United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
H. RAMBO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the court is the motion to dismiss (Doc. 12) filed by
Defendants Priority Healthcare Group, LLC
(“Priority”) and Premier at Susquehanna for
Nursing and Rehabilitation, P.C. (“Premier”;
collectively, “Defendants”). Upon
consideration of Plaintiff April Brown's
(“Plaintiff” or “Ms. Brown”)
complaint (Doc. 1), the motion to dismiss, Plaintiff's
opposition (Doc. 13), and Defendants' reply (Doc. 15),
the court will grant the motion without prejudice.
to her complaint, Ms. Brown is a Licensed Practitioner Nurse
(“LPN”) who needs intermittent leave from work to
deal with episodes of her chronic anxiety and depression.
Around June of 2017, Defendants hired Plaintiff to work as an
LPN, at which time she advised Defendants of her ailments and
need for occasional leave. After working for approximately
ten months, Defendants suspended Plaintiff from work due to
her calling out of work too frequently. One month later,
Plaintiff requested leave under the Family and Medical Leave
Act (“FMLA”) from Defendants' human resources
department. Defendants granted her request. Around that time,
Ms. Brown's coworkers began antagonizing her for taking
FMLA leave by: mocking and diminishing her condition;
informing her she was “fuck[ing] the nurses over”
by taking time off; insulting her on Facebook; and accusing
her of lying about her condition. (Doc. 1 ¶ 18.) In
response, Plaintiff complained to her supervisors about her
coworkers' behavior, but she was told to handle the
issues on her own. Plaintiff has not alleged any further
insults followed her complaints.
August 30, 2018, Defendants suspended Plaintiff for three
days due to her violating company policy by calling out and
requesting FMLA leave less than three hours before her
shifts. Plaintiff alleges her condition caused emergent
symptoms too suddenly for her to provide such advanced
notice, but she does not allege that Defendants knew of this
aspect of her ailments.
three months later, around November 23, 2018, Plaintiff's
supervisors requested a meeting where they informed her that
narcotics were missing from the facility. She was told she
needed to take a drug test and submit a written report on how
she counted narcotics. Ms. Brown indicated she would do so
but wanted to first consult an attorney. Defendants informed
her she would need to take the drug test immediately.
Plaintiff declined and resigned the same day.
January 18, 2019, Plaintiff sued Defendants under the FMLA
for interference and retaliation, claiming Defendants
constructively discharged her for asserting her FMLA rights.
On April 8, 2019, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss under
Rule 12(b)(6), arguing: (1) by granting Plaintiff's
requested FMLA leave, Defendants did not interfere with her
FMLA rights; (2) her suspension for violating a company
call-out policy, and her negative treatment for refusing an
immediate drug test, did not interfere with her rights nor
were they done in retaliation; (3) the three-month gap
between Plaintiff last requesting FMLA leave and her
supposedly being constructively discharged is too large for
the court to infer any relationship between the two; and (4)
Plaintiff cannot have been constructively discharged by the
administration of a drug test, because, as a matter of law,
it is not an intolerable work condition. (See
generally, Doc. 12.)
April 26, 2019, Plaintiff responded by arguing: (1) she was
withdrawing her interference claim; (2) temporal proximity is
not necessary where Plaintiff alleges a pattern of
antagonistic treatment; (3) Plaintiff's coworkers
harassing her, culminating in her forced drug test,
constituted a pattern of antagonistic treatment; (4)
Defendants knew her illness rendered her unable to comply
with the three-hour call-out policy, yet they punished her
anyway; and (5) a reasonable person would have resigned under
her circumstances. (See generally, Doc. 13.)
2, 2019, Defendants replied arguing: (1) antagonistic
comments by Plaintiff's coworkers cannot constitute
adverse employment because her coworkers lacked authority
over her and did not threaten to discharge her; (2) Plaintiff
quit because of her drug test, not her coworkers'
treatment, so the lack of temporal proximity proves Plaintiff
failed to allege causation; (3) Plaintiff failed to
adequately address Defendants' case law stating
punishment for violations of company policy cannot constitute
adverse employment treatment. (See generally, Doc.
been fully briefed, this issue is now ripe before the court.
Standard of review
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the
plaintiff must allege “factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)).
“When reviewing a 12(b)(6) motion, we ‘accept as
true all well-pled factual allegations in the complaint and
all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from
them.'” Estate of Ginzburg by Ermey v.
Electrolux Home Prods., Inc., ___ Fed.Appx. ___, 2019 WL
4187372, at *3 (3d Cir. Sept. 4, 2019) (quoting Taksir v.
Vanguard Grp., 903 F.3d 95, 96-97 (3d Cir. 2018)). The
facts alleged must be “construed in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff.” In re Ins. Brokerage
Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 314 (3d Cir. 2010)
(internal quotations, brackets, and ellipses omitted). But
“[t]he court is not required to draw unreasonable
inferences” from the facts. 5B Charles A. Wright &
Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure
§ 1357 (3d ed. 2004).
Third Circuit has detailed a three-step process to determine
whether a complaint meets the pleading standard. Bistrian
v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352 (3d Cir. 2014). First, the court
outlines the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim
for relief. Id. at 365. Second, the court must
“peel away those allegations that are no more than
conclusions and thus not entitled to the assumption of
truth.” Id. Third, the court “look[s]
for well-pled factual allegations, assume[s] their veracity,
and then ‘determine[s] whether they plausibly give rise
to an entitlement to relief.'” Id.
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). The last step is
“a context-specific task that requires the reviewing
court to draw on its judicial experience and common