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Knight v. CMH Homes

October 3, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas A. Varlan United States District Judge



This is an action brought purportedly pursuant to Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, the Tennessee Human Rights Act (THRA), T.C.A. § 4-21-201, et seq., and common law wrongful discharge. It was removed to this Court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b). Plaintiff James Knight contends that he was subjected to "harassment, resulting in his constructive wrongful termination from his employment" with CMH Homes, Inc. Currently pending is the motion of all defendants to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [Doc. 5]. Plaintiff has failed to respond to this motion in a timely manner and is therefore deemed to have waived any response. Rule 7.2, Local Rules of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion to dismiss [Doc. 5] will be granted and this action dismissed.

I. Factual Background

The following factual allegations are considered in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and are taken from his complaint. Plaintiff formerly worked as a sales representative for defendant CMH Homes, Inc. Plaintiff alleges that the General Manager of CMH Homes, Junior Walthers, was instructed to terminate plaintiff after a sales rally at the Norris Plant by Regional Manager Mark Morgan. Mr. Walthers refused to do this as plaintiff was the top salesman at that location.

On September 27, 2005, Samantha Caldwell told plaintiff to take a few days personal leave and then return to work. Upon his return the following day, the locks had been changed and plaintiff was unable to enter the lot. When plaintiff was transferred to Lot 375, he was told by General Manager Douglas Keller and by the Sales Manager Samantha Caldwell that Mark Morgan had informed them to terminate him as soon as possible. Plaintiff contends that he was harassed by Samantha Caldwell at Lot 375 on a daily basis.

Plaintiff claims that "deals" that he wrote per company guidelines at the Home Show were allowed to be given to other sales centers and salesmen for which he received no benefits or payment. Mark Morgan was given the Sevierville Region, and plaintiff was told by several people that he needed to transfer out of Morgan's region immediately. The General Manager from Lot 291 told plaintiff that "you have cross hairs on your back." Samantha Caldwell informed plaintiff on several occasions that he needed to seek another profession. Plaintiff contends that the Sales Manager interfered with plaintiff's relationship with his customers in order to make the plaintiff look bad.

Plaintiff contends that he suffered a stress-induced heart condition as a result of the harassment, has continued to suffer severe mental anguish, and is undergoing treatment for it. Plaintiff was ultimately terminated in December 2006 because of his medical condition, which he contends resulted from the intimidation and stress situations caused by CMH Homes. He claims that he was unable to continue to mentally deal with the harassment and hostile work environment and that he suffered a mental collapse and was placed on FMLA leave. Plaintiff was terminated from his employment and his insurance benefits terminated while he was on this FMLA leave.

Plaintiff makes no allegation that the harassment or termination was based on his position in any protected class under Title VII or the THRA; that it was in any way improper to terminate him while he was on FMLA leave; or that his termination had anything to do with his engaging in protected activity that might form the basis of a wrongful discharge action under Tennessee law.

II. Plaintiff's Rule 12(b)(6) Motion

Technically, the Rule 12(b)(6) motion does not attack the merits of the case -- it merely challenges the pleader's failure to state a claim properly. 5 C. Wright, A. Miller & M. Kane, Federal Practice & Procedure, § 1364 at 340 (Supp. 1987). In deciding a 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must determine whether the plaintiff's complaint sets forth sufficient allegations to establish a claim for relief. The Court must accept all allegations in the complaint at "face value" and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974).

The complaint must in essence set forth enough information to outline the elements of a claim or to permit inferences to be drawn that these elements exist. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411 (1969); German v. Killeen, 495 F.Supp. 822, 827 (E.D. Mich. 1980). Conclusory allegations are not acceptable, however, where no facts are alleged to support the conclusion or where the allegations are contradicted by the facts themselves. Vermilion Foam Products Co. v. General Electric Co., 386 F.Supp. 255 (E.D. Mich. 1974).

III. Analysis

Both Title VII and the Tennessee Human Rights Act are limited to claims of harassment based upon a protected class: race, creed, color, religion, sex, age or national origin. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1); T.C.A. § 4-21-401(a)(1); see also Farmer v. Cleveland Public Power, 295 F.3d 593, 604-05 (6th Cir. 2002) (holding that to establish a prima facie case of harassment under Title VII, the plaintiff must demonstrate that he is a member of a protected group and that the harassment giving rise to the hostile work environment was based upon his protected status). Nowhere in the complaint does plaintiff allege that he was harassed due to his race, creed, religion, sex, age or national origin with respect to his employment. In fact, the record contains no information ...

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