Supp. 6-7, ECF No. 9-1.) Willfulness affects the applicable
limitations period. 29 U.S.C. § 2617(c) (2017). When a
plaintiff must allege a defendant's mental state, she may
do so generally. Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b) (“In alleging fraud
or mistake, a party must state with particularity the
circumstances constituting fraud or mistake. Malice,
intent, knowledge, and other conditions of a person's
mind may be alleged generally.” (emphasis added)).
Courts in this circuit have applied a general pleading
standard to allegations of willful interference and
retaliation under the FMLA. See, e.g., Settle v. S.W.
Rodgers, Co., 998 F.Supp. 657, 664 (E.D. Va. 1998),
aff'd, 182 F.3d 909 (4th Cir. 1999).
Additionally, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, a statute
with a limitations provision analogous to that in the FMLA,
see Id. at 663, the question of whether an alleged
violation is willful is not an element of a plaintiffs claim
requiring supporting factual allegations in the complaint,
but rather an anticipation of a limitations defense that a
defendant might raise as the case advances. Rose v.
Harloe Mgmt. Corp., Civ. No. GLR-16-761, 2017 WL 193295,
at *4 (D. Md. Jan. 17, 2017).
Amended Complaint alleges that
Defendant willfully violated the FMLA by ordering Plaintiff
to take a fitness for duty examination that did not comply
with FMLA regulations, refusing to pay Plaintiff after she
was released to return to work on February 18, 2014, and
terminating her employment following her attempt to exercise
her rights under the FMLA.
Defendant's violations of Plaintiff s FMLA rights were
not done in good faith and Defendant did not have reasonable
grounds for believing that their acts or omissions were not a
violation of § 2615 of the FMLA.
(Am. Compl. ¶¶ 54-55.) The Amended Complaint does
not allege fraud or mistake, and its allegation of the
willfulness with which Defendant violated the FMLA meets the
general pleading requirement for mental states under Rule
9(b). Accordingly, to the extent that Defendant's motion
to dismiss challenges the sufficiency with which the Amended
Complaint alleges facts showing willfulness, the motion will