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Straub v. County of Maui

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

February 7, 2018

ROBERT G. STRAUB, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF MAUI, DIRECTOR TEENA RASMUSSEN, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT COUNTY OF MAUI'S MOTION TO DISMISS, ECF NO. 12 ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT COUNTY OF MAUI'S MOTION TO DISMISS, ECF NO. 12

          J. MICHAEL SEABRIGHT CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Defendant County of Maui (the “County”) has moved to dismiss Plaintiff Robert G. Straub's (“Straub”) First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) against the County and Teena Rasmussen (“Rasmussen”), the Managing Director of the County Department of Economic Development (the “Department”). ECF No. 12. The County contends that the FAC consists of “mere recitation of the elements of each cause of action” and, therefore, should be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Def.'s Mem. at 1, ECF No. 12-1. For the following reasons, the Motion is DENIED.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The FAC includes the following factual allegations. Straub worked for the County for sixteen years, but not from 2008 to 2011. FAC ¶¶ 5, 8, ECF No. 8. After Mayor Alan Arakawa was elected in 2011, Straub “came back” to the County as the Mayor's office manager. Id. ¶ 8. Most recently, he worked in the County's Business Resource Center (“BRC”), under the supervision of Karen Arakawa. Id. ¶ 5, 11.

         In 2017, Straub took a 30-day family medical leave to care for his wife, who suffers from Parkinson's disease. Id. ¶¶ 5, 18. Four days after he returned to work, Rasmussen fired him, ostensibly because of “budget issues.” Id. ¶¶ 5, 7. But “Rasmussen told others in the [Department] that she didn't want people to be off the job for more than 2 weeks and [Straub] was gone for 30 days.” Id. ¶ 10. Additionally, Straub contends that he was replaced by a higher paid individual, that the BRC remained at the same number of employees after he left, and that “many County employees” received substantial raises retroactive to July 2016. Id. ¶¶ 7, 10. Straub, who is 71, also contends that he was replaced by a “substantially younger and less qualified” individual. Id. ¶ 6.

         After he was fired, Straub spoke to Mayor Arakawa and also to Rasmussen's “boss, ” Chief of Staff Herman Andaya, who both “denied having any involvement in the decision to terminate him and supported him remaining employed in the Mayor's office.” Id. ¶ 9.

         Straub obtained right-to-sue letters from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission (“HCRC”) in October 2017. Id. ¶ 12.

         At some point, Karen Arakawa “told others that the County could not buy t-shirts from [Straub's] company this year, as [it] had for the past 6 years, because of [Straub's] claims against the County.” Id. ¶ 11.

         Straub filed his original Complaint against the County in October 2017, ECF No. 1, and the FAC naming Rasmussen on November 9, 2017, ECF No. 8. The FAC alleges four Counts: (1) interference and retaliation in violation of the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1) and (2), based on the termination of Straub's employment; (2) interference and retaliation under the FMLA based on the County's “termination of purchasing t-shirts from [Straub's] Ultra Hawaii business”; (3) violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12122(b)(4); and (4) age discrimination in violation of Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1) and Hawaii Revised Statutes (“HRS”) § 378-2. FAC ¶¶ 14-21.

         The County filed its Motion to Dismiss on November 24, 2017, ECF No. 12, and Straub filed his Opposition on January 12, 2018, ECF No. 20. The County replied on January 22, 2017. ECF No. 21. In the meantime, Rasmussen signed a waiver of service on December 7, 2017, and on January 30, 2018, Corporation Counsel entered an appearance for Rasmussen and filed a Substantive Joinder to the County's Motion on her behalf. ECF Nos. 17, 22.

         A hearing was held on February 5, 2018.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a court to dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Such a dismissal is proper “based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged.” UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Shelter Capital Partners, LLC, 718 F.3d 1006, 1014 ...


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