Giron v. Tyco Electronics Corporation et al
OPINION and ORDER Denying Defendants' Partial 8 Motion to Dismiss. Signed by District Judge Stephen J. Murphy, III. (DPar)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 2:16-cv-11803
HONORABLE STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III
TYCO ELECTRONICS CORPORATION,
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING
DEFENDANTS' PARTIAL MOTION TO DISMISS (document no. 8)
Plaintiff Vicki Giron sued Defendants Tyco Electronics Corporation and TE
Connectivity, Ltd. under Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, Mich. Comp. Laws
§ 37.2101 et seq., and for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. Before the Court
is Defendants' motion to dismiss the public policy claim. For the following reasons, the
Court will deny the motion.
Giron worked as a project manager in Defendants' Troy, Michigan office from October
2012 until her termination on January 31, 2016. Compl. ¶¶ 8, 30, ECF No. 1. She alleges
that she was terminated because of her gender. But she also claims her supervisor, Suraj
Alva, directed her to "agree to discriminatory pricing practices, and specifically charging
customers different prices for the same product." Id. ¶ 19. Giron thought that practice was
illegal, or at least potentially illegal, and allegedly faced "hostility and threats by Alva" when
she refused the directive. Id. ¶¶ 20–21. She claims that Defendants retaliated by
terminating her employment after the refusal, and that the laws implicated by Alva's
directives included Section 2(a) of the Clayton Act, as amended by the Robinson-Patman
Anti-Discrimination Act, 15 U.S.C. § 13(a). Id. ¶ 41. On September 12, 2016, TE
Connectivity was dismissed from the case without prejudice. See Stip. Order, ECF No. 13.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Civil Rule 12(b)(6) provides for dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The Court may only grant a Civil
Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss if the allegations are not "sufficient 'to raise a right to relief
above the speculative level,' and to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'"
Hensley Mfg. v. ProPride, Inc., 579 F.3d 603, 609 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007)). In evaluating the motion, the Court presumes
the truth of all well-pled factual assertions. Bishop v. Lucent Techs., 520 F.3d 516, 519 (6th
Cir. 2008). Moreover, the Court must draw every reasonable inference in favor of the nonmoving party. Dubay v. Wells, 506 F.3d 422, 427 (6th Cir. 2007). But a "pleading that offers
'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will
not do.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
Defendants argue that the public policy claim should be dismissed because it contains
neither the requisite elements nor sufficient facts. Mot. Dism. 1, ECF No. 8. The Court
In Michigan, at-will employees generally can be terminated at any time for any reason,
except on grounds that violate public policy. Morrison v. B. Braun Med. Inc., 663 F.3d 251,
256 (6th Cir. 2011). A wrongful termination cause of action is implied when the alleged
reason for termination was the employee's failure or refusal to violate a law in the course
of their employment. Id. To state a plausible claim, a plaintiff need not show that the
employer directed her to violate the law. Id. at 257. But she "may not simply cite any and
all laws [s]he alleges were violated by h[er] employer's misconduct to support a public
policy wrongful discharge claim." Shaughnessy v. Interpublic Grp. of Cos., Inc., 506 F.
App'x 369, 377 (6th Cir. 2012). She must allege sufficient facts that create a "nexus
between the laws and regulations and h[er] own termination" for "exercising a right
guaranteed by law, executing a duty required by law, or refraining from violating the law."
Id. (quotation omitted).
Accepting the facts as true and construing them in a light most favorable to the
plaintiff, Giron's allegations raise her right to relief above the speculative level, and put
Defendants on notice as to her claim by creating a nexus between the laws violated and
her termination. In her complaint, she alleges that (1) Alva directed her to charge
customers different prices for the same product, (2) she refused the directive because she
thought the practice was (or at least could be) illegal under laws including Section 2(a) of
the Clayton Act, (3) Alva responded with hostility and threats, and (4) Defendants
terminated her due, in part, to the refusal. See Compl. ¶¶ 19–22, 30, 41–42, ECF No. 1.
Defendants argue that the complaint lacks facts detailing the incident, including the
date and time of the directive, the names of the companies allegedly subject to different
prices, the nature of the sale and the products sold, the reasons Giron gave to Alva
explaining her refusal, a description of Alva's threats to Giron after she refused the
directive, and the time elapsed between Alva's threats and Giron's termination. Mot. Dism.
9, ECF No. 8. Their argument is correct, but the facts will likely come out during discovery,
and need not be alleged at this early stage for Giron's claim to be plausible on its face.
Defendants also argue that Giron's pleadings must provide proof that a violation of
law occurred, or at least allege enough specific facts to show that the elements of the
Clayton Act were met by corresponding facts. Id. at 4–7. But that is incorrect. See 16630
Southfield Ltd. P'ship v. Flagstar Bank, F.S.B., 727 F.3d 502, 505 (6th Cir. 2013) ("[I]f a
plaintiff's claim is plausible, the availability of other explanations—even more likely
explanations—does not bar the door to discovery."). Whether Giron's actions in response
to Avla's directive would not have violated the Clayton Act will be determined during
discovery of facts in the case. See, e.g., Kendall v. Integrated Interiors, Inc., No. 283494,
2009 WL 3321515, at *2–7 (Mich. Ct. App. Oct. 15, 2009). And if they did not, Defendants
may very well make a successful motion for summary judgment. But at this point, she need
only allege facts that allow the Court to "draw the reasonable inference that the defendant
is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (2009). She has done that.
Finally, Defendants' cite Shaughnessy to argue that Giron alleges insufficient facts
for the Court to draw an inference of causation. Mot. Dism. 7–9, ECF No. 8. But in
Shaughnessy, the district court's dismissal was upheld because the plaintiff's complaint
"never specified the theory or theories supporting his public policy discharge claim," "never
asserted any facts to support the notion that he was discharged either because he 'fail[ed]
or refus[ed]" to violate the allegedly implicated laws, and "provided no allegations to
indicate that Defendant either asked him to violate those specific laws or retaliated against
him after he refused to violate those laws." Shaughnessy, 506 F. App'x at 376–77. Here,
Giron's chronology of events — taken as true for the purposes of this motion — supports
an inference of causation sufficient to state a valid public policy tort claim: she claims Alva
directed her to do something that she believed violated (or possibly could have violated)
the Clayton Act, Alva reacted to the refusal with "hostility and threats," and she was
terminated, at least in part, because of the refusal. At the present point in litigation, the
allegations are sufficient. Accordingly, the Court will deny Defendants' motion.
WHEREFORE, it is hereby ORDERED that Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss
(ECF No. 8) is DENIED.
s/Stephen J. Murphy, III
STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III
United States District Judge
Dated: December 22, 2016
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing document was served upon the parties and/or
counsel of record on December 22, 2016, by electronic and/or ordinary mail.
s/David P. Parker
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?