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Benedict v. Rhulman

United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division

April 14, 2015

ASHLEY BENEDICT, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM RHULMAN, THERESA PEIFFER, LORI GIDLEY, DAVID BERGH, and FRANK BERNSTEIN, individually, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS’ MOTIONS TO DISMISS (DOCS. 14, 21)

AVERN COHN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

I. Introduction

This is an employment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights case. Plaintiff, Ashley Benedict is suing defendants William Rhulman, Teresa Peiffer, Lori Gidley, David Bergh, and Frank Bernstein[1] making claims under state and federal law related to her employment with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) Thumb Correctional Facility. Peiffer, Bernstein, and Rhulman are corrections officers. Bergh is the Warden at the Thumb Correctional Facility and Gidley is the Deputy Warden.

The First Amended Complaint, the governing complaint, asserts the following claims:

Count I: Violation of the Michigan (ELCRA) – Hostile Work Environment
Count II: Violation of the Michigan ECRLA – Disparate Treatment
Count III: Violation of the Michigan ELCRA – Unlawful Retaliation for Engaging in a Protected Activity
Count IV: Equal Protection Violation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Fourteenth Amendment
Count V: Substantive Due Process Violation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Fourteenth Amendment

Before the Court is Peiffer, Bergh, Gidley and Bernstein’s partial motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (Doc. 14). The motion addresses only Benedict’s federal claims, contending that she has failed to allege plausible claims against them under federal law. They further ask that the Court decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Benedict’s state law claims.

Rhulman, proceeding pro se, has also filed a motion to dismiss. (Doc. 21).[2]

For the reasons that follow, Peiffer, Bergh, Gidley and Bernstein’s motion will be granted in part and denied in part. Benedict’s claims against Bergh and Peiffer will be dismissed. Rhulman’s motion will be denied.

II. Background

As alleged in the First Amended Complaint, Benedict, a female, began working for the MDOC on March 12, 2006. First Amended Complaint (FAC) at ¶ 13-14. Beginning in 2009, Benedict says she was sexually harassed by Rhulman, the MPRI coordinator at the Thumb Correctional Facility. Id. at ¶ 16. She says Rhulman would send sexually explicit e-mails, Facebook messages, and text messages. Rhulman would also request sexual favors, which Benedict expressly opposed. Id. Benedict alleges that as a result, she was transferred from the Essex Unit and passed over for mandatory overtime in retaliation for opposing Rhulman’s advances. Id. at ¶ 22, 23.

Benedict also says she was retaliated against for reporting the sexual harassment to Bernstein, a Lieutenant Corrections Officer at the Thumb Correctional Facility, who allegedly told Benedict not to repeat the same or he would “have to report it.” Id. at ¶ 24. Soon after, Benedict was issued “lost time” for missing work due to illness by Gidley. Id. at ¶ 25. On February 5, 2013, after she reported the sexual harassment, Benedict was issued an Employee Disciplinary Report and a three day suspension. Id. at ¬∂ 27. Benedict alleges that Defendants ‚Äúretaliated against [her] for reporting and/or opposing sexual harassment and/or gender discrimination by threatening to discipline her for her alleged subordination, ...


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