United States District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee, Knoxville
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This retaliatory-discharge case comes before the Court on the defendant’s motion to dismiss [R. 4], the defendant’s second motion to dismiss [R. 12], and the plaintiff’s motion for leave to file a second amended and restated complaint [R. 18]. For the reasons discussed below, the defendant’s motions to dismiss will be denied, and the plaintiff’s motion to amend will be granted.
Standard of Review
Rules 8(a) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require the complaint to articulate a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). This requirement is met 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. (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) requires the court to construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept all the complaint’s factual allegations as true, and determine whether the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the plaintiff’s claims that would entitle the plaintiff to relief. Meador v. Cabinet for Human Resources, 902 F.2d 474, 475 (6th Cir. 1990) cert. denied, 498 U.S. 867 (1990).
The court may not grant a motion to dismiss based upon a disbelief of a complaint’s factual allegations. Lawler v. Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196, 1198 (6th Cir. 1990); Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 377 (6th Cir. 1995) (noting that courts should not weigh evidence or evaluate the credibility of witnesses). The court must liberally construe the complaint in favor of the party opposing the motion. Id. However, the complaint must articulate more than a bare assertion of legal conclusions. Scheid v. Fanny Farmer Candy Shops, Inc., 859 F.2d 434 (6th Cir. 1988). “[The] complaint must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory.” Id. (citations omitted).
With respect to motions to amend, Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that leave should freely be given to amend a complaint when the interests of justice require. See Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962) (“In the absence of any apparent or declared reasons – such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice . . . futility of the amendment, etc. – then leave sought should, as the rules require, be ‘freely given.’”). The denial of an opportunity to amend is within the discretion of the district court. Id. When the proposed amendment to the complaint would be futile, the court may deny the motion to amend. Kottmyer v. Maas, 436 F.3d 684, 692 (6th Cir. 2006). “Amendment of the complaint is futile when the proposed amendment would not permit the complaint to survive a motion to dismiss.” Miller v. Calhoun County, 408 F.3d 803, 817 (6th Cir. 2006).
The facts necessary to resolve these motions are few. The plaintiff was employed by the defendant from December 2000 through February 28, 2013. Beginning in December 2011, the plaintiff began working as a “GM Tube Supervisor.” The plaintiff contends that the defendant’s tube department was shut down from December 31, 2012 through February 25, 2013 due to environmental issues, and as a result of the shutdown, the defendant was unable to manufacture or assemble GM tubes for a period of time. Managers became concerned that they would fall behind on shipment deadlines, and in early 2013, two of the plaintiff’s supervisors approached the plaintiff and informed him that once the tube department was reopened, his department needed to release the GM tubes to production immediately after they were manufactured without waiting for them to go through certain required testing and holding periods.
The plaintiff believed “[t]o skip the requirements and to ship these tubes or products that contained these tubes to customers without the required holding periods and required testing was fraudulent.” Accordingly, the plaintiff refused to comply with his supervisors’ demands. He claims the supervisors grew increasingly angry and wrote him up twice in the following weeks for “trumped up” reasons. Finally, a few days before the tube department was scheduled to reopen, one of the plaintiff’s supervisors again told him that he needed to get the tubes out to production immediately after processing and before satisfying the required testing and holding periods. After he refused to comply with what he informed his supervisor he believed to be fraud, the plaintiff was terminated.
The defendant’s first motion to dismiss [R. 4] contends that the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 because the plaintiff failed to establish that the amount in controversy actually exceeds $75, 000. The defendant also contends that the plaintiff’s complaint failed to state a retaliatory-discharge claim for which relief can be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). In response, the plaintiff filed an amended and restated complaint [R. 9] clarifying the amount in controversy and alleging more factual information relating to the retaliatory-discharge claim. The defendant then filed a second motion to dismiss the amended and restated complaint [R. 12], contending that the amended complaint still failed to establish an amount in controversy exceeding $75, 000 and that the amended complaint still failed to state a claim for retaliatory discharge under Rule 12(b)(6). Accordingly, the plaintiff moved for leave to file a second amended and restated complaint [R. 18], which the defendant opposes as futile.
A. Subject-Matter Jurisdiction
Paragraph 93 of the proposed second amended and restated complaint alleges that, as a result of his illegal termination, the plaintiff lost income and benefits and suffered emotional distress, humiliation and embarrassment, and other pecuniary losses. [R. 18-1, ¶ 93]. In 2012, the defendant paid the plaintiff $79, 534.00, and the plaintiff expected to earn as much or more in 2013 or 2014. Id. After his termination, the plaintiff did not find employment for fourteen months. Id. Once he was able to secure a new job, the plaintiff earned substantially less than what he ...