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Orr v. The Claflin Co.

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

October 3, 2019

JANET ORR, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CLAFLIN COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          JOHN J. McCONNLL JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Janet Orr files this lawsuit against her former employer, The Claflin Company ("Claflin"). Ms. Orr was hired by Claflin in May 2010 as an Acute Care Account Manager. ECF No. 1 at 2, ¶6. Claflin terminated Ms. Orr's employment in April 2019. Id. at ¶10.

         Ms. Orr brings six claims in her complaint: unlawful age discrimination in violation of the Rhode Island Civil Rights Act of 1990, R.I.G.L. §42-112-1, et seq. (Count One); violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, 18 U.S.C. §2510, et seq. (Count Two); violation of the Rhode Island Interception of Wire and Oral Communications Act, R.I.G.L. §12-5.1-1, et seq. (Count Three); violation of the Rhode Island Privacy Act, R.I.G.L. §9-1-28.1, et seq. (Count Four); intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count Five); and negligent infliction of emotional distress (Count Six). ECF No. 1 at 5-7, ¶¶ 35-40.

         Claflin moves to dismiss Count One, Count Five, and Count Six. ECF No. 6 at 2. Ms. Orr objects to the dismissal of Count One but does not object to the dismissal of Count Five or Count Six. ECF No. 8 at 1. Claflin's motion to dismiss Count Five and Count Six will thus be GRANTED by the Court without analysis.

         FACTS[1]

         In May 2010, Ms. Orr was hired at Claflin as an Acute Care Account Manager. ECF No. 1 at 2, ¶6. Ms. Orr's performance in this role was deemed satisfactory as she received performance bonuses, positive customer reviews, and a raise in October 2018. Id. at ¶7.

         Around November 2018, Claflin hired two account representatives who were in their early thirties. Id., at ¶9. As an Acute Care Account Manager, Ms. Orr's position was senior to the account representatives. See id.

         In April 2019, Claflin terminated Ms. Orr's employment. Id. at ¶IO. Ms. Orr was fifty-seven years old at the time. Id. at ¶5. In the termination meeting, Ms. Orr's manager and Claflin's human resources manager stated that she was being terminated because (i) she seemed unhappy and (ii) her services would no longer be needed due to the inevitable loss of Care New England as a customer following its anticipated merger. Id. at ¶ll. It is Ms. Orr's understanding that Claflin did not lose Care New England as a customer as the merger was never finalized. Id., at ¶12. In the Termination Report that was included in Ms. Orr's personnel file, the reason cited for her termination was a reduction in force. Id. at ¶15.

         After Ms. Orr's termination, the account representatives who were hired in November 2018 were promoted to account manager positions and began to service Ms. Orr's former accounts. Id. at ¶16.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). And the court must review the facts as true and in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, drawing all reasonable inferences. Gargano v. Liberty Int'l Underwriters, 572 F.3d 45, 48 (1st Cir. 2009) (citing Fitzgerald v. Harris, 549 F.3d 46, 52 (1st Cir. 2008)). That said, conclusory statements of the law are "not entitled the assumption of truth." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). Finally, to grant the motion to dismiss, the pleadings must "show[] no set of facts which could entitle plaintiff to relief." Gooley v. Mobil Oil Corp., 851 F.2d 513, 514 (1st Cir. 1988) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-48 (1957)).

         ANALYSIS

         Because Ms. Orr does not allege any direct evidence of age discrimination, the parties agree that Count One must be analyzed pursuant to the analysis enunciated in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-05 (1973) and similarly applied under Rhode Island law. See e.g., Casey v. Town of Portsmouth, 861 A.2d 1032, 1036 (R.I. 2004). Using the McDonnell Douglas analysis, the plaintiff must first establish a prima facie showing of age discrimination.

         To establish a prima facie showing of age discrimination, Ms. Orr must show that (i) she was over the age of forty, (ii) her work was sufficient to meet her employer's legitimate expectations, (iii) her employer took adverse action against her, and (iv) the employer sought a replacement with roughly equivalent job qualifications, thus revealing a continued need for ...


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