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Predella v. Town of Braintree

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 14, 2018

ALAN PREDELLA, DANIEL MCDONNELL, and ALL THOSE SIMILARLY SITUATED, Plaintiffs,
v.
TOWN OF BRAINTREE, BRAINTREE FIREFIGHTERS IAFF, LOCAL 1920, JOSEPH SULLIVAN, JAMES O'BRIEN, THOMAS GRACE, and WILLIAM CASH, Defendants.

          ORDER

          INDIRA TALWANI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Defendants Thomas Grace and James O'Brien seek to dismiss Plaintiff Alan Predella's claims that Grace and O'Brien retaliated against Predella in violation of Massachusetts General Laws chapter 151B, § 4(4). Because Predella's allegations are sufficient to state a claim as to O'Brien but not as to Grace, Grace's Motion to Dismiss [#67] is ALLOWED and O'Brien's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Predella's Retaliation Claim [#70] is DENIED.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The following factual allegations in the Second Amended Complaint [#59] are relevant to the challenged claims:

         Defendant Town of Braintree is a municipality that employs Predella, O'Brien, and Grace. Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 3, 7-8, 10. Predella is the Deputy Chief of the Braintree Fire Department. Id. ¶¶ 10, 19. O'Brien, the Chief of the Braintree Fire Department, is Predella's superior, and Grace, a captain, is Predella's subordinate. Id. ¶¶ 7-8. Defendant Braintree Firefights, IAFF Local 920 (“Local 920”) is certified and recognized as the exclusive representative of Braintree Fire Department employees. Id. ¶ 4. Defendant William Cash is the President of Local 920. Id. ¶ 9.

         On June 30, 2016, Predella presented a letter to his human resources director informing her that he intended to file a MCAD complaint against O'Brien and Grace. Id. ¶ 204. The letter also recounted allegedly discriminatory acts by O'Brien from early 2016. Id. ¶ 205. On August 16, 2016, Predella filed his MCAD Complaint alleging age discrimination. Id. ¶ 209. O'Brien and Grace were aware of Predella's letter and the filing of his MCAD complaint. Id. ¶¶ 206, 209.

         On October 20, 2016, O'Brien, Grace, and Cash “orchestrated the ‘rescission'” of Pradella's membership in Local 920, which was “made effective at a union meeting.” Id. ¶ 213. The Town and Local 920, “by their agents, including Defendant O'Brien, Defendant Cash, and Defendant Grace, also agreed to consider Plaintiff Predella ineligible to work outside paid details, established under the collection agreement now in effect, because Defendant Local 920 rescinded his union membership.” Id. ¶ 214. They also agreed to consider him ineligible for overtime. Id.

         On or about July 12, 2017, while at work, Predella was transported to the hospital after suffering difficulty breathing, an abnormally high heart rate, sweating, and trembling. Id. ¶ 219. After Predella made a timely request for benefits under G.L. c. 41, § 111F, his request was denied by O'Brien. Id. ¶¶ 220-223. O'Brien and other Chiefs have approved similar requests in the past for § 111F benefits. Id. ¶ 222.

         II. STANDARD

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is properly allowed when the complaint does not “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 570 (2007)). For the purposes of this motion, any well-pleaded, non-conclusory factual allegations are assumed true and all reasonable inferences are drawn in the plaintiff's favor. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680-81 (stating that conclusory allegations are not entitled to a presumption of truth); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 581. The court will then “determine whether the factual allegations are sufficient to support the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable.” Saldivar v. Racine, 818 F.3d 14, 18 (1st Cir. 2016) (quoting Cardigan Mountain Sch. v. N.H. Ins. Co., 787 F.3d 82, 84 (1st Cir. 2015)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Under Massachusetts General Laws chapter 151B, § 4(4), no “person, employer, [or] labor organization” may “discharge, expel, or otherwise discriminate against any person because . . . he has filed a complaint” covered by the statute. See also Noviello v. City of Boston, 398 F.3d 76, 88-89 (1st Cir. 2005). To demonstrate retaliation, a plaintiff must establish three prongs: that (i) he undertook protected conduct, (ii) he suffered some materially adverse action, and (iii) that the adverse action was casually linked to the protected activity. Dixon v. Int'l Bhd. of Police Officers, 504 F.3d 73, 81-83 (1st Cir. 2007) (applying retaliation framework to both adverse employment action as well as union retaliation). For the purposes of this motion, neither Grace nor O'Brien dispute that Predella engaged in protected activity when he filed his letter with human resources on June 30, 2016, and his MCAD Complaint on August 16, 2016. See Def. Grace's Mem. Law Supp. Mot. Dismiss (“Grace Mem.”) at 3 [#68]; Def. O'Brien's Mem. Law Supp. Mot. Dismiss (“O'Brien Mem.”) (addressing only the second prong of the retaliation framework) [#71]. Thus, this court moves directly to the second prong of the retaliation framework.

         A. Retaliation Claim as to Thomas Grace

         Predella alleges that after he filed his letter with human resources and his complaint with MCAD, Grace: “orchestrat[ed]” with other Defendants “the expulsion of Plaintiff Predella from Local 920, ” see Second Amended Complaint ¶¶ 213, 342, and “agree[d] to consider Plaintiff Predella ineligible to work outside paid details, established under the collective bargaining ...


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