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Compliment v. Sanofi-Aventis US, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 14, 2017

KIMBERLEE M. COMPLIMENT, Plaintiff,
v.
SANOFI-AVENTIS US, INC., Defendant.

          ENTRY ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          William T. Lawrence, Judge United States District

         This cause comes before the Court on the Defendant's motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 10) the Plaintiff's Complaint. The motion is fully briefed, and the Court, GRANTS the motion IN PART and DENIES it IN PART, for the reasons set forth below.

         I. STANDARD

         The Defendant moves to dismiss the Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that it fails to state any claim upon which relief can be granted. 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). “Specific facts are unnecessary, but the complaint must give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Huri v. Office of the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook Cnty., 804 F.3d 826, 832 (7th Cir. 2015). Neither legal conclusions nor recitations of the elements of a cause of action suffice to state a claim. See id.

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must “‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 697 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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.” Id. at 678.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The Plaintiff, Kimberlee M. Compliment, brought this action against the Defendant Sanofi-Aventis US, Inc. under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., as amended; the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12113, as amended; and the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. For the purposes of this motion, the Court accepts the facts alleged in the Complaint as true.

         Compliment was employed by Sanofi-Aventis as a Sale Representative beginning in June 2005. She is a female with young children. She “has a disability, a record of disability, and was regarded by her employer as an individual with a disability.” In July 2013, Sanofi-Aventis hired Yvonne Tomes, who became Compliment's manager after Tomes completed her training. Compliment was pregnant when Tomes became her manager, and Compliment gave birth to her daughter in April 2014.

         Tomes was very upset that Compliment took unpaid childcare leave after her daughter's birth. When Compliment returned to work after her leave in the fall of 2014, she was subjected by Tomes to “constant harassment because she was a female with young children and required childcare leave.” For example, Tomes took away Compliment's flex-time and would no longer allow her to take Fridays off; Tomes increased her direct supervision of Compliment; Tomes only gave Compliment 15 minutes notice before meetings, which was not customary; Tomes asked if Compliment was “still sure [she] didn't want to stay home with [her] kids?”; and Tomes favored males and eventually removed all females with young children from her team. Compliment complained about this harassment to Human Resources and upper management. By March 2015, the harassment had become “so intolerable that Compliment was forced to take leave under Sanofi[-Aventis]'s disability policy.” Sanofi-Aventis was aware of the harassment but refused to take any action to stop the harassment and allow Compliment to return to work. Sanofi-Aventis failed to accommodate Compliment's disability “by refusing to do anything to stop the workplace harassment and hostile work environment, and instead terminated her employment” in November 2015.

         Compliment alleges Sanofi-Aventis engaged in sex and pregnancy discrimination and harassment in violation of Title VII by subjecting her to differential treatment and a hostile work environment and by terminating her employment, all on account of her sex and pregnancy. She also alleges that Sanofi-Aventis retaliated against her in violation of Title VII by terminating her because she complained about sex and pregnancy discrimination and harassment. Compliment claims that she is a qualified individual with a disability, she has a record of disability and she was regarded as having a disability by Sanofi-Aventis. She also claims that Sanofi-Aventis discriminated against her in violation of the ADA by failing to provide her with a reasonable accommodation and by terminating her employment because of her disability and complaints about differential treatment. Finally, Compliment alleges that when she returned to work after taking FMLA leave, Sanofi-Aventis retaliated against her in violation of the FMLA “by taking away her flex-time, telling her she could no longer take Fridays off, and subjecting her to differential treatment than employees who had not required protected leave.”

          III. DISCUSSION

         A. Sex/Pregnancy Discrimination and Hostile Work Environment

          Title VII prohibits an employer from “discriminat[ing] against” an employee “because of such individual's … sex.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). The Pregnancy Discrimination Act provides that this prohibition against sex discrimination applies to discrimination “because of or on the basis of pregnancy, [or] childbirth.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k). A Title VII plaintiff may bring discrimination claims based on discrete acts, such as the failure to promote or termination of employment, and based on a hostile work environment. See Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 117 (2002). To state a claim for discrimination based on a discrete act, a complaint need allege only “that the employer instituted a (specified) adverse employment action against the plaintiff on the basis of her sex [or pregnancy].” Luevano v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 722 F.3d 1014, 1028 (7th Cir. 2013); see also Huri, 804 F.3d at 833 (a complaint states a discrimination claim where it identifies “‘the type of discrimination' the plaintiff thought occurred, [and] ‘by whom, and when'”) (quoting Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 405 (7th Cir. 2010)).

         The Complaint alleges that Tomes subjected Compliment to differential treatment, for example, by denying her flex-time and Fridays off, and terminated her employment, all on account of her sex and pregnancy. While the differential treatment by itself or the allegation of the denial of flex-time and Fridays off may not rise to the level of a materially adverse action, see Porter v. City of Chicago, 700 F.3d 944, 954 (7th Cir. 2012) (stating that “an adverse action must materially alter the terms or conditions of employment to be actionable under the antidiscrimination provision of Title ...


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