United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
J. HAZEL United States District Judge.
Tommy Joe Miller brought this workplace injury and
discrimination action alleging that Defendant CSX violated
(1) the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), 45
U.S.C. § 51, et seq.; (2) the Family and
Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 45 U.S.C. § 2601, et
seq.; (3) Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29
U.S.C. § 701, et seq.; and (4) Section 510 of
the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29
U.S.C. § 1001, et seq. ECF No. 16. Plaintiff
has since conceded that his FMLA claim and some of his
Rehabilitation Act allegations are barred by statutes of
limitations and should be dismissed. ECF No. 19 at 1. Pending
before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. ECF No. 17. No hearing is
necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the
following reasons, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss will
granted in part and denied in part.
worked for Defendant from 2005 until his termination in 2016.
ECF No. 16 ¶¶ 11, 24. During his tenure, he held
different positions including serving in a heavy labor role
as a machinist repairing locomotive engines for freight
transportation and working in a less physically demanding
role as a sedentary contract supervisor. Id. ¶
has a history of back and leg pain. Id. ¶ 12.
He has diagnoses of L5 radiculopathy, scoliosis and
spondylosis and had a lumbar nerve root decompression in
2013. Id. Beginning in July of 2015, while Plaintiff
was employed as a machinist, Defendant assigned Plaintiff
overtime shifts that aggravated Plaintiff's pre-existing
condition and that he could not complete because of pain and
numbness. Id. ¶¶ 12, 15. Plaintiff
approached various managers to inform them that working
double shifts would exacerbate his back problems.
Plaintiff's union representative also told a supervisor
that Plaintiff could not be assigned work requiring double
shifts because of his medical conditions. Id. ¶
13. But rather than permitting Plaintiff not to work overtime
or reassigning Plaintiff to a less physically strenuous
position, Defendant continued to assign Plaintiff heavy labor
work involving overtime shifts. Id. ¶¶ 13,
October 4, 2015, Defendant presented Plaintiff with a letter
concerning attendance violations related to Plaintiff's
failure to finish working an overtime shift. Id.
¶ 16. Plaintiff responded to the letter by explaining
again that working a full double shift exacerbated his back
and leg pain. Id. ¶ 16. A manager responded
that another, older employee was able to work double shifts
and that Plaintiff would receive a “charge
letter” if he failed to finish a double shift again.
point, Plaintiff applied for FMLA leave. Id. ¶
17. Defendant approved Plaintiff for intermittent FMLA leave,
which he used on October 21, 22, and 23, 2015. Id.
On October 28, 2015, Plaintiff visited the Parkway
Neuroscience and Spine Institute and was told he should stop
working because his back injuries had been exacerbated.
Id. ¶ 18. Plaintiff stopped working, began
physical therapy, and then underwent a spinal fusion surgery
on February 12, 2016. Id.
physician completed a Certificate of Ongoing Illness or
Injury (COII) every 45 days, and Defendant received these
forms at least through June 2016. Id. ¶ 20. A
May 23, 2016 letter advised Plaintiff that if he planned to
be out of work longer then July 5, 2016, he should have his
physician complete a COII form at that time. Id.
¶ 21. The letter did not explain that a failure to
complete a COII form by the deadline would result in
termination from employment or any discipline. Id.
On June 28, 2016, Plaintiff dropped off a COII form at his
physician's office during a regularly scheduled visit.
Id. ¶ 22. His physician had always sent COII
forms directly to Defendant in the past. Id. ¶
23. However, on July 21, 2016, Plaintiff received a certified
letter from Defendant advising that he was charged with job
abandonment and failure to protect his seniority because
Defendant had not received his updated COII. Id.
¶ 24. The letter explained that an appeal could be filed
within fifteen days requesting a hearing. Id.
drove to his physician's office and learned that the
office had been delayed in sending the updated COII form.
Id. ¶ 25. Plaintiff's physician faxed the
form supporting Plaintiff's continued leave to Defendant
on July 25, 2016. Id. ¶ 26. An investigative
hearing was held on August 3, 2016 where Plaintiff presented
the letter from his physician's office and explained what
had caused the delay by his physician's office in
submitting the form. Id. ¶ 27. Although
Plaintiff demonstrated that he had not abandoned his position
but instead was on an approved medical leave, Defendant
nonetheless terminated Plaintiff's employment.
Id. Plaintiff filed this suit on July 3, 2018. ECF
STANDARD OF REVIEW
moves to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint on the
ground that it fails to state a claim upon which relief can
be granted. When deciding a motion to dismiss, a court
“must accept as true all of the factual allegations
contained in the complaint, ” and “draw all
reasonable inferences 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). Pursuant to Rule 8(a)(2)
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must
contain a “short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). But to survive a motion to dismiss
invoking Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), “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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544. 570 (2007)). The factual allegations must be
more than “labels and conclusion . . . Factual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above
the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at
555. A complaint will not survive Rule 12(b)(6) review where
it contains “naked assertion[s]” devoid of
“further factual enhancement.” Id. at
557. “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 663. “But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit
the court to infer more than the mere possibility of
misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not
‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to
relief.'” See Id. at 679 (citing Fed. Rule
Civ. Proc. 8(a)(2)).
Plaintiff concedes that his FMLA claims (Count II) are barred
by a statute of limitations, those claims will be dismissed
without further analysis. The Court next addresses the
sufficiency of Plaintiff's FELA, Rehabilitation Act, and
ERISA allegations in turn.
FELA - Negligent ...