United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
OPINION AND ORDER
E. STEELE JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on defendant's Motion to
Dismiss Amended Complaint (Doc. #12) filed on March 2, 2018.
Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition (Doc. #13) on March
9, 2018. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is
granted with leave to amend Count One.
case alleges interference and retaliation in violation of the
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by plaintiff James
Heberle against his former employer, Edsall Groves, Inc.
(Doc. #8.) As alleged in the Amended Complaint, Edsall hired
plaintiff in November 2014 as a fruit cutter. (Id.,
¶ 8.) On June 20, 2017, plaintiff was diagnosed with
spinal stenosis, which plaintiff states is “a serious
health condition under the FMLA.” (Id., ¶
11.) Heberle advised his supervisor of his diagnosis and that
he would require approximately 12-weeks of medical leave.
(Id., ¶ 12.) Rather than provide plaintiff with
any FMLA certification forms, defendant assured plaintiff
that his position was safe and that he should take time off
during the slower summer months to heal. (Id.,
September 13, 2017, plaintiff provided defendant with a
return to work certification from his physician and attempted
to return to work with defendant, but was denied. (Doc. #8,
¶ 14.) Instead, defendant informed plaintiff that he
would be placed on the November 2017 schedule. (Id.,
¶ 15.) However, on October 26, 2017, defendant contacted
Heberle and informed him that he was not permitted to return
to work because his services were no longer needed.
(Id., ¶ 16.) Plaintiff later learned that a
part-time employee who had assumed plaintiff's duties
when he went on medical leave had filled his position.
(Id., ¶ 17.)
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a Complaint must
contain a “short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This obligation “requires more
than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of
the elements of a cause of action will not do.”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)
(citation omitted). To survive dismissal, the factual
allegations must be “plausible” and “must
be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.” Id. at 555. See also Edwards v.
Prime Inc., 602 F.3d 1276, 1291 (11th Cir. 2010). This
requires “more than an unadorned,
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must
accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and
take them in the light most favorable to plaintiff,
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007), but
“[l]egal conclusions without adequate factual support
are entitled to no assumption of truth.” Mamani v.
Berzain, 654 F.3d 1148, 1153 (11th Cir. 2011) (citations
omitted). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a
cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do
not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “Factual
allegations that are merely consistent with a defendant's
liability fall short of being facially plausible.”
Chaparro v. Carnival Corp., 693 F.3d 1333, 1337
(11th Cir. 2012) (internal citations omitted). Thus, the
Court engages in a two-step approach: “When there are
well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their
veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise
to an entitlement to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
the FMLA, an eligible employee shall be entitled to a total
of 12 workweeks of leave during any 12-month period for a
serious health condition that makes the employee unable to
perform the functions of her position.” Gilliard v.
Georgia Dep't of Corr., 500 F. App'x 860, 864
(11th Cir. 2012) (quotation omitted). Additionally,
“[a]n employee has the right following FMLA leave to be
restored by the employer to the position of employment held
by the employee when the leave commenced or to an equivalent
position.” Martin v. Brevard Cnty. Pub. Sch.,
543 F.3d 1261, 1267 (11th Cir. 2008) (quotation omitted).
employee may bring two types of FMLA claims:
“interference claims, in which an employee asserts that
his employer denied or otherwise interfered with his
substantive rights under the Act; and retaliation claims, in
which an employee asserts that his employer discriminated
against him because he engaged in an activity protected by
the Act.” Pereda v. Brookdale Senior Living
Communities, Inc., 666 F.3d 1269, 1272 (11th Cir. 2012).
The Amended Complaint contains both an interference claim
(Count One) and a retaliation claim (Count Two).
moves to dismiss the FMLA interference claim, arguing that
plaintiff has not alleged that he provided Edsall with
sufficient information for it to reasonably determine whether
plaintiff was entitled to FMLA leave, nor did plaintiff
provide Edsall with sufficient notice that he required FMLA
leave. Specifically, Edsall acknowledges that although
plaintiff alleges that he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis
and advised his supervisor, he does not allege that he
informed his supervisor when FMLA leave was necessary or the
actual duration of the leave. Defendant also disputes that
spinal stenosis is a serious health condition. 29 U.S.C.
alleges that he requested twelve weeks of medical leave due
to spinal stenosis, which plaintiff states is a
“serious health condition under the FMLA.” (Doc.
#8, ¶¶ 11-12.) In his brief, plaintiff states that
spinal stenosis is “unquestionably FMLA qualifying
because Heberle's physician ordered 12-weeks of medical
leave.” (Doc. #13, p. 6.) Nowhere in plaintiff's
Amended Complaint does he make such an allegation, but the
Court agrees that if his physician did order such medical
leave (with continuing treatment) due to spinal stenosis,
this condition may qualify as a serious health condition. See
29 U.S.C. § 2611(11) (“The term ‘serious
health condition' means an illness, injury, impairment,
or physical or mental condition that involves - (A) inpatient