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Robert S. Watson v. Vulcraft Sales Corporation

July 2, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terrence F. McVerry United States District Court Judge


Presently pending before the Court is a MOTION TO DISMISS UNDER FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 12(b)(6), with brief in support, filed by Defendant, Vulcraft Sales Corporation ("Vulcraft") (Document Nos. 4 and 5, respectively), and the BRIEF IN OPPOSITION filed by Plaintiff, Richard Watson ("Watson") (Document No. 6). The Motion is now fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

Factual Background

As the law requires, at this stage of the proceeding all disputed facts and inferences are to be resolved in favor of Plaintiff, the non-moving party. The following background is drawn from the Complaint and the factual allegations therein are accepted as true for the purpose of this opinion.

The claims asserted arise from the termination of Plaintiff's employment with Vulcraft, after he failed a drug test administered by his employer. Watson was employed with Vulcraft from December 2008 through April 5, 2010 and held a full-time position in computer drafting as an assistant detailing supervisor, earning $21.50 per hour. Watson admits that while employed, he was "never provided with an Employee Handbook and was never provided with a written drug testing policy." Complaint, at ¶ 5. Watson did, however, sign a "Division Policies" form, dated February 12, 2010, which states "I have read, or have had the Vulcraft of New York, Inc. Division Policies read to me, and fully understand the Vulcraft policies checked below," which included a "Drug and Alcohol Policy." Id., Exhibit C. The form further read: "I also understand that if I violate the provisions and regulations of these policies, my employment with Vulcraft of New York, Inc. may be subject to termination." Id.

Although he never received a written handbook or written drug testing policy, Watson claims that Vulcraft had a "custom" of administering a second test "if any drug test came back positive or otherwise not negative." Id. at ¶ 6. Plaintiff further asserts that his understanding of the unwritten drug policy was that termination of employment would only occur "if those individuals were found to have unlawful substances in their systems." Id. at ¶ 7.

On or around April 5, 2010, Vulcraft notified Watson that he had tested positive for an amphetamine after undergoing a drug test, and subsequently terminated his employment without administering a second test. According to Plaintiff, he had been taking the medication Adderall for his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ("ADHD"), and had explained to Vulcraft that the positive results "must have been from the amphetamine [Adderall], which is a lawful substance." Id. at ¶ 9. Watson's local supervisor informed him that he was "advised to terminate Watson on direction from headquarters" and "was sorry that the Plaintiff's employment was terminated." Id. at ¶ 11.

The Complaint asserts that when Vulcraft terminated Plaintiff's employment, it breached an alleged employment contract and therefore deprived Watson of a job with substantial income. Watson makes no reference within his Complaint to a contract between the parties with regard to his employment, but instead alleges that he "received positive reviews and fully anticipated being with [Vulcraft] on a long term basis." Id. at ¶ 13.

Procedural Background

Watson initiated this litigation on February 22, 2012, by filing a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, in which he alleged a breach of employment contract. The Complaint, however, was not served on Vulcraft. Subsequently, the Complaint was reinstated with the court on April 3, 2012 and served on by Vulcraft on April 20, 2012.

On May 10, 2012, Vulcraft removed the lawsuit from Allegheny County to this Court. On May 17, 2012, Vulcraft filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint, in which it argues that Watson failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, as the Complaint fails to show the existence of a contract which would alter Watson's status as an employee at will.

Watson responds that the Complaint is sufficient with respect to the legal standard because the concept of "Employment at Will" creates a rebuttable presumption under the law. Watson further asserts that his termination violated public policy because the positive results of his drug test were due to his ADHD medication, Adderall, a legal substance.

Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) challenges the legal sufficiently of the complaint filed by plaintiff. The United States Supreme Court has held that "[a] plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, ...

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