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Wilson v. City of Ferndale

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

August 29, 2019




         Plaintiff William Wilson worked for Defendant City of Ferndale for over 30 years until he was forced to retire at the age of 60. Plaintiff alleges that his forced retirement constitutes age discrimination under both the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”) and the Michigan Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act (“ELCRA”) and a violation of his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. He further alleges that Defendant retaliated against him for opposing the racially-motivated hiring practices of the Police Chief. Defendant now moves to dismiss all of Plaintiff's claims, arguing that the claims are either time-barred or fail to state a claim. The motion has been fully briefed, and the court heard argument on this motion on August 21, 2019. For the reasons explained below, Plaintiff's federal claims cannot survive dismissal. The court will grant Defendant's motion in part as to Plaintiff's claims under the ADEA and Fourteenth Amendment. In the absence of any surviving federal claims, the court will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's remaining state law claims.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The court draws the following factual allegations from the complaint. Plaintiff began his employment with Defendant in 1986 as a police officer. He was promoted several times throughout his career and eventually achieved the rank of Detective Lieutenant. Around 2010, Timothy Collins was promoted from Captain to Police Chief and became Plaintiff's supervisor. In turn, Plaintiff was promoted to second-in-command but not formally promoted to the position of Captain. The Captain position remained vacant for approximately seven years, and during this time, Plaintiff performed all the work of Captain without receiving the benefits or pay of the position.

         In 2015, Defendant began accepting applications for the Captain position. Plaintiff applied for the position and was selected as a top candidate, but Defendant ultimately selected a younger applicant. According to Plaintiff, both his age and the racially-motivated hiring considerations of Chief Collins impacted this hiring decision. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant planned to force him to retire at age 60 and that Chief Collins, who would also soon retire, wanted to ensure that he appointed the next Captain to avoid the possibility of a black man being selected for the position. Plaintiff protested this racially-motivated hiring consideration to the Chief.

         Ultimately, Defendant forced Plaintiff to retire on February 16, 2018. According to Defendant, Plaintiff was forced to retire pursuant to Section 19 of the City Charter which states, in relevant part:

A member shall be retired upon his attainment of 55 years: Provided, however, upon his written application, approved by his department, head, the Board may continue the member in [Defendant] City employment for periods not to extend beyond his attainment of age 60 years. Upon his retirement, he shall receive a pension provided in section 20.

(ECF No. 1-4, PageID 29.) Plaintiff asserts that Defendant selectively enforced this mandatory retirement policy against him. However, his primary argument is that he was not subject to the retirement policy because, in 1999, he relinquished his rights to a pension in favor of a 401k plan.

         II. STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Under the Rule, the court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accepts all well-pleaded factual allegations as true. Barber v. Miller, 809 F.3d 840, 843 (6th Cir. 2015).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires a plaintiff to present in the complaint “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” A complaint must provide sufficient facts to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that defendant acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “Threadbare 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).

         “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “To state a valid claim, a complaint must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory.” Boland v. Holder, 682 F.3d 531, 534 (6th Cir. 2012) (emphasis removed) (citing League of United Latin Am. Citizens v. Bredesen, 500 F.3d 523, 527 (6th Cir. 2007)). Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).


         A. ADEA Age ...

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