Western District Of New York Dismisses “Threadbare” FMLA And Discrimination Allegations At Initial Pleadings Stage

Gonzalez v. Carestream Health, Inc., No. 12-CV-6151(CJS) (W.D.N.Y. Sept. 18, 2012, Siragusa, J.): A district court granted an employer’s motion to dismiss the complaint of a 60-year old male who brought claims for age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the New York State Human Rights Law, and for retaliation under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The plaintiff claimed that, after being employed by the defendant for 34 years, he began receiving poor performance appraisals and was ultimately terminated after taking a four-week FMLA leave. Applying Twombly and Iqbal and their progeny, the court found first that the plaintiff’s allegations regarding the basis for his termination were mere “threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action supported only by bare conclusory statements,” and dismissed the age discrimination claims. Next, after holding that the plaintiff’s performance evaluations were incorporated by reference into his complaint, the court found that the plaintiff had received negative performance reviews prior to his FMLA leave. In addition, the court reasoned, the temporal proximity between the FMLA leave and the plaintiff’s termination—eight months—also did not suggest that his termination was due to retaliation. Thus, the court also dismissed the FMLA claim, which demonstrates that courts in New York may dismiss FMLA and discrimination claims based upon threadbare and unsupported allegations.

Note: This articles was published in the October 2012 issue of the New York eAuthority.