United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
OWEN BOWDRE, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Family and Medical Leave Act matter comes before the court on
Defendant Evonik Corporation's “Motion for Judgment
on the Pleadings as to the Amended Complaint and Incorporated
Memorandum of Law.” (Doc. 26).
Ray Epperson alleges that he requested medical leave under
the FMLA from his employer, Evonik, and then took what he
thought was his FMLA leave. But after Mr. Epperson took
several days off, Evonik terminated his employment. Mr.
Epperson contends that, by doing so, Evonik interfered with
his FMLA rights and retaliated against him for engaging in
activity protected by the FMLA.
moves the court to enter judgment in its favor on Mr.
Epperson's claims under Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure because, according to Evonik, the
pleadings show that Mr. Epperson did not provide medical
certification from his doctor to support his application for
FMLA leave. So Evonik asserts that Mr. Epperson was not
entitled to FMLA protections and thus cannot state any claim
for relief under the FMLA.
further explained below, Mr. Epperson was not entitled to
FMLA leave so the court will dismiss his interference claim.
But the court will not dismiss his retaliation claim because
he has sufficiently alleged that he engaged in statutorily
protected activity, that a causal connection between the
activity and his termination exists, and that Evonik's
reason for terminating him is pretext for retaliation.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court reviews a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the
pleadings under the same standard as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion
to dismiss. Carbone v. Cable News Network, Inc., 910
F.3d 1345, 1350 (11th Cir. 2018) (citing Hawthorne v. Mac
Adjustment, Inc., 140 F.3d 1367, 1370 (11th Cir. 1998)).
Under Rule 12(b)(6), a defendant may move to dismiss a
complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted.” To survive a motion to dismiss,
the complaint must allege “enough facts to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007). To be plausible on its face, the complaint must
contain enough “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). And on a motion to
dismiss, the court accepts as true the factual allegations in
the complaint and construes them in the light most favorable
to the plaintiff. Id.
all allegations can defeat a motion to dismiss.
“[L]abels and conclusions . . . will not do, ”
and “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. If the court determines
that the well-pled facts in the complaint, accepted as true,
do not state a plausible claim to relief, the court must
dismiss the claim. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
Epperson worked as a chemical operator for Evonik in
Birmingham, Alabama. In November 2017, a physician diagnosed
Mr. Epperson with an atrial flutter and pneumonia. While in
the hospital receiving treatment for his health issues, Mr.
Epperson “called his supervisor multiple times to
inform him that he was suffering from severe health
complications and would not be returning to work until he
fully recovered.” (Doc. 23 at ¶ 11).
November 17, 2017, Mr. Epperson requested FMLA leave from
Evonik because he needed treatment for his medical
conditions. Evonik notified Mr. Epperson that he had to
complete the necessary FMLA application and “obtain a
medical certification from his doctor.” (Doc. 23 at
Epperson collected the necessary FMLA paperwork from Evonik
and delivered the medical certification form to his doctor.
Mr. Epperson “was told that the doctor would send it to
[Evonik], ” but he does not allege who told him that
information. (Doc. 23 at ¶ 16).
Epperson asserts that he took the same steps-i.e.,
he gave the medical certification form to his doctor and
“believed that the doctor would send the certification
directly to [Evonik]”-when he had successfully applied
for FMLA leave from Evonik in 2014. (Doc. 23 at ¶ 18).
never received Mr. Epperson's medical certification form.
Regardless, from November 17 to December 7, 2017, Mr.
Epperson took several days off ...