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Bennett v. Talen Energy Corporation

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 11, 2019

SCOTT BENNETT, Plaintiff
v.
TALEN ENERGY CORPORATION; RIVERSTONE HOLDINGS, LLC; and SUSQUEHANNA NUCLEAR, LLC, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          JAMES M. MUNLEY JUDGE

         Before the court for disposition is the motion to dismiss portions of Plaintiff Scott Bennett's complaint filed by the defendants, Talen Energy Corporation and Susquehanna Nuclear, LLC. The parties have briefed their respective positions, and the matter is ripe for decision.

         Background [1]

         Defendants operate a nuclear power plant. (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶ 9). From 1997 through September 2007, plaintiff worked as a contractor for the defendants. (Id. ¶ 14). In September 2007, Defendant Susquehanna Nuclear, LLC, hired plaintiff as a full-time production foreman. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14). The Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner (hereinafter “NRC”) has promulgated extensive regulations, which are applicable to the defendants. (Id. ¶ 9). For example, the NRC requires all nuclear power plants to “adopt Fitness for Duty (“FFD”) programs that prescribe Unescorted Access (“UA”) requirements for employees entering secured areas of the nuclear facility.” Id. ¶ 10. The FFD programs provide for drug and alcohol screening of employees. (Id. ¶ 11).

         Plaintiff submitted a urine sample for testing under the FFD program on February 15, 2018. (Id. ¶ 15). The test revealed that plaintiff's blood alcohol level was above the permitted level, and thus plaintiff violated the FFD program. (Id. ¶ 16). This FFD violation was plaintiff's first in his twenty-plus years in the nuclear industry. (Id. ¶ 22). Due to the FFD violation, plaintiff's UA authorization was denied and terminated for a minimum of fourteen (14) days. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18). The medical review officer assured plaintiff that he would return to work before March 31, 2018. (Id. ¶ 19). Instead, on March 23, 2018, defendants notified plaintiff that his employment was terminated. (Id. ¶ 20).

         Defendants also have an Employee Assistance Program (hereinafter “EAP”). This program assists employees in resolving personal problems such as, inter allia, substance abuse problems. Defendants never provided plaintiff with an opportunity to complete an EAP regarding drug and alcohol abuse, which had been provided to other employees after their first FFD violation. (Id. ¶ 23).

         Defendants' revocation of plaintiff's UA status evidently stayed with him as he sought employment at other nuclear power facilities. Plaintiff applied for a job at an NRC facility in Louisiana as a work-week manager with a starting salary of $120, 000.00 year plus benefits and bonuses. (Id. ¶ 24). Plaintiff failed to obtain the position because he did not have his UA badge. (Id. ¶ 25).

         A nuclear power plant in Michigan offered plaintiff a job in or around January 2019. (Id. ¶¶ 26, 28). The starting salary for this job was $120, 000.00 a year plus benefits and bonuses. (Id. ¶ 26). One of defendants' employees told representatives at the facility that plaintiff was “unfit for duty at a nuclear facility, ” and the job offer was rescinded. (Id. ¶¶ 29-30).

         Finally, a nuclear power plant in Minnesota offered plaintiff a job making between $80-90 an hour, with twelve-hour shifts, seven days a week for six weeks. (Id. ¶¶ 31-32).

         Plaintiff filed the instant four-count complaint based upon these facts. The complaint asserts the following causes of action: Count I- Intentional Interference with Prospective Contractual Relations; Count II-Defamation; Count III-Wrongful Termination; and Count IV- Violation of 10 C.F.R. § 26.75. (Doc. 1, Compl.). In response to the complaint, the defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss Counts III and IV of the complaint. The parties have briefed their respective positions, bringing the case to its present posture.

         Jurisdiction

         As plaintiff alleges a violation of federal law, we have federal question jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (AThe district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.@). We have supplemental jurisdiction over the plaintiff's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Pennsylvania law applies to plaintiff's state law claims.

         Standard of review

         Defendants filed their motion to dismiss the counts III and IV of the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The court tests the sufficiency of the complaint's allegations when considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. All well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be viewed as true and in the light most favorable to the non-movant to determine whether, “‘under any reasonable reading of the pleadings, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.'” Colburn v. Upper Darby Twp., 838 F.2d 663, 665-66 (3d Cir. 1988) (quoting Estate of Bailey by Oare v. Cnty. of York, 768 F.2d 503, 506 (3d Cir. 1985)). The plaintiff must describe “‘enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' [each] necessary element” of the claims alleged in the complaint. Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). Moreover, the plaintiff must allege facts that “justify moving the case beyond the pleadings to the next stage of litigation.” Id. at 234-35. In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint the court may also consider “matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case.” Oshiver v. ...


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