United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Big Stone Gap Division
KIMBERLY S. MOORE, Plaintiff,
MOUNTAIN STATES HEALTH ALLIANCE, ET AL., Defendants.
Timothy W. McAfee, Timothy W. McAfee, PLLC, Big Stone Gap,
Virginia, for Plaintiff;
Kimberly W. Daniel and Jonathan M. Sumrell, Hancock, Daniel,
Johnson and Nagle, P.C., Glen Allen, Virginia, for Defendant
Norton Community Hospital.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. Jones United States District Judge
action for damages and injunctive relief brought under the
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29
U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and the Civil Rights Act
of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 1981a, the plaintiff alleges that
she was wrongfully terminated by her employer due to age
discrimination and in retaliation for exercise of her rights.
A defendant, Norton Community Hospital, has moved to dismiss
the retaliation claim and strike the plaintiff's prayer
for punitive damages. Reviewing the plaintiff's allegations
in the light most favorable to her, I conclude that the
defendant's Motion to Dismiss and Motion to Strike must
Complaint alleges the following facts, which I must accept as
true for purposes of deciding the Motion to Dismiss. Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 572 (2007).
plaintiff, Kimberly Moore, was previously employed by Norton
Community Hospital (“the Hospital”) as an
Emergency Department reception clerk. Her employment was
terminated on June 6, 2014. At the time of her termination,
she was fifty-five years old, earned approximately seventeen
dollars per hour, and had been employed with the Hospital for
twenty-three years. She was also nine months away from
qualifying for lifetime health insurance, a retirement
benefit available to long-term employees that would have cost
the defendants over a million dollars to provide. After
terminating Moore's employment, the defendants replaced
her with a younger employee.
was a member of the United Steelworkers Union, and for
approximately twenty years, the terms of her employment with
the Hospital had been governed by a contract negotiated by
the union. Around 2011, the Hospital was acquired by Mountain
States Health Alliance (“Mountain States”).
Mountain States “openly opposed employees that belonged
to the union and discouraged employees from continuing their
association with the union.” (Compl. ¶ 22, ECF No.
1.) Moore, however, refused to withdraw from the union.
or August 2013, Moore's supervisors “began to
harass, bully and emotionally abuse” her on a regular
basis. (Id. at ¶ 25.) They “changed her
job duties and titles without providing proper training or
instructions” and “constantly complain[ed] that
while [her] performance was compliant, they did not like
[her] personality.” (Id.) Moore claims that
she was forced to “endure daily criticisms” and
“attend counseling, ” despite her “more
than satisfactory” job performance. (Id. at
¶¶ 16, 26-27.) She alleges that she “became a
target of harassment and abuse” because the defendants
“hope[d] that she would quit and forfeit the rate of
pay and retirement benefits” to which she was entitled.
(Id. at ¶ 28.) At some point, she filed a
grievance against her supervisors in accordance with the
terms of the union contract.
has asserted two claims against the defendants under the
ADEA: (1) age discrimination and (2) retaliation for filing
the grievance. She seeks injunctive relief, compensatory
damages, and punitive damages under the ADEA and the Civil
Rights Act of 1991.
Hospital moves to dismiss Moore's retaliation claim for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. It
argues that the Complaint fails to properly allege that Moore
“engaged in activities protected by the ADEA.”
(Def's. Mot. to Partially Dismiss 1, ECF No. 5.) The
defendant also moves to strike Moore's prayer for
punitive damages on the ground that “the ADEA does not
provide for such relief.” (Def's. Mot. to Strike 1,
ECF No. 6.) I consider each motion in turn.
Motion to Dismiss.
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
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “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. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at
ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true
all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint,
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 572, and it must view those
facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 406 (2002).
However, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a
cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do
not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). The complaint's