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Klaiss v. Steel Tool & Engineering Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

August 26, 2019

RICHARD KLAISS, Plaintiff,
v.
STEEL TOOL & ENGINEERING CO., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

          LINDA V. PARKER, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         On June 29, 2018, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit against his former employer, Steel Tool and Engineering Company (“STE”), challenging deductions to his wages and the denial of his request for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint on July 16, 2018, asserting the following claims on behalf of a putative class: (I) unjust enrichment under Michigan law; (II) FMLA interference, discrimination, and retaliation; and (III) marital discrimination in violation of Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (“ELCRA”). The matter is presently before the Court on Defendant's motion to dismiss Counts I and III of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint, filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). (ECF No. 17.) The matter has been fully briefed. (ECF Nos. 18, 19.) Finding the facts and legal arguments sufficiently presented in the parties' briefs, the Court is dispensing with oral argument with respect to Defendant's motion pursuant to Eastern District of Michigan Local Rule 7.1(f). Because the Employee Retirement Income and Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) preempts Counts I and III of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint, the Court is granting STE's motion and is dismissing those claims.

         I. Rule 12(c) Standard

         A motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) is subject to the same standards of review as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Grindstaff v. Green, 133 F.3d 416, 421 (6th Cir. 1998). A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. RMI Titanium Co. v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 78 F.3d 1125, 1134 (6th Cir. 1996). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ” but it must contain more than “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action . . ..” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A complaint does not “suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertions' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         As the Supreme Court provided in Iqbal and Twombly, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility 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 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The plausibility standard “does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage; it simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of illegal [conduct].” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

         In deciding whether the plaintiff has set forth a “plausible” claim, the court must accept the factual allegations in the complaint as true. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). This presumption is not applicable to legal conclusions, however. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 668. Therefore, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         Ordinarily, the court may not consider matters outside the pleadings when deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Weiner v. Klais & Co., Inc., 108 F.3d 86, 88 (6th Cir. 1997) (citing Hammond v. Baldwin, 866 F.2d 172, 175 (6th Cir. 1989)). A court that considers such matters must first convert the motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P 12(d). However, “[w]hen a court is presented with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, it may consider the [c]omplaint and any exhibits attached thereto, public records, items appearing in the record of the case and exhibits attached to [the] defendant's motion to dismiss, so long as they are referred to in the [c]omplaint and are central to the claims contained therein.” Bassett v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 528 F.3d 426, 430 (6th Cir. 2008).

         II. Matters Outside the Pleadings

         As an initial matter, Plaintiff objects to STE's introduction of matters outside the pleadings to support its motion to dismiss. These materials are: (A) an Adoption Agreement for the Welfare Benefit Plan effective December 1, 2010; (B) an Adoption Agreement for the Welfare Benefit Plan effective June 1, 2013; (C) an election form for medical and dental insurance coverage signed by Plaintiff on November 28, 2011; (D) a form titled “Discretionary Benefits Instruction”; and (E) a form titled “Attendance Policy Instruction.” Plaintiff argues that he neither refers to nor attaches these materials to his Complaint. The Court disagrees.

         In his pleading, Plaintiff challenges reductions to his wages which he asserts were pursuant to STE's production-hour policy. A careful reading of Plaintiff's pleading reflects that these reductions were contributions toward the cost of his health insurance benefits. (See, e.g., First Am. Compl. ¶¶ 15-18.) STE provided health insurance coverage to its employees pursuant to the agreements attached as Exhibits A and B to STE's motion. Exhibit C to STE's motion reflects that Plaintiff elected health insurance coverage for his family and Exhibit D explains how employees' contributions toward coverage were calculated. An employee's contributions are dependent on his or her attendance record, as outlined in STE's attendance policy (attached as Exhibit E to STE's motion). As such, these materials are referred to in Plaintiff's complaint and are central to his claims.

         While Plaintiff argues that he needs discovery to ascertain information about various issues (see Pl.'s Resp. Br. at 5), none of those topics impact the issue of whether ERISA preempts Counts I and III of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint. As such, the Court concludes that it may consider the exhibits attached to STE's motion without converting the motion to one for summary judgment. The Court further concludes that it is not premature to decide STE's motion before Plaintiff has the opportunity to conduct discovery.

         III. Factual Background

         STE provides manufacturing, assembly, and engineering services in the aerospace precision machining and fabrication industry. (First Am. Compl. ¶ 7.) Plaintiff was an employee at STE, most recently working as a water jet operator. (Id. ¶ 9.) STE's attendance policy includes a production-hour system, by which STE penalizes employees for certain work absences, referred to as “production hours lost.” (Def.'s Mot. Exs. C & D.) STE's attendance policy provides for discipline based on the number of production hours lost, including dismissal for employees incurring more than 100 productions hours. (Id. Ex. D.) According to STE's policies, unsatisfactory attendance also adversely effects promotional considerations. (Id.)

         Moreover, pursuant to the terms of STE's welfare benefit plan, lost production hours impact employees' contributions toward the cost of their medical and dental insurance coverage. As explained in Paragraph 2.7 of the Discretionary Benefits Instruction, STE paid the full cost of health insurance coverage for employees beyond their 180-day probationary period unless they incur missed production hours.[1] (Id. Ex. D.) The amount an employee must contribute toward the costs of his or her insurance coverage depends on the welfare plans the employee selected and the number of production hours the employee has used. (See id. Ex. C and D.) As Plaintiff states in his First Amended Complaint: “The hourly rate at which an employee was charged varied, depending on whether the employee elected a single-person, two-person, or family medical plan.” (First Am. Compl. ¶ 15.) The per hour contribution is stated on the Election to ...


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