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Trail v. Utility Trailer Manufacturing Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Abingdon Division

April 2, 2019

TAYLOR WAYNE TRAIL, Plaintiff,
v.
UTILITY TRAILER MANUFACTURING COMPANY, Defendant.

          Thomas E. Strelka, L. Leigh R. Strelka, and N. Winston West, IV, Strelka Law Office, PC, Roanoke, Virginia, for Plaintiff;

          Mark. M. Lawson, Elliott Lawson & Minor, P.C., Bristol, Virginia, for Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          James P. Jones United States District Judge

         In this Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) case, the defendant employer has moved to dismiss the First Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the reasons that follow, I will deny the Motion to Dismiss.

         I.

         The First Amended Complaint alleges the following facts, which I must accept as true for the purpose of deciding the Motion to Dismiss.

         The plaintiff, Mr. Trail, worked for the defendant, Utility Trailer Manufacturing Company (UTMC), as a welder at its Smyth County, Virginia, plant. UTMC manufactures vehicles and parts in the automotive trucking industry.

         On March 8, 2018, Trail's wife called UTMC and spoke with a human resources representative. She stated that both of Trail's sons were very ill and would be transported to the emergency room for medical care. When Trail learned of this news, he discussed it with a human resources representative and his supervisor. He asked to be allowed to leave work pursuant to the FMLA. UTMC approved his leave request and he left work.

         UTMC has an attendance policy in which employees are assigned points when they are absent. The policy requires termination upon the accrual of 15 points within a year. Prior to leaving work on March 8, 2018, Trail had fewer than 15 points.

         On March 12, 2018, Bill Weaver of UTMC Human Resources met with Trail and foreman Jake Dickinson. Weaver informed Trail that UTMC would assign points for his March 8 absence and that due to excessive points, Trail was immediately terminated. Weaver stated that FMLA would not apply to the March 8 absence. A note written by Weaver memorializing the meeting states that Trail “hoped FML would cover absence & it would not, so Bill Weaver told Taylor Trail that he was being let go for excessive absenteeism.” First Am. Compl. Ex. A. The note does not explain why Weaver concluded that the absence was not protected under the FMLA, nor does it indicate that UTMC asked Trail to provide documentation related to the absence or gave him an opportunity to cure any perceived deficiency in his request for FMLA leave.

         A week earlier, on March 1, 2018, Trail had applied for intermittent FMLA leave due to his son's cerebral palsy. A human resources representative gave Trail forms to have his son's physician complete. UTMC has stated that Trail did not complete the paperwork necessary for approval of intermittent leave. However, according to Trail, the leave requested on March 8 was unrelated to his son's cerebral palsy and the intermittent leave he had previously requested. Trail alleges that he provided sufficient information to human resources on March 8 to inform UTMC that his sons' trip to the emergency room would qualify for FMLA protections.

         Based on these facts, Trail asserts two claims. Count I alleges discrimination and retaliation in violation of the FMLA. Count II alleges interference with FMLA rights. UTMC has moved to dismiss both counts pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The Motion to Dismiss has been fully briefed and is now ripe for decision.[1]

         II.

         Federal pleading standards require that a complaint contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint to determine whether the plaintiff has properly stated a claim. See Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). In order to survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must “state[] a plausible claim for relief” that “permit[s] the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct” based upon its “judicial experience and common sense.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). In evaluating a pleading, the court accepts as true all well-pled facts. Id. A complaint does not need ...


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