United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KEITH WATKINS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
he was fired in June 2017, Plaintiff Wiley Williams worked
for Defendant Walmart Stores East, LP, for almost twenty
years. Williams insists that Walmart abruptly fired him in
violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act
(ERISA). Because Williams fails to allege that he exhausted
all of his administrative remedies before filing this action,
his ERISA claim is due to be dismissed. But it also appears
that a more detailed complaint could state a plausible ERISA
claim, so the court will not dismiss Williams's claim
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
court has federal-question subject-matter jurisdiction. 28
U.S.C. § 1331. The parties do not dispute personal
jurisdiction or venue.
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) “tests the sufficiency of the complaint
against the legal standard set forth in Rule 8: ‘a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief.'” Wilborn v.
Jones, 761 Fed.Appx. 908, 910 (11th Cir. 2019) (per
curiam) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). “To survive a
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) (quoting
Bell Atl. 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.” Id. This standard
“is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,'
but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that [the]
defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
Rule 12(e), a defendant “may move for a more definite
statement” of a complaint that “is so vague or
ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a
response.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e). “The motion is
intended to provide a remedy for an unintelligible pleading,
rather than a vehicle for obtaining greater detail.”
Faulk v. Home Oil Co., 173 F.R.D. 311, 313 (M.D.
Ala. 1997) (cleaned up). It “is not to be employed as a
substitute for pre-trial discovery.” Herman v.
Cont'l Grain Co., 80 F.Supp.2d 1290, 1297 (M.D. Ala.
Williams started working at the Walmart store in Enterprise,
Alabama, in August 1997. He kept working there for roughly two
months shy of twenty years. For fifteen of those years, he
was an Assembler. He never got any disciplinary write-ups or
coaching sessions - not once in nearly two decades. To the
contrary, he was “Associate of the Month” six
times. (Doc. # 1, at 2-3.) Because of his long tenure,
Williams was “grandfathered-in” to a plan that
allowed him to get health, dental, and life insurance
benefits for working twenty-eight hours a week. New
employees, by contrast, had to work forty hours a week to get
benefits. (Doc. # 1, at 5, 7.) What's more, after his
twenty-year work anniversary in August 2017, Williams
“would have been entitled to greater vested
benefits.” (Doc. # 1, at 5, 7.) But he never got them.
2017, a supervisor asked Williams to help him install a beam
in a steel shelf in the back of the store. Williams obliged.
But when Brian Retherford (the shift manager) saw the men
working, he ordered Williams to “get down” off a
scissor lift. (Doc. # 1, at 3.) Mylan Hicks (the assistant
store manager) then called Williams into a meeting with
Retherford. In that meeting, Retherford told Williams that he
was “not supposed to be in the steel.” (Doc. # 1,
at 3.) Williams answered that he had to get “in the
steel” to install the beam, yet Retherford fired
Williams on the spot, purportedly for violating workplace
safety rules. (Doc. # 1, at 3.) At the time, Hicks was
twenty-four years old, Retherford was thirty-three, and
Williams was sixty-four. (Doc. # 1, at 2-3, 7.)
receiving a right-to-sue letter from the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (Doc. # 1-1), Williams filed a
two-count complaint against Walmart in October 2018. In Count
One, he claims Walmart discriminated against him based on his
age. (Doc. # 1, at 5-6.) In Count Two, he claims Walmart
interfered with his employee benefits in violation of §
510 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA),
Pub. L. No. 93-406, tit. I, § 510, 88 Stat. 829, 895
(1974) (codified as amended at 29 U.S.C. § 1140 (2012)).
(Doc. # 1, at 7-8.)
moves to dismiss Count Two for failure to state a claim - or,
in the alternative, for a more definite statement. (Doc. #
7.) Williams opposes the motion to dismiss but does not seek
leave to file an amended complaint. (See Doc. # 13.)
Walmart filed a reply in support of its motion. (Doc. # 16.)
The motion is now ripe.
governs employee benefit plans, and § 510 of ERISA
prevents anyone from interfering with a ...