United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN
PART HIGHLAND PARK DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE
PLEADINGS  AND GRANTING LEONA GROUP DEFENDANTS'
MOTION TO DISMISS 
STEPHEN J. MURPHY, United States District Judge
the City of Highland Park terminated Plaintiff Peter
Hudson's employment, Hudson filed suit against Defendants
City of Highland Park, Highland Park Fire Chief Derek
Hillman, Highland Park Human Resources Director Makini
Jackson, the Leona Group, LLC, and Carmen Willingham. Hudson
raised eight causes of action based on religious
discrimination and related state-law contract and
invasion-of-privacy claims. The Highland Park Defendants
moved for judgment on the pleadings or to dismiss and the
Leona Group Defendants moved to dismiss. For the reasons
stated below, the Court will grant in part and deny in part
the Highland Park Defendants' motion and will grant the
Leona Group Defendants' motion.
City of Highland Park employed Hudson as a full-time
firefighter. Also, Hudson worked part-time for Leona Group,
LLC (at the Highland Park Renaissance Academy, a local
charter school) as a handyman and coach. Hudson alleges that
Hillman and Jackson suspended his employment because he
claimed pay as a Fire Engine Operator, and then terminated
his employment because he had claimed to work for the Leona
Group while he was working for the Fire Department.
alleges that Leona Group principal Carmen Willingham provided
his timesheets-without his permission- to Hillman and
Jackson. The timesheets showed that Hudson claimed to work
for Leona Group on the same week days he claimed to have
worked at the fire station. Hudson submits that he actually
worked for Leona on the weekends, and Willingham instructed
him to record his weekend work as weekday work on the
timesheets because the school's payroll system would not
allow her to pay him for weekend work.
claims to be a devout Christian. He alleges that Hillman and
Jackson discharged him based on his Christian faith and his
outspoken criticism of sexual misconduct in the firehouse.
Hudson contends that-as a result of sexual misconduct-his
co-workers were not present for duty during fire alarms, and
neglected to maintain life-saving equipment like oxygen
tanks. After he was terminated, Hudson filed an amended
complaint. ECF 61. The Highland Park Defendants timely moved
for judgment on the pleadings or to dismiss for failure to
state a claim, ECF 62, and the Leona Group Defendants timely
moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim. ECF 63.
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for dismissal of a
complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can
be granted. If a complaint's allegations are not
"sufficient 'to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level, ' and to 'state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face'" then the Court must
grant a motion to dismiss. Hensley Mfg. v. ProPride,
Inc., 579 F.3d 603, 609 (6th Cir. 2009) (citation
omitted) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007)). The Court views the complaint in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff, presumes the truth
of all well-pled factual assertions, and draws every
reasonable inference in favor of the non-moving party.
Bassett v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n,
528 F.3d 426, 430 (6th Cir. 2008). If "a cause of action
fails as a matter of law, regardless of whether the
plaintiff's factual allegations are true or not, "
then the Court must grant dismissal. Winnett v.
Caterpillar, Inc., 553 F.3d 1000, 1005 (6th Cir. 2009).
12(c) provides for judgment on the pleadings. The Court
analyzes 12(b)(6) and 12(c) motions in the same manner
because both test whether the complaint "met the minimal
requirements of notice pleading." EEOC v. J.H. Routh
Packing Co., 246 F.3d 850, 855 (6th Cir. 2001).
Highland Park Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings and Motion to Dismiss 
brought five claims against the Highland Park Defendants: (1)
Disparate treatment and hostile work environment as to City
of Highland Park, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2; (2) Disparate
treatment, suspension and discharge as to City of Highland
Park, 42 U.S.C. § 2000; (3) Deprivation of right to
freedom of speech as to Hillman, Jackson, and City of
Highland Park, 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (4) Deprivation of Due
Process as to Hillman, Jackson, and the City of Highland
Park, 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (5) Breach of Contract as to
City of Highland Park. The Highland Park Defendants did not
address-or dispute-whether Hudson has alleged sufficient
factual allegations to satisfy basic pleading requirements.
Rather, they argue that qualified immunity bars all of
qualified-immunity doctrine "'shield[s]' public
officials from money-damages liability if 'their conduct
does not violate clearly established statutory or
constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have
known.'" Citizens in Charge, Inc. v.
Husted, 810 F.3d 437, 440 (6th Cir. 2016) (quoting
Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)).
"Qualified immunity 'gives ample room for mistaken
judgments' by protecting 'all but the plainly
incompetent or those who knowingly violate the
law.'" Chappell v. City of Cleveland, 585
F.3d 901, 907 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Hunter v.
Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 229 (1991)). "Plaintiff bears
the burden of showing that defendants are not entitled to
qualified immunity." Chappell, 585 F.3d at 907.
To defeat qualified immunity, the Plaintiff must establish
that "a constitutional right was violated" and
"that the right was clearly established."
Id. The Court looks "first to decisions of the
Supreme Court, then to decisions of [the Sixth Circuit] and
other courts within our [C]ircuit, and finally to decisions
of other circuits" to determine whether a right is
clearly established. Thomas v. Cohen, 304 F.3d 563,
580 (6th Cir. 2002) (quotations omitted).
Count One - Religious Discrimination: Hostile ...