RIDDLE v. KNOWLEDGE UNIVERSE EDUCATION LLC
ORDER denying as moot Knowledge Universe's 11 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim; denying Knowledge Universe's 16 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (S.O.). Signed by Judge Tanya Walton Pratt on 2/18/2014. (MAC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
KNOWLEDGE UNIVERSE EDUCATION
) Case No. 1:13-cv-00518-TWP-DKL
ENTRY ON MOTIONS TO DISMISS
This matter is before the Court on Defendant Knowledge Universe Education LLC’s
(“Knowledge Universe”) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint1 (Dkt. 16). Plaintiff
Joanna Riddle (“Ms. Riddle”) filed a three count Amended Complaint alleging violations of the
Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) (Dkt.
14). For the reasons set forth below, Knowledge Universe’s Motion is DENIED.
The following facts from Ms. Riddle’s Amended Complaint are accepted as true, and all
favorable inferences are drawn in favor of Ms. Riddle for purposes of this motion to dismiss.
See Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank, 507 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2007). Ms. Riddle worked for
Knowledge Universe from about October 5, 1999 until she was terminated on April 23, 2012. At
the time of her termination Ms. Riddle was employed as a Director at Knowledge Universe’s
KinderCare Learning Center located in Indianapolis, Indiana.
There is also a pending Motion to Dismiss Ms. Riddle’s original complaint (Dkt. 11). “An amended complaint
becomes controlling once it is filed because the prior pleading is withdrawn by operation of law.” E.E.O.C. v. Fair
Oaks Dairy Farms, LLC, No. 2:11-CV-265, 2011 WL 6887731, at *1 (N.D. Ind. Dec. 22, 2011) (citing Johnson v.
Dossey, 515 F.3d 778, 780 (7th Cir.2008)). Therefore, Knowledge Universe’s first Motion to Dismiss is DENIED
On or about May 10, 2011, Ms. Riddle suffered a burn injury and was granted
intermittent leave under FMLA. Ms. Riddle alleges that while she was still on leave the week of
July 25, 2011, her district manager called a meeting to speak to the employees who reported to
Ms. Riddle and informed them that Ms. Riddle would not be allowed to return to her former
position and would be replaced.
Upon Ms. Riddle’s return on October 2, 2011, she was
suspended for seven days for an incident that occurred while she was on FMLA leave. She was
also placed on a work improvement plan and charged vacation time for days she had actually
worked. Ms. Riddle filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (“EEOC”) on or about January 27, 2012, alleging discrimination under the ADA
and also mentioning Knowledge Universe’s alleged FMLA violations. After Ms. Riddle filed
her charge of discrimination, her manager treated her in a hostile manner and reported to other
employees that Ms. Riddle must have a drug and alcohol problem.
Ms. Riddle was then
terminated on April 23, 2012. Ms. Riddle filed an EEOC charge of retaliation on or about May
16, 2012, alleging that she was terminated for filing the previous EEOC discrimination charge.
Ms. Riddle asserts that Knowledge Universe denied her the benefits and protections of the
FMLA when it attempted to replace her while she was on leave and subsequently disciplined her
upon her return. Ms. Riddle further alleges that she was terminated from her employment
following her medical leave. Finally, she asserts Knowledge Universe treated her in a hostile
manner and then terminated her after she filed her charge of discrimination with the EEOC.
Ms. Riddle filed her original Complaint on March 27, 2013 (Dkt. 1).
Universe filed a Motion to Dismiss on May 21, 2013, asserting Ms. Riddle failed to identify facts
that could state a claim for relief that was plausible on its face (Dkt. 11). On June 10, 2013, Ms.
Riddle filed her Amended Complaint, and Knowledge Universe filed this present motion
alleging the same deficiencies in Ms. Riddle’s Amended Complaint.
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court must take the facts
alleged in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.
Mosley v. Klincar, 947 F.2d 1338, 1339 (7th Cir. 1991). The complaint must contain only “a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,” (Fed. R. Civ.
P. 8(a)(2)), and there is no need for detailed factual allegations. Pisciotta v. Old Nat’l Bancorp,
499 F.3d 629, 633 (7th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). Nevertheless, the statement must “give the
defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests” and the “[f]actual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. (citations
and quotations omitted). “Although this does ‘not require heightened fact pleading of specifics,’
it does require the complaint to contain ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.’” Killingsworth, 507 F.3d at 618 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
Knowledge Universe asserts that Ms. Riddle provides “no facts” to support her FMLA
and retaliation claims and asserts that it cannot tell from the complaint the legal basis for Ms.
Riddle’s claims. However, the majority of Knowledge Universe’s arguments are more
appropriate for a summary judgment motion, not a motion to dismiss. “The purpose of a motion
to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of
the lawsuit.” Franklin United Methodist Home, Inc. v. Lancaster Pollard & Co., No. 1:10-CV01086-RLY, 2012 WL 4358736, at *1 (S.D. Ind. Sept. 21, 2012) (citing United States v. Clark
Cnty., Ind., 113 F. Supp. 2d 1286, 1290 (S.D. Ind. 2000)). Ms. Riddle’s Amended Complaint
adequately provides Knowledge Universe notice of the claims asserted against it and the facts
underlying such claims, including: 1) she was employed by Knowledge Universe; 2) she
requested and took FMLA leave; 3) she was suspended, disciplined, and improperly charged
with vacation time upon return from FMLA; 4) she filed an EEOC complaint alleging violations
of the ADA and FMLA; and 5) she was terminated.
Contrary to Knowledge Universe’s
assertions, the Amended Complaint sets forth who allegedly discriminated against her, when it
occurred, the nature of the discrimination she alleges, the nature of her protected activity, and the
resulting adverse actions. See Dkt. 14 at 2, ¶¶ 6-13. Knowledge Universe’s argument that Ms.
Riddle failed to support her claims with adequate factual allegations is without merit.
Knowledge Universe’s argument that Count III of Ms. Riddle’s Amended Complaint is
unsupported by a recognized legal theory is also without merit. First and foremost, paragraph
27 clearly states, “Plaintiff incorporates by reference paragraphs one through twenty-six.” Dkt.
14 at 4, ¶ 27. As if this were not sufficient to place Knowledge Universe on notice that Ms.
Riddle’s claim was being brought under FMLA or the ADA, as well as the factual allegations
supporting it, the following paragraphs explicitly state that she was terminated after she alleged
violations of her rights under the ADA by filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. Dkt.
14 at 4, ¶28-30. Nothing more is required under Twombly.
Finally, with regard to Knowledge Universe’s argument that Ms. Riddle’s claim of
retaliation under the ADA should be dismissed as untimely, this argument also has no merit.
Knowledge Universe makes the argument that the Amended Complaint does not relate back to
the original complaint without citing to any supporting case law or other reason why Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 15 does not apply in this situation. “An amendment to a pleading relates
back to the date of the original pleading when . . . the amendment asserts a claim or defense that
arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set out—or attempted to be set out—in the
original pleading[.]” Fed. R. Civ. P. 15. Ms. Riddle’s original complaint did put Knowledge
Universe on notice that she was asserting a claim of retaliation for filing an EEOC charge
alleging that she was discriminated against on the basis of disability or perceived disability, so
the ADA retaliation claim is not new to the Amended Complaint. See Dkt 1 at 2, ¶ 11; 4, ¶ 28.
The Court finds that Ms. Riddle’s Amended Complaint relates back to her original complaint,
thus her ADA retaliation claim is timely.
For the forgoing reasons, Knowledge Universe’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Amended
Complaint (Dkt. 16) is DENIED, and its original Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 11) is DENIED AS
Hon. Tanya Walton Pratt, Judge
United States District Court
Southern District of Indiana
David M. Henn
HENN LAW FIRM P.C.
Paul J. Cummings
HENN LAW FIRM PC
Thomas E. Deer
Michelle R. Maslowski
OGLETREE, DEAKINS, NASH, SMOAK & STEWART
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