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Larsen v. Granger Medical Clinic

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

October 17, 2018

DANNALEE LARSEN, Plaintiff,
v.
GRANGER MEDICAL CLINIC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION

          Dustin B. Pead Magistrate Judge

         On December 27, 2017, Plaintiff DonnaLee Larsen (“Ms. Larsen”) filed a Complaint against Defendant Granger Medical Clinic (“Granger Medical”) alleging a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), as amended (Compl., ECF No. 2.) The parties consented to the jurisdiction of the Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 636(c) on April 11, 2018. (ECF No. 10.)

         Granger Medical moves the court to dismiss Ms. Larsen's Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which this court can grant relief. (Mot. to Dismiss (“Motion”), ECF No. 5). The matter has been fully briefed. The court has carefully reviewed the moving papers submitted by the parties. Pursuant to civil rule 7-1(f) of the Rules of Practice for the United States District Court for the District of Utah, the court concludes that oral argument is not necessary and will determine the Motion based upon the briefs. Based upon careful review of the briefing the court DENIES the Motion.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Taking the factual allegations in the Complaint as true, Kan. Penn Gaming, LLC v. Collins, 656 F.3d 1210, 1214 (10th Cir. 2011) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), the following facts are the backdrop for this decision.

         Prior to October 1, 2014, Ms. Larsen had served as a medical assistant for 36 years, with the majority of those years spent working for Dr. Colin Kelly. (Compl. at ¶8, ECF. No. 2.) Ms. Larsen worked hard over her 36-year career to earn a reputation as a competent, caring, efficient and dependable employee. (Id. at ¶9.) Her typical job duties as a medical assistant consisted of weighing and measuring patients, drawing blood, preparing and administering shots, and office duties. (Id. at ¶10.) On October 1, 2014, Granger Medical acquired Dr. Kelly's practice and retained Ms. Larsen as a medical assistant to work with Dr. Gallagher. (Id. at ¶8.) Ms. Larsen continued to perform her same duties after her transition to working with Dr. Gallagher. (Id. at ¶¶10-11.)

         After Ms. Larsen had been working for Granger Medical for approximately eight-and-a-half months, Ms. Aspen McPhie, a medical assistant, came to observe her and other employees perform their jobs. (Id. at ¶14.) Ms. McPhie followed Ms. Larsen on June 16, 2015. (Id. at ¶15.) The next day, Ms. McPhie provided a paper titled “things to remember” (“List”) to Ms. Larsen. On the List were Ms. Larsen's job duties that, according to Ms. McPhie, needed to be perform in a different manner in light of Ms. McPhie's observations from the previous day. (Id. at ¶16.) Ms. McPhie witnessed Ms. Larsen allegedly failing to wear gloves, not closing exam room doors, and licking blood spots off her thumb. (Id. at ¶16.) Ms. Larsen denies she engaged in such conduct. (Id. at ¶18.)

         On June 17, 2015, Trang Dao, a manager at Granger Medical, had Ms. Larsen read the List and initial each point to establish that (1) she understood what needed to change and (2) she was amenable to performing her job consistent with Granger Medical's requirements. (Id. at ¶17.) Again, Ms. Larsen alleges the issues on the List, such as licking blood spots from her thumb, are simply false. (Id. at ¶18.) Nevertheless, Ms. Larsen immediately began to perform her job duties in conformity with what was identified on the List. (Id.)

         When Ms. Larsen arrived at work on June 18, 2015, she learned that her employment was being terminated immediately. (Id. at ¶¶19-20.) The office manager said her termination was a “done deal”. (Id. at ¶21.) Prior to her termination, however, Dr. Gallagher was contacted to discuss the decision to let Ms. Larsen go. (Id. at ¶60.)

         After Ms. Larsen's termination, Granger Medical replaced her with a succession of younger employees. (Id. at ¶¶25-26.) Ms. Larsen also learned that Dr. Gallagher told patients that she (Ms. Larsen) was “worn out”, “older than she looks”, and that “once people get to a certain age, it is really hard to work in this kind of environment.” (Id. at ¶¶27-28.) On September 17, 2015, Ms. Larsen filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Utah Antidiscrimination and Labor Division of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (Id. at ¶4.) This action commenced on December 26, 2017.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, 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 claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft at 678. “[A] plaintiff must offer specific factual allegations to support each claim.” Kan. Penn Gaming, LLC v. Collins, 656 F.3d 1210, 1214 (10th Cir. 2011). “[M]ere labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not suffice; a plaintiff must offer specific factual allegations to support each claim.” Id. (internal punctuation omitted). However, when the allegations state a plausible claim for relief, such claim survives a motion to dismiss. See Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 860.

         DISCUSSION

         Granger Medical seeks dismissal of Ms. Larsen's ADEA claims for (1) failure to allege facts that show she was treated less favorably than others not in a the protected class, and (2) failure to allege a nexus ...


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