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Kleya v. Karl Storz Endovision, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

June 25, 2019

TERESA KLEYA, Plaintiff,



         Teresa Kleya (“Plaintiff”) filed this action against Karl Storz Endovision, Inc. (“Karl Storz”) and Jodi Peck (“Defendant Peck”) (collectively “Defendants”) following her resignation from her employment at Karl Storz. She claims violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) (Count I); retaliation for use of the FMLA (Count II); violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (Counts III & IV)[1]; violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B (Counts V, VI, VII, & VIII); and violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 152 (Count IX). Defendants have moved to dismiss all claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Docket No. 6). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.


         The following facts are taken from Plaintiff's Complaint (Docket No. 1) and assumed to be true at this stage in the litigation.

         On April 10, 2002 Plaintiff began working at Karl Storz as a Stockroom Coordinator. From the start of her employment until November 2017, Plaintiff had never been formally disciplined and consistently received positive performance reviews.

         Plaintiff was diagnosed with Scoliosis as a child and suffers from degenerative disc disease. In 2017, she was also diagnosed with anxiety and depression. In 2011, Plaintiff realized the physical demands of her job aggravated her Scoliosis and degenerative disc disease. Consequently, in December 2011, Plaintiff “bid out” of the materials group into a position as the Manufacturing Coordinator in the Video Department. Most of her job duties in this new role were performed seated at her workstation.

         In May 2017, Plaintiff applied and was approved for a leave under the FMLA. On June 7, 2017, Plaintiff resumed work. Defendants informed Plaintiff that upon her return, she would be transferred to the “Manufacturing Coordinator II position” in the Materials Group. This position was more physically demanding and required Plaintiff to deliver parts by pushing a cart over fifty pounds.

         Plaintiff was also informed that, upon her return, Defendant Peck would be her new supervisor. Plaintiff was the only Coordinator on the day shift required to report to Defendant Peck although Rob Grendell, one of Plaintiff's coworkers, also volunteered to work with Defendant Peck. According to Plaintiff, Defendant Peck was hostile towards her immediately upon her return to work and engaged in a scheme to drive her out of the company. For instance, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Peck gave her inconsistent instructions and attempted to discipline her for only following one. In addition, Defendant Peck ignored Plaintiff and compared her unfavorably to Mr. Grendell.

         In September 2017, Plaintiff took another FMLA leave for bronchitis. Upon her return, Plaintiff was required to stand for her entire shift. Plaintiff made several requests for a stool as most of her duties were at her workstation, but Defendant Peck refused because her position did not require her to sit. According to Plaintiff, she was the only Coordinator forced to stand for her entire shift. Plaintiff additionally requested a fatigue mat, which was eventually provided after several months. In May 2017, Plaintiff again applied for FMLA leave, which Karl Storz approved.

         On November 29, 2017, Plaintiff was injured while pushing the cart. A Workers' Compensation doctor concluded that Plaintiff should not push or pull the cart or lift more than ten pounds. The doctor further recommended that she sit every few hours.

         On December 7, 2017, Plaintiff asked Jessica Barnes, who worked in Human Resources, to file a grievance regarding Defendants' conduct. Ms. Barnes refused to accept or investigate the complaint and instructed Plaintiff to see Defendant Peck about her concerns.

         On December 20, 2017, the Workers' Compensation doctor placed Plaintiff on permanent modified duty which consisted of no pushing or pulling, no reaching, and advised stretching every hour. After her Workers' Compensation claim, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants required her to use a different entrance to the building because the door was too heavy given her restriction. In addition, Defendants required Plaintiff to use a different bathroom that was a long walk away instead of the one in her work area.

         On January 2, 2018, Defendant Peck and Ms. Barnes issued a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”) for Plaintiff. The PIP noted that Plaintiff was not properly executing standard work, communicating, or “teaming.” Plaintiff contended that the PIP was not reflective of her true performance and consequently declined to sign it. The next day, when Defendants refused to reconsider the PIP, Plaintiff felt she had no choice but to resign from Karl Storz.

         Legal Standard

         A defendant may move to dismiss, based solely on the complaint, for the plaintiff's “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege “a plausible entitlement to relief.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 559 (2007). Although detailed factual allegations are not necessary to survive a motion to dismiss, the standard “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. at 555. “The relevant inquiry focuses on the reasonableness of the inference of liability that the plaintiff is asking the court to draw from the facts alleged in the complaint.” Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 13 (1st Cir. 2011).

         In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Langadinos v. American Airlines, Inc., 199 F.3d 68, 68 (1st Cir. 2000). It is a “context-specific task” to determine “whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief, ” one that “requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009) (citations omitted). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). On the other hand, a court may not disregard properly pled factual allegations, “even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.


         1. Interference Claim (Count I)

         The FMLA makes it unlawful for “any employer to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of” any FMLA-protected right. 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1). “Interfering with the exercise of an employee's rights would include, for example, not only refusing to authorize FMLA ...

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