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Gill v. Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

July 31, 2019

ANDRE GILL, P.E. Plaintiff,
ALEXION PHARMACEUTICALS, INC., and KATHERINE LEITCH, P.E., individually and as Director of Engineering, Defendant.



         Before the Court is Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Katherine Leitch's (collectively “Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss Counts I, II, III, and V of Plaintiff's Complaint Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(B)(6), ECF No. 6. For the reasons that follow, the Defendants' motion is GRANTED IN PART.

         I. Background

         The Court is once again faced with pleadings in an employment discrimination action that present a tangled knot of factual allegations and conclusory statements. The Court has used its best efforts to understand the pleading's narrative. The recitation that follows accepts as true the Complaint's well-pled facts, while according its conclusory assertions no weight. See A.G. ex rel. Maddox v. Elsevier, Inc., 732 F.3d 77, 80 (1st Cir. 2013); Barrington Cove Ltd. P'ship v. R.I. Hous. & Mortg. Fin. Corp., 246 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2001).

         Plaintiff Andre Gill pleads eight claims under three statutes: 42 U.S.C. § 1981; the Rhode Island Whistleblowers' Protection Act (“RIWPA”), R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-50-3 et seq.; and the Rhode Island Civil Rights Act (“RICRA”), R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-112-1 et seq. The claims under each statute are premised on substantially the same factual allegations. See Compl., ECF No. 1-2. These include that Defendants: (1) subjected Plaintiff to discriminatory terms of employment (Counts I, IV, VI, VIII); (2) created an unlawful hostile work environment (Counts II, VII); and (3) retaliated against Plaintiff for making protected complaints (Counts III, V). Defendants have moved to dismiss only counts I, II, III, and V. Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss 1, ECF No. 6.

         Defendant Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. employed Gill as a professional engineer for approximately four years. Compl. ¶¶ 4, 8. Gill alleges that, before April 2013, his employer regarded him as an “exemplary” employee who received positive performance evaluations, two promotions, and several pay raises. Id. ¶¶ 6, 11.

         In April 2013, Defendant Katherine Leitch became Gill's supervisor. Id. ¶ 6. Gill alleges that Leitch failed to demonstrate respect for Gill's engineering judgment, consistently subjected him to criticism, withheld positive encouragement, refused to look him in the eye, and subjected him to negative performance evaluations. Id. ¶¶ 11-12. Gill alleges that Leitch gave him a negative evaluation only four weeks after becoming his supervisor; this was the first negative performance evaluation that Gill had received during his tenure at Alexion. Id. ¶ 12. Gill alleges that Leitch's negative performance evaluations resulted in denied pay raises. Id. ¶¶ 11-12.

         Gill alleges that, after two years, Leitch decided to terminate him and caused Alexion to ratify her decision on the grounds of poor performance. Id. Gill characterizes her rationale as pretextual. Id. ¶ 12. Alexion terminated Gill on August 13, 2015, which was the date set for his formal mid-year evaluation. Id. Gill alleges Defendants hired three white males to perform all of his former engineering duties at greatly increased labor costs. Id. ¶ 13.

         Throughout his tenure at Alexion, Gill presented reports regarding “myriad mandatory legal mandates applicable to Defendants.” Id. ¶¶ 14. Gill's Complaint simply describes these reports as “statutorily protected complaints” that were communicated to Defendants both verbally and through email. Id. ¶ 16. Gill claims that Alexion executives retaliated against him by authorizing Leitch to supervise him in a manner that would encourage him to quit. Id. ¶ 17. Because he did not quit, Defendants terminated his employment. Id. Gill alleges that if he was not fired, he would have continued to work and would have received future pay raises. Id. ¶ 20.

         Years later, on August 14, 2018, Gill filed this action in the Rhode Island Superior Court. See Defs.' Notice of Removal to Fed. Ct. (“Notice of Removal”), ECF No. 1. Defendants removed the action to this Court based on Gill's § 1981 claim. Id.

         II. Legal Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff must allege “sufficient factual matter . . . to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A two-step analysis governs such a determination. First, the Court must “distinguish the complaint's factual allegations (which must be accepted as true) from its conclusory legal allegations (which need not be credited).” Cardigan Mountain Sch. v. N.H. Ins. Co., 787 F.3d 82, 84 (1st Cir. 2015) (quoting García-Catalán v. United States, 734 F.3d 100, 103 (1st Cir. 2013) (quotation marks omitted)). Second, the Court must “determine whether the factual allegations are sufficient to support the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable.” Id. (quoting Haley v. City of Boston, 657 F.3d 39, 46 (1st Cir. 2011).

         III. Discussion

         A. Gill Fails to State a Claim under RIWPA in ...

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