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Meriwether v. Frontier Communications

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

September 18, 2018

STAN MERIWETHER, Plaintiff,
v.
FRONTIER COMMUNICATIONS, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S PARTIAL MOTION TO DISMISS

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on a Partial Motion to Dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) by Defendant Frontier North Inc.[1] (“Frontier”) (Filing No. 12). On July 20, 2017, pro se Plaintiff Stan Meriwether (“Meriwether”) filed a Complaint to assert claims against his former employer, Frontier, for racial harassment and discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination based on race, and disability discrimination for failing to accommodate. Frontier filed the instant Partial Motion to Dismiss alleging lack of timeliness in filing his lawsuit and the statute of limitations. Also before the Court is Meriwether's Motion to Strike Partial Motion to Dismiss (Filing No. 25). For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Frontier's Partial Motion to Dismiss and denies Meriwether's Motion to Strike.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are not necessarily objectively true, but as required when reviewing a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draws all inferences in favor of Meriwether as the non-moving party. See Bielanski v. County of Kane, 550 F.3d 632, 633 (7th Cir. 2008).

         Meriwether, an African-American male, began working for Frontier in May 2010 as a Customer Technician II. His job was to repair customers' telephone and internet services when those services were interrupted. His job occasionally involved using a ladder and climbing telephone poles. Soon after Meriwether began working for Frontier, when he arrived at a particular location to make a repair, an individual came out of a home in the neighborhood and fired several shots from a shotgun. Meriwether asked not to be sent back to that location; however, his request was overlooked. Upon returning to the neighborhood, he noticed graffiti written on an overpass, which read, “[W]e shoot niggers for fun.” (Filing No. 1 at 2.) Meriwether asked that he not to be sent to that location again, but his supervisor still assigned him to jobs in that service area. As soon as he was able, Meriwether requested a transfer to a different supervisor in a different location, which was granted. Id.

         Sometime in 2013, Meriwether injured his rotator cuff on the job. As a result of the injury, he was unable to perform physical tasks as he had performed them prior to the injury. Meriwether needed surgery, which occurred in 2013. After his surgery, he was not allowed to return to work for a period of time. He was eventually released to return to work in 2014 with the need of assistance when using his ladder. Id. at 2-3.

         Frontier would not allow Meriwether to return to his former position. Instead, Frontier offered Meriwether a job that was located five hours away that paid one-third of the salary he was previously paid. Comparable jobs to the job Meriwether had prior to his injury were available and much closer to the area in which Meriwether worked. He requested one of the closer jobs, but his request was denied. Frontier terminated Meriwether's employment in June 2014. Id. at 3.

         Meriwether asserts that a Caucasian employee, who did the same job as Meriwether and worked under the same supervisor, also injured his rotator cuff and needed surgery. After the Caucasian employee was injured, he was allowed to return to work on light duty prior to his surgery. His light duty assignments consisted of working in the office or riding with other technicians. He was allowed to return to work after his surgery to do his regular job, and he received assistance from other technicians to do his job. Id.

         Meriwether initiated this lawsuit to pursue claims for racial harassment and discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination based on race, and disability discrimination for failing to accommodate. Frontier filed the instant Partial Motion to Dismiss, arguing that the statute of limitations had run on some of Meriwether's claims, and as such, those claims must be dismissed.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint that has failed to “state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court accepts as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draws all inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Bielanski, 550 F.3d at 633. However, courts “are not obliged to accept as true legal conclusions or unsupported conclusions of fact.” Hickey v. O'Bannon, 287 F.3d 656, 658 (7th Cir. 2002).

         The 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). In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, the United States Supreme Court explained that the complaint must allege facts that are “enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Although “detailed factual allegations” are not required, mere “labels, ” “conclusions, ” or “formulaic recitation[s] of the elements of a cause of action” are insufficient. Id.; see also Bissessur v. Ind. Univ. Bd. of Trs., 581 F.3d 599, 603 (7th Cir. 2009) (“it is not enough to give a threadbare recitation of the elements of a claim without factual support”). The allegations must “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Stated differently, the complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (citation and quotation marks omitted). To be facially plausible, the complaint must allow “the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         III. DISCUSSION

         As an initial matter, the Court notes that Meriwether incorrectly docketed his response in opposition to Frontiers' Partial Motion to Dismiss as a “Motion to Strike Partial Motion to Dismiss”. The Court considered Meriwether's arguments asserted in this filing when deciding the Partial Motion to Dismiss. However, in order for the Court's docket to accurately reflect the resolution of the ...


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