United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
J. HAZEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Jason Cline brings this case against his former employer.
Defendant Thomas N. O'Connor Plumbing and Heating. LLC
("O'Connor"), for violations of federal and
state law arising from O'Connor's termination of
Cline's employment. See ECF No. 6. Currently
pending before the Court is O'Connor's Motion to
Dismiss. ECF No. 12. which has been fully briefed.
See ECF No. 14. ECF No. 15. No. hearing is
necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the
following reasons. Defendants" Motion to Dismiss is
a Maryland corporation, "engages in the business of
plumbing and heating throughout the Maryland and DC Metro
area" and "employs more than fifty (50)
employees." ECF No. 6 ¶¶ 3-4. Cline began
working for O'Connor in June of 2011 as a
"Commercial Plumber/Mechanic." Id. ¶
9. He was "successful" at O'Connor,
"receiving consistently strong performance reviews,
raises, and promotions during his tenure with the
company." Id. In 2012. he was promoted to Lead
Mechanic, and in January of 2014. he was promoted to Plumbing
Supervisor. Id. ¶¶ 10-13. These promotions
came with raises and additional responsibilities.
Id. As the Plumbing Supervisor. Cline "attended
regular weekly production meetings, in which costs, labor,
materials were reviewed with other members of O'Connor
Plumbing Management." Id. ¶ 14. While
employed at O'Connor. Cline "was regularly told he
was doing an excellent job by Management."
"received above average performance evaluations from his
supervisors, " "worked a full time schedule."
and received bonuses. Id. ¶¶ 15-18.
October 19. 2016. Cline suffered a work-related knee injury
and damaged the meniscus in his right knee: he reported the
injury to his supervisor that day. and immediately began to
seek treatment from his doctors. Id. ¶¶
19-20. After two months of modified work, on December 7.
2016. Cline provided a doctor's note to O'Connor
notifying them that he had a torn meniscus in his right knee
and would require surgery. Id. ¶ 24.
O'Connor's insurance company approved Cline"s
surgery on February 9. 2017. and the surgery was scheduled
for February 20. 2017. Id. ¶ 28. Cline
underwent the surgery on February 20. 2017. and was on leave
until April 24. 2017. Id. ¶¶ 29-30.
was cleared to return to work on April 24, 2017, and he went
to O'Connor's office and submitted his return
paperwork. Id. ¶ 38. The next morning. April
25. 2017. one of O'Connor's managers, Bobby Farrar,
called Cline into his office for a meeting with Farrar and
another manager. Brian Ashby. Id. ¶¶
39-40. There. Farrar told Cline that he was being demoted to
the position of Mechanic. Id. ¶ 40. This
position was a "significantly lower position" in
the company, and "did not involve the same or
substantially similar duties." Id. ¶ 42.
Cline asked if he was being demoted because he filed a
workers compensation claim. and asked if he could "have
a few days to think about the demotion." Id.
¶ 40. Farrar said that he "could have the time to
think about it." Id. That same day, however.
Cline received a call from Farrar who informed him that
management had decided to terminate Cline's employment.
Id. ¶ 43. Cline subsequently learned that
Farrar had stated that Cline was "milking his workers
compensation" and that Cline had "faked an
injury." Id. ¶ 44.
26, 2017. Cline initiated this suit and tiled a Complaint
against O'Connor. ECF No. 1. On August 4. 2017, Cline
filed an Amended Complaint. ECF No. 6. In it. Cline asserted
claims of: wrongful discharge in violation of public policy
under Maryland's Labor and Employment Article. §
9-1105 (Count I), id. ¶¶
48-55: unlawful interference with his FMLA rights under 29
U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1) (Count II), id ¶¶
56-65; and retaliation for having taken FMLA leave under 29
U.S.C. § 2615(a)(2) (Count III), id ¶¶
66-73. On September 19. 2017. O'Connor filed a Motion to
Dismiss, arguing that Cline had not sufficiently pleaded any
claims to which relief could be granted. ECF No. 12-2 at
Cline opposed this Motion, ECF No. 14. and O'Connor
replied. ECF No. 15.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, "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) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544. 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial
plausibility 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. "Threadbare recitals of
the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere
conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id.
(citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 ("a plaintiffs
obligation to provide the "grounds" of his
'entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause of
action's elements will not do.")).
purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) "is to test the sufficiency of
a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the
facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of
defenses." Presley v. City of Charlottesville,
464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006) (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). When deciding a motion to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(6). a court "must accept as true all of
the factual allegations contained in the complaint, "
and must "draw all reasonable inferences [from those
facts] in favor of the plaintiff." E.I. du Pont de
Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus.. Inc., 637 F.3d 435.
440 (4th Cir. 2011) (citations and internal quotation marks
omitted). The Court need not. however, accept unsupported
legal allegations, see Revene v. Charles County
Comm'rs. 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989). legal
conclusions couched as factual allegations, Papasan v.
Allain. 478 U.S. 265. 286 (1986). or conclusory factual
allegations devoid of any reference to actual events.
United Black Firefighters of Norfolk v. Hirst, 604
F.2d 844. 847 (4th Cir. 1979).
argues that Cline"s case should be dismissed because he
has not sufficiently pleaded each of his claims. The Court
addresses each claim in turn.
Wrongful Discharge (Count I)
parties do not dispute that it is in violation of public
policy for an employee to be terminated solely for having
filed a worker's compensation claim. See ECF No.
12-2 at 5. O'Connor argues, however, that Cline has not
sufficiently pleaded a claim for wrongful discharge as he has
not pleaded that his filing of a worker's compensation
claim was the sole reason for his termination.
Id. at 6. O'Connor points out that Maryland
Code, Labor and Employment. § 9-1105. which Cline relies
on. provides that "[a]n employer may not discharge a
covered employee from employment solely because the covered
employee files a claim for compensation under this
title." ECF No. 12-2 at 5-6. O'Connor points out
that "Cline does not allege that the filing of the
Workers' Compensation claim . . . was the sole
reason for his termination." ...