United States District Court, D. Delaware
CHARITY D. GILLISS, Plaintiff,
DENTSPLY, LLC, Defendant
For Plaintiff: Noel E. Primos, Esquire, Dover, Delaware.
For Defendant: Matthew F. Boyer, Esquire, Timothy M. Holly, Esquire, and Mary I. Akhimien, Esquire of Connolly Gallagher LLP, Wilmington, Delaware.
SUE L. ROBINSON, District Judge.
On October 27, 2014, plaintiff Charity D. Gilliss (" plaintiff" ) filed a lawsuit against defendant Dentsply, LLC (" defendant" ) alleging that defendant discriminated against her on the basis of her disabilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (" ADA" ), and that defendant retaliated against her for exercising her rights under Delaware's Workers' Compensation Act (" WCA" ), 19 Del. C. § 2365. (D.I. 1)
Presently before the court is defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c), on the grounds that plaintiff's complaint fails to state a plausible claim for relief. (D.I. 8) The court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 12117(a) and 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
Plaintiff was employed by defendant as a Quality Control Inspector from June 10, 2013 until March 25, 2014. (D.I. 1 ¶ 11) During that time, plaintiff contends that defendant was aware of a preexisting hearing impairment. (D.I. 1 ¶ 12) In March 2014, plaintiff reported back pain to a nurse who was employed by defendant. (D.I. 1 ¶ 14) Although plaintiff alleges that she gave the nurse no indication that her condition was work-related, the nurse filled out a workers' compensation claim and sent plaintiff to defendant's occupational health agency, who prescribed medication and exercise and instructed plaintiff to return to work. (D.I. 1 ¶ 15) Plaintiff was then put on leave until she obtained a release from her own doctor to return to work. (D.I. 1 ¶ 16) In a letter dated March 14, 2014, defendant's workers' compensation insurance carrier informed defendant that plaintiffs claim was denied because she did not have an accident or event in the workplace that resulted in an injury. (D.I. 1 ¶ 18) Plaintiffs own doctor released her to return to work, effective March 24, 2014. (D.I. ¶ 17)
On March 24, 2014, defendant's human resources representative Jon Good (" Good" ) spoke with plaintiff by telephone to explain that her employment was being terminated, allegedly because she had failed to report a work-related injury in a timely manner. (D.I. 1 ¶ 18) Plaintiff expressed difficulty understanding him over the phone, so they scheduled a time to meet in person on March 25, 2014 to discuss the reasons for her termination. Id. At the time of the meeting, Good refused to meet with plaintiff, which plaintiff contends was because she desired the assistance of her husband due to her hearing impairment. (D.I. 1 ¶ 19) Plaintiff contends that Good's refusal to meet was tantamount to denying plaintiff a reasonable accommodation. Id.
Plaintiff alleges that the reason given by defendant for her termination was pretextual and that the true reasons were: (1) discrimination against plaintiff on the basis of her disabilities; and (2) retaliation against plaintiff for the exercise of her rights under Delaware's workers' compensation statutes. (D.I. 1 ¶ 20) With respect to each count, plaintiff seeks back pay, including interest; reinstatement, if feasible, or in the alternative, front pay; compensatory damages; punitive damages; pre-judgment and post-judgment interest; and attorney fees. (D.I. 1 ¶ ¶ 25, 28)
The court reviews a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings based on an allegation that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim " under the same standards that apply to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion." Ferrell v. Cmty. Mgmt. Servs., LLC, 2011 WL 1750452, at *1 (D. Del. May 6, 2011) (citing Revell ...