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Blades v. Mosaic of Delaware

United States District Court, D. Delaware

August 31, 2017

ROBERT S. BLADES, Plaintiff,
v.
MOSAIC OF DELAWARE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The plaintiff, Robert S. Blades ("Blades"), who proceeds pro se, filed this employment discrimination lawsuit on July 25, 2016, followed by an amended complaint on September 8, 2016. (D.I. 1, 4.)[1] He raises claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA), 42U.S.C. §§ 12111, et seq. and § 12101, respectively, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1988, as well as supplemental claims under the Delaware Discrimination in Employment Act ("DDEA"), 19 Del. C. § 710(a)(1), the Delaware Workers' Compensation Act, 19 Del. C. § 2365, and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Defendants move to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (D.I. 13.) Blades opposes.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Blades identifies as a Black American, not African American. Blades began his employment with the defendant Mosaic of Delaware ("Mosaic")[2] in March 2013. (D.I. 4, ¶ 3.) He was discharged on August 1, 2014. (D.I. 4, ex. A.) Blades filed a charge of discrimination on November 19, 2014, and received a notice of suit rights from the EEOC on April 26, 2016. (Id. at exs. A, C.)

         Blades was supervised by the defendant Jill Turner ("Turner"), William Jenkins ("Jenkins"), and Tracy Martin ("Martin"). (Id. at ¶3.) On October 31, 2013, Blades was nominated for the quality service award for the month of November and, in December, he was told that he had been selected for the award. (D.I. 4, exs. E, J.) Blades received his performance evaluation from Turner on November 11, 2013. (D.I. 4 at ¶ 6, ex. F.) Blades alleges that Turner coerced him to initial and sign the document without giving him ample time to read or ask questions about the evaluation. (D.I. 4 at ¶ 6.) Blades refers to the unemployment practices as "blatant exploitation of [an] African American versus [a] Black American" and "social oppression." (Id.) Blades alleges that when Turner was asked by her supervisor why she had given a Black American low scores, Turner then "provided another discriminating evaluation to another staff [member]." (Id. at ¶ 7.)

         Blades alleges that Turner gave preferential treatment to African Americans rather than Black Americans like himself. (Id. at ¶ 10.) He alleges that Turner's practices and her training provided a "social oppression" of an "ongoing pattern of misconduct" when she provided Blades a discriminatory evaluation because he is not of African descent. (Id. at ¶ 11.) Blades alleges that Turner also discriminated against him when she decreased his hours and denied him overtime, and gave it to the African Americans. (Id.) The amended complaint alleges that Turner: (1) intentionally withheld two hours of pay from him; (2) did not discipline African American employees who were constantly late for work and falsified bloodwork monitors; (3) did not supervise African American employees who were cleaning mice infestation droppings in an individual's bedroom; (4) did not discipline a former African American for expressing himself in the logbook; and (5) provided African American employees extra hours of overtime so they could send money to their families in Africa. (Id.)

         On December 16, 2013, Blades submitted an internal complaint addressed to Turner complaining of her disparate treatment, but she refused to address Blades' concerns, and she gave the internal complaint to management. (D.I. 4 at ¶ 13, ex K.) Blades was contacted to schedule an appointment to investigate the complaint, and later met with Mosaic executive director Chuck Sipe ("Sipe") and human resources manager Laura Widger ("Widger") to review the findings. (Id. at ¶ 16.) Blades concluded the investigation was prejudiced and biased and that the meeting was based on favoritism and negligent supervision. (Id. at ¶¶ 14, 16.) Blades alleges that after he submitted the complaint, Turner acted in a retaliatory and discriminatory manner when he received arbitrary and unsubstantiated write ups, Turner wrote derogatory and repetitive annoying comments in the log book, and she used his evaluations to harass him when she gave Blades another poor evaluation. (Id. at ¶21.)

         On February 14, 2014, Blades applied for the position of direct support specialist. (D.I. 4, at¶28, ex. O.) He and four females were interviewed for the position. (Id.) Blades alleges that during his interview, he was told that Mosaic was looking for a female to fill the position. (Id.) Blades did not receive the. position and alleges that a less qualified African American female was hired for the position. (Id.)

         Blades alleges that on April 21, 2014, Turner gave him another biased evaluation. (D.I. 4 at ¶ 31, ex. Q.) Blades alleges that when he met with Turner and Widger to discuss the evaluation he also discussed the position he had applied for and was again told that Mosaic was looking for a female. (D.I. 4 at ¶ 31.) On April 22, 2014, Blades received a congratulatory letter from Sipe for achieving an "exceeds expectations" on his 2014 annual performance review. (D.I. 4, ex. Q.) On May 20, 2014, Blades received a written warning for insubordination "for expressing" himself in the log book. (D.I. 4 at ¶ 32, ex. R.) Blades appealed because he believed it was an unlawful employment practice of intentional discrimination, harassment, retaliation, conflict of interest, and bullying. (D.I. 4 at ¶ 32.) Mosaic upheld the corrective action for Blades' unprofessional communication with his supervisor. (D.I. 4 at ¶ 32, ex. R.) Blades alleges that Turner then retaliated against him by coercing someone to make a complaint against him while he was on vacation. (D.I. 4 at ¶ 32.)

         On July 26, 2014, Blades suffered a work related injury to his right arm. (Id. at ¶42.) The next day, he treated his right arm with an ice pack, electrical heating pad, and electrotherapy (Id.) On July 28, 2014, Blades met with Turner to address a July 21, 2014 incident and during their conversation told her that he had injured his right shoulder. (Id. at ¶ 43.) The same day, he received monthly observation/document review notes from Turner, and Blades alleges that through the document, Turner continued to harass him by "providing repetitive annoying statements" he considered as "gross misconduct for falsifying documents." (Id. at ¶ 44, ex. T.) Blades worked while in pain on July 28, 2014 and, after his shift ended, he went to the emergency room where he was diagnosed with biceps tendonitis. (D.I. 4 at ¶ 43, ex. U.) The physician excused Blades from work for two days. (Id.)

         On July 29, 2014, Blades call Widger and left messages regarding his injuries, but she did not return his call that day. (D.I. 4 at ¶ 45.) He also scheduled a doctor's appointment for July 30, 2014, and at the appointment the physician diagnosed right rotator cuff tendinopathy and recommended physical therapy. (D.I. 4 at ¶ 45, ex. V.) Blades called Widger again on July 30, 2014, and left a message. (D.I. 45 at ¶ 46.)

         The same day, Blades received a phone message from Mosaic's office manager, Maryann Ridall ("Ridall") who asked that he update his driver's license. (Id. at ¶ 47.) Blades told Ridall that he would be there before 5:00 p.m. (Id.) When Blades met with Ridall, he informed her that he had left messages for Widger regarding his injury and that Widger had not returned his calls. (Id. at ¶ 48.) Blades told Ridall that he could not find an incident report for injuries and, when quality assurance coordinator Sue Brown ("Brown") walked into the room, Widger asked Brown to help Blades look for the report. (Id.) Brown gave Blades an incident report to report the injuries. (Id.) The signed report sets forth July 26, 2014 at 1:00 p.m. as the date and time of the injury and July 30, 2014 at 4:55 p.m. at the date and time that Blades reported the injury. (D.I. 4, ex. V.) A letter dated July 30, 2014 from Blades to Mosaic requests a reasonable accommodation (light duty) for the July 26, 2014 work related injury. (Id.) Blades alleges that he received medical treatment through October 22, 2014 when he was medically cleared to full duty status. (D.I. 4 at ¶ 49.)

         On the morning of August 1, 2014, Blades received a telephone call from Widger for them to meet at 1:00 p.m. that day. (Id. at ¶ 50.) That afternoon, as Blades was escorted to Sipe's office, Blades handed Widger the July 30, 2014 report of incident, doctor's notes, the July 30, 2014 written request for reasonable accommodation, and a pharmacy receipt. (Id. at ¶ 51.) Sipe terminated Blades' employment, and explained to Blades that he was being terminated because he had been told that Blades had disrespected Susan (presumably Brown) on Monday. (Id.) The termination letter states, "Mosaic has made the decision to terminate your employment as a direct support associate effective August 1, 2014, due to repeated disrespectful communication and insubordination, any of which is sufficient grounds for termination." (D.I. 4, ex. W.)

         Blades completed an exit interview form on August 8, 2014. (D.I. 4 at ¶ 52.) Blades alleges that he provided a declaration that the conditions of his employment were unlawfully changed because he complained internally and externally about discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. (D.I. 4 at ¶52.) On August 21, 2014, Blades appealed his termination, and Mosaic upheld the decision to terminate. (D.I. 4 at ¶53, exs. Y, Z.)

         Count One of the amended complaint (¶¶ 1-24) alleges that: (1) Blades was discriminated against on the basis of national origin (i.e., Black American) when African Americans were given preferential treatment over Black Americans; (2) he was given poor evaluations; (3) after he submitted an internal complaint regarding the disparate treatment, Blades received arbitrary and unsubstantiated writeups and another poor evaluation, all in violation of § 1983 and Title VII. Count Two (¶¶ 25-37) alleges that Blades was discriminated on the basis of national origin and sex when a promotion he sought was given to a less qualified, female African American, all in violation of § 1983, Title VII, and the DDEA. Count Three (¶¶ 38-58) alleges that: (1) Blades was wrongfully discharged in retaliation for seeking workers' compensation benefits; (2) the defendants would not provide Blades a reasonable accommodation required for his disability; and (3) he was discharged in retaliation for seeking a reasonable accommodation, all in violation of 19 Del. C. § 2365, and Title I and V of the ADA. Count Four (¶¶ 59-66) alleges that: (1) the defendants breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing when Blades was termination in violation of public policy;[3] (2) the defendants failed to adequately train, supervise, discipline or control the unlawful actions of the defendants; (3) again alleges that Blades was wrongfully discharged in retaliation for seeking workers' compensation benefits; (4) again alleges that the defendants would not provide Blades a reasonable accommodation; and (5) again alleges that Blades he was discharged in retaliation for seeking a reasonable accommodation, all in violation of Delaware law, § 1983, and Title VII. Blades seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Because Blades proceeds pro se, his pleading is liberally construed and his complaint, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus,551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). Evaluating a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) requires the court to accept as true all material allegations of the complaint. See Spruill v. Gillis,372 F.3d 218, 223 (3d Cir. 2004). "The issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig.,114 F.3d 1410, 1420 (3d Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, the court may grant such a motion to dismiss only if, after "accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as ...


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