United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR
PARTIAL JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS
V. PARKER, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
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.
Rule 12(c) Standard
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).
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.
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).
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).
Matters Outside the Pleadings
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
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.
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.
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
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. (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 ...