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Hughes v. Musselman Hotels Management, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

November 4, 2016

GREGORY HUGHES, Plaintiff,
v.
MUSSELMAN HOTELS MANAGEMENT, LLC, doing business as The Westin Richmond, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION (GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS)

          Henry E. Hudson United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Gregory Hughes ("Plaintiff) brings suit against his former employers, Defendants Musselman Hotels Management, LLC ("Musselman") and Forest Avenue Associates, LLC ("Forest Avenue") (collectively "Westin") for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). Plaintiff also alleges claims against Mountjoy Chilton Medley LLP ("MCM"), a limited liability partnership of Certified Public Accountants, for interference and retaliation under the FMLA.

         This matter comes before the Court on MCM's Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 9.) MCM seeks dismissal of Plaintiffs FMLA claims, arguing that Plaintiff has failed to plead a plausible claim that MCM is Plaintiffs employer within the meaning of the statute. MCM also asserts that Plaintiff has failed to plead an actionable claim of interference or retaliation as contemplated by the FMLA. Each side has filed memoranda supporting their respective positions. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         As required by Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court assumes Plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations to be true, and views all facts in the light most favorable to him. T.G. Slater & Son v. Donald P. & Patricia A. Brennan, LLC, 385 F.3d 836, 841 (4th Cir. 2004) (citing MylanLabs, Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)). At this stage, the Court's analysis is both informed and constrained by the four corners of Plaintiff s Complaint. Viewed through this lens, the facts are as follows.

         In March 2010, Westin hired Plaintiff as a Front Desk Associate. (Compl. ¶11, ECF No. 1.) Westin promoted Plaintiff to Front Desk Supervisor in June 2010. (Id.) In October 2011, Westin again promoted Plaintiff, this time to the position of Guest Services Manager. (Id.) During this period, Plaintiff received generally positive performance evaluations. (Id.)

         For many years, Plaintiff has suffered from an anxiety disorder that requires continuing medical treatment. (Id. ¶ 7.) This disorder substantially affects Plaintiffs cognitive function, thinking, and concentration, and can significantly impair his ability to interact with others. (Id.) On or about April 27, 2012, Plaintiff suffered an anxiety attack while at work, an episode which required medical attention and prescription medication. (Id. ¶ 12.) Thereafter, Plaintiff requested and received from Westin one week of medical leave. (Id.) Thereafter, Plaintiff controlled his anxiety using medication. (Id.)

         On January 26, 2015, Plaintiff suffered another anxiety attack at work. (Id. 115.) This time, Plaintiff went to the front desk supervisor, Shonta Johnson ("Johnson"), and reported that he was in terrible pain. (Id.) Plaintiff requested that Johnson call an ambulance. (Id.) As a result, emergency medical services, accompanied by Henrico police responded to the hotel and transported Plaintiff to the hospital. (Id. ¶15-16.) Plaintiff was treated and released that same day, and the emergency room physician provided him with a note stating that he could return to work without restriction. (Id. ¶ 16.)

         Although the hospital had released Plaintiff to return to work without restriction, Plaintiffs supervisor Feliks Schwartz ("Schwartz") required Plaintiff to obtain a second medical release from his primary care physician. (Id. ¶ 18.) Schwartz also criticized Plaintiff for requesting that Johnson call 911 and suggested that Plaintiff had embarrassed the hotel. (Id. ¶ 17.)

         Plaintiffs primary care physician released him to return to work on January 30, 2015, but Schwartz refused to accept this release. (Id. ¶ 18-19) Instead, Schwartz directed Plaintiff to submit to psychological and personality testing as a condition of returning to work. (Id. ¶ 20.) Following this testing, Plaintiff was again released to work without restriction. (Id. ¶ 22.)

         On February 11, 2015, Plaintiff alleges that Schwartz contacted Tom Hillman ("Hillman"), Westin's Chief Operating Officer, and formulated a plan to fire Plaintiff because of his disability and because he took medical leave. (Id. ¶ 24.) Schwartz and Hillman allegedly conspired to create a pretext for Plaintiffs firing to avoid liability under the ADA and FMLA. (Id.)

         On February 13, 2015, Plaintiff was demoted from Guest Services Manager to Front Desk Associate. (Id. ¶ 25.) As a result of this demotion, Plaintiffs compensation was reduced from approximately $15.45 per hour to $11.00 per hour. (Id.) In addition, Plaintiffs work hours were reduced from forty hours per week to thirty hours per week. (Id.) Collectively, these reductions decreased Plaintiffs total compensation by approximately fifty percent. (Id.) Furthermore, Schwartz informed Plaintiff that as a condition of his continued employment, Plaintiff would have to submit to regular psychotherapy sessions at his own expense, as well as weekly progress meetings with Schwartz. (Id. ¶ 27.) Schwartz presented Plaintiff with a document, allegedly drafted by MCM, containing the above terms and conditions. (Id. ¶ 29.) Plaintiff contends that these conditions were intended to impose an undue burden and thereby compel Plaintiff to quit. (Id. ¶ 28.)

         In addition, Schwartz instructed Plaintiff that he was forbidden from discussing his medical condition with other employees and was not permitted to inform his coworkers about the mandatory psychotherapy sessions. (Id. ¶ 32-33.) Schwartz also began subjecting Plaintiff to close and harassing scrutiny in the workplace. (Id. ¶ 34.)

         On or about March 5, 2015, Schwartz sent emails to his superiors at Westin and to MCM reporting a complaint made by one of Plaintiff s coworkers that Plaintiff had made a racially insensitive comment. (Id. ¶ 36.) Specifically, Schwartz inquired of MCM whether or not this statement was grounds for termination. (Id.) MCM responded by directing Schwartz to solicit statements from other employees who witnessed similar conduct. (Id. ΒΆ 37.) Schwartz followed this advice and subsequently obtained a statement from the hotel bookkeeper that Plaintiff had made joking statements about a ...


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