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Horne v. Loandepot.com, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

April 10, 2018

LEWIS BRANT HORNE Plaintiff,
v.
LOANDEPOT.COM, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          WILLIAM L. CAMPBELL, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and Supporting Memorandum of Law. (Doc. Nos. 5, 6). Plaintiff filed a response in opposition (Doc. No. 9), and Defendant has replied. (Doc. No. 10). For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

         I. FACTUAL PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Lewis Horne, originally brought this action in Williamson County, Tennessee Chancery Court, seeking recovery of compensatory and punitive damages from the Defendant, loandepot.com, LLC. (Doc. No. 1-1). The Defendant removed the action to this Court under 28 U.S.C §§ 1331 and 1441(c) and 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq. (Doc. No. 1).

         Plaintiff was a Recruiting Officer for Defendant when he was involved in a motor-vehicle accident in April 2015. (Doc. No. 1-1, ¶ 5). Plaintiff alleges he missed a substantial amount of work and took leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) as a result of his work related injuries. (Id. at ¶¶ 5, 8). The Complaint states Defendant refused to initiate a complete worker's compensation claim and threatened to terminate his employment during the FMLA leave. (Id. at ¶¶ 6, 9). On October 21, 2016, Defendant terminated the Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶ 1). Plaintiff sued Defendant for wrongful termination, violation of the FMLA, common law retaliatory discharge, and intentional and negligent inflection of emotional distress. (Id.).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), permits dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For purposes of a motion to dismiss, a court must take all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Id. A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads facts that allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice. Id. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement of relief. Id. at 1.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Wrongful Termination

         Defendant argues Plaintiff's wrongful termination should be dismissed because Plaintiff has not alleged facts to state a clear violation of some well-defined and established public policy. (Doc. No. 6 at 3). Plaintiff argues he had a statutory right to file a worker's compensation claim, and Defendant terminated Plaintiff for exercising his rights under Tennessee Worker's Compensation Law. (Doc. No. 9 at 4-5).

         Employment-at-will “is a bedrock of Tennessee common law.” Franklin v. Swift Transp. Co., 210 S.W.3d 521, 527 (Tenn.App. 2006). Unless a contractual provision exists, courts presume that employment contracts are indefinite and terminable by a party for good, bad, or no cause at all. McClaren v. Keystone Memphis, LLC, 201 WL 56084 at *4 (W.D. Tenn. Jan. 5, 2010). “However, the employment-at-will doctrine is subject to a small exception that allows a cause of action to lie against an employer who, in terminating an employee, violates a clear public policy of the State of Tennessee.” Id.; see also Bone v. CSX Intermodal, Inc., 2001 WL 1906279 at *4 (W.D. Tenn. Oct. 11, 2001). For instance, an employee who files a workers' compensation claim is protected by public policy, and therefore an employer cannot lawfully discharge the employee for filing a claim. Yardley v. Hospital Housekeeping Systems, LLC, 470 S.W.3d 800, 804 (Tenn. 2015). “An employee who believes that he has been fired for filing a workers' compensation claim may bring a claim for retaliatory discharge.”[1] Id.

         Defendant argues Plaintiff “has not even attempted to allege that he was terminated in violation of public policy.” (Doc. No. 6 at 4). Defendant argues Plaintiff does not cite a statutory requirement in the Complaint to support an action for wrongful termination. In response, Plaintiff argues he had a statutory right to file a worker's compensation claim and Defendant violated public policy by terminating Plaintiff when he was exercising his rights. (Doc. No. 9 at 4). However, the Court must rely on facts alleged in the Complaint; not in the Plaintiff's brief.[2] See Chapman v. Bank of America, 2011 WL 3704148 at *1 (M.D. Tenn. Aug. 23, 2011).

         Plaintiff's Complaint does not state which public policy the Defendant violated, nor does it allege facts to support such a violation. Instead, Plaintiff merely states Defendant terminated him from his position and this caused him harm. (Doc. No. 1-1, ¶¶ 11, 12). Accordingly, Count I for wrongful termination does not contain sufficient facts to state a claim for relief because Plaintiff does not state facts sufficient to support a public policy violation.

         B. Violation of Family Medical Leave Act

         Plaintiff alleges Defendant violated Plaintiff's “right to exercise the benefits and protections of the FMLA[3]” and “failed to make reasonable accommodations for the Plaintiff…” after he developed a disability. (Id. at ¶¶ 14, 15). District courts established two separate theories of recovery under the FMLA, the “interference” theory and the “retaliation” theory. Gates v. U.S. Postal Service, 502 Fed.Appx. 485, 488 (6th Cir. 2012); Easter v. Asurion Ins. Services, Inc., 96 F.Supp.3d 789, 795 (M.D. Tenn. Mar. 6, 2015). For FMLA interference, an employee must show:

1) he was an eligible employee, (2) the defendant was an employer as defined under the FMLA, (3) he was entitled to leave under the FMLA, (4) he gave the employer notice of her intention to take leave, and (5) the employer denied ...

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