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Eichenholz v. Brink's Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

May 9, 2017

BRINK'S INC., et al., Defendants.


          Leo T. Sorokin United States District Judge

         For the reasons that follow, Defendant Gordon Campbell's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 13) Counts One, Two, Seven, Eight, Nine, and Ten of the Amended Complaint is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         On September 1, 2016, Plaintiff Elliott Eichenholz filed a complaint against Defendants Brink's Incorporated (“Brink's”) and Campbell. Doc. 1. Campbell filed a motion to dismiss (Doc. 8), after which Plaintiff filed the instant Amended Complaint (Doc. 12), rendering that motion moot. Campbell then filed the instant Motion. Doc. 13.

         Plaintiff, who was a Brink's employee and supervised by Campbell, claims Defendants discriminated and retaliated against him in violation of various state and federal laws. Essentially, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants (1) mistreated him because he requested medical leave; and (2) treated him differently than similarly situated younger and female employees, in particular one such employee with whom Campbell was allegedly “having an affair.” Doc. 12 at 5, 11, 16. In Counts One and Two, Plaintiff sues Defendants for violating his rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. Doc. 12 at 13. In Counts Seven through Ten, Plaintiff sues Defendants for violating his rights under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B (hereinafter, “151B”).[2] Doc. 12 at 16-17. Campbell has moved to dismiss these counts against him. Doc. 13.


         Campbell argues he may not be named as a defendant in Counts One and Two, which arise under the FMLA, because the FMLA does “not allow[] claims against individual defendants.” Doc. 14 at 15. The Court rejects this argument. Liability under the FMLA may attach to any “employer, ” which includes “any person who acts, directly or indirectly, in the interest of an employer to any of the employees of such employer.” 29 U.S.C. § 2611(4)(A). The First Circuit has yet to decide whether an individual can be held liable under this definition. However, it has held that individuals may be sued under the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA), whose definition of “employer” is “materially identical” to the FLSA's. Manning v. Boston Med. Cntr. Corp., 725 F.3d 34, 47 (1st Cir. 2013); Haybarger v. Lawrence County Probation, 667 F.3d 408, 414 (3d Cir. 2012) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). In large part because of this similarity, the majority of federal courts that have addressed “the issue of private supervisor liability [under the FMLA] have concluded that such liability exists, ” a conclusion which this Court has implicitly adopted. Chacon v. Brigham & Women's Hosp., 99 F.Supp.3d 207, 213 n.5 (D. Mass. 2015) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Haybarger, 667 F.3d at 414-15 & n.4.[3] Thus, Campbell's argument that he cannot be sued under the FMLA is unavailing.


         Campbell argues that he may not be named as a defendant in Counts Seven through Ten, which arise under 151B, because Plaintiff “failed to administratively exhaust any claims against” him. Doc. 13 at 1. Campbell argues that Plaintiff's 151B claims against him are barred because Plaintiff “fail[ed] to name Mr. Campbell as a respondent” in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charge, thus depriving Campbell of “notice of personal claims against him and the possibility he would face a lawsuit in his individual capacity, the opportunity to participate in the EEOC process, and the opportunity to potentially conciliate the claims.” Doc. 14 at 6-7. Campbell argues that “civil claims against individual managers should be dismissed even if the manager was identified in the charge of discrimination's factual allegations or statement of particulars as having been involved in the wrongful conduct.” Id. at 8. As the Court will explain infra, this argument contradicts both state and federal precedents.

         1. Relevant Facts

         On November 11, 2015, Campbell, who was Plaintiff's supervisor, gave Plaintiff a Performance Improvement Plan letter (“PIP letter”) containing various demands that Plaintiff needed to meet within the next thirty to ninety days. Doc. 12 at 6. Campbell alleges this letter was “patently contrary to” various laws because he was on disability leave when the letter was issued. Id.

         On November 24, 2015, Plaintiff filled out an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) intake questionnaire, in which he stated that Campbell had discriminated against him. Doc. 1-2 at 2. This questionnaire “was provided to” Campbell. Doc. 12 at 12.

         On January 29, 2016, Campbell sent Plaintiff an email stating, “Now that you have returned from your FMLA [leave] . . . I expect you to develop a plan to address the [areas of improvement specified in the PIP letter].” Doc. 1-3. On February 1, 2016, Plaintiff resigned, giving two weeks' notice, to “ensure that he was no longer subjected to unlawful harassment . . . [and] a hostile work environment.” Doc. 12 at 8; Doc. 1-4 at 2. On February 2, 2016, Brink's terminated Plaintiff's employment. Doc. 1-4.

         On February 10, 2016, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination against Brink's with the EEOC.[4] Doc. 14-5 at 3-4. The charge asked Plaintiff to name “the Employer, Labor Organization, Employment Agency, Apprenticeship Committee, or State or Local Government Agency” that he believed discriminated against him. Id. Plaintiff named only Brink's. Id. In explaining “the particulars” of his ...

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