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Webb v. Intel Corp.

United States District Court, D. Oregon

March 29, 2018

LOAN WEBB, Plaintiff,
v.
INTEL CORPORATION, Defendant.

          Benjamin Rosenthal, Of Attorneys for Plaintiff.

          C. Christine Burns, BurnsBarton, LLP, 45 West Jefferson, Elizabeth D. MacGregor, Lorber, Greenfield & Polito, LLP, Rachel C. Nies, Lorber, Greenfield & Polito, Of Attorneys for Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Michael H. Simon United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Loan Webb sues her former employer, Intel Corporation, for interference with the exercise of her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. §2611, et seq. Defendant moves to dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint on the ground that it fails to state a claim for relief. For the reasons discussed, Defendant's amended motion to dismiss is denied.

         STANDARDS

         A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim may be granted only when there is no cognizable legal theory to support the claim or when the complaint lacks sufficient factual allegations to state a facially plausible claim for relief. Shroyer v. New Cingular Wireless Servs., Inc., 622 F.3d 1035, 1041 (9th Cir. 2010). In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint's factual allegations, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded material facts alleged in the complaint and construe them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Wilson v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 668 F.3d 1136, 1140 (9th Cir. 2012); Daniels-Hall v. Nat'l Educ. Ass'n, 629 F.3d 992, 998 (9th Cir. 2010). To be entitled to a presumption of truth, allegations in a complaint “may not simply recite the elements of a cause of action, but must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively.” Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). All reasonable inferences from the factual allegations must be drawn in favor of the plaintiff. Newcal Indus. v. Ikon Office Solution, 513 F.3d 1038, 1043 n.2 (9th Cir. 2008). The court need not, however, credit the plaintiffs legal conclusions that are couched as factual allegations. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009).

         A complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations to “plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief, such that it is not unfair to require the opposing party to be subjected to the expense of discovery and continued litigation.” Starr, 652 F.3d at 1216. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)).

         BACKGROUND

         Defendant employed Plaintiff as a technical contract manager, or project manager, between June 20, 2009 and July 24, 2015. ECF 1 ¶ 4. At some point before June 17, 2015, Plaintiff received approval to take an eight-week “sabbatical.” ECF 1 ¶ 10. Instead of taking this sabbatical, however, Plaintiff applied and was approved to take four weeks of FMLA leave for her depression, beginning June 17, 2015 and ending July 17, 2015. ECF 1 ¶ 9. Upon completion of her approved FMLA leave on July 17, Plaintiff did not return to work, intending to begin her previously-approved eight-week sabbatical. ECF 1 ¶ 11. Defendant terminated Plaintiffs employment on July 28, 2015, with an effective date of July 23, 2015. ECF 1 ¶ 12.

         Plaintiff alleges that her termination violated the FMLA because Defendant interfered with and retaliated against Plaintiffs exercise of FMLA rights. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant interfered with her rights under the FMLA by: (1) failing to notify Plaintiff in writing of the consequences of failing to return from leave; (2) rescinding its approval of Plaintiff s sabbatical; and (3) denying Plaintiffs attempts to return to work and ultimately terminating her. Plaintiff also alleges that, at all relevant times, Defendant knew or should have known that Plaintiff was on leave due to her medical condition and required additional FMLA leave. Plaintiff also brings a claim for common law wrongful discharge under Oregon law, alleging that Defendant terminated her for pursuing her rights under the FMLA. Defendant moves to dismiss both claims.

         DISCUSSION

         Recognizing that “it is unfair for an employee to be terminated when he or she is struck with a serious illness and is not capable of working, ” Congress enacted the FMLA. Bachelder v. Am. W. Airlines, Inc., 259 F.3d 1112, 1119 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting S.Rep. No. 103-3 at 11, 103d Cong., 2d Sess. (1993)). The FMLA provides that “eligible employee[s]” are “entitled to a total of 12 workweeks of leave during any 12-month period” because of, among other things, a “serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of [her] position.” 29 U.S.C. §§ 2611(2)(A)(i)-(ii) and 2612(a)(1)(D). Employers covered by the FMLA must allow their employees to take FMLA leave for qualifying conditions and may not “interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of its employees' FMLA rights. 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1). Employers are also proscribed from “discharging] or in any other manner discriminating] against any individual for opposing any practice made unlawful by [the FMLA.]” § 2615(a)(2) and (b). Defendant argues that Plaintiff does not state a claim for retaliation under the FMLA, that Plaintiff was not protected by the FMLA at the time of her termination and thus also does not state an FMLA interference claim, and that Plaintiff does not state a claim for wrongful discharge under Oregon law.

         A. FMLA Interference Claim

         Defendant contends that Plaintiff has failed to allege sufficient facts to state a claim for interference under the FMLA. Defendant first argues that Plaintiffs claim that she was terminated for reasons related to her use of FMLA leave does not state a claim for retaliation under FMLA but rather falls under Plaintiffs FMLA interference prong. The Ninth Circuit has held that terminating an employee for the use of FMLA leave constitutes interference. Bachelder v. Am. W. Airlines, Inc.,259 F.3d 1112, 1124 (9th Cir. 2001). “[W]here an employee is subjected to negative consequences simply because [s]he has used FMLA leave, the employer has interfered with the employee's FMLA rights.” Xin Liu v. Amway Corp., 347 F.3d 1125, ...


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