Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm'n v. Prod. Fabricators, Inc., Civ. No. 11–2071 (MJD/LIB).

Citation873 F.Supp.2d 1093
Decision Date10 July 2012
Docket NumberCiv. No. 11–2071 (MJD/LIB).
PartiesEQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff, and Adam Breaux, Plaintiff–Intervenor v. PRODUCT FABRICATORS, INC. et al., Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Minnesota

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Jean P. Kamp, Nicholas J. Pladson, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Chicago, IL, John–Na C. Hendrickson, for Plaintiff.

Elisa M. Hatlevig, Marlene S. Garvis, Jardine Logan & O'Brien PLLP, Lake Elmo, MN, for Defendants.

ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

MICHAEL J. DAVIS, Chief Judge.

Based upon the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Leo I. Brisbois, and after an independent review of the files, records and proceedings in the above-titled matter, IT IS ORDERED:

That Plaintiff's Motion to Strike [Docket No. 13] is GRANTED as more fully described in Magistrate Judge Leo I. Brisbois's Report and Recommendation, dated June 18, 2012.1

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

LEO I. BRISBOIS, United States Magistrate Judge.

This matter came before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge upon Plaintiff's Motion to Strike. The motion has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 72.1. The Court recommends that Plaintiff's motion to strike be granted as more fully described herein.

I. BACKGROUND

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Plaintiff) brings this action under the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991 “to correct unlawful employment practices on the basis of retaliation and to provide appropriate relief to Adam Breaux, III (“Breaux”) who was adversely affected by such practices.” (Am. Compl. [Docket No. 7] at 1). It alleges that Mr. Breaux was improperly terminated in retaliation for a request to accommodate a leave and in retaliation for having participated as a witness in an EEOC investigation of a charge of discrimination filed by a former employee of Defendant Product Fabricators, Inc. (PFI). ( Id. ¶¶ 14–15). Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant PFI was sold to M & M Manufacturing, Inc. (M & M) and asserts a successor liability claim. ( Id. ¶ 19). Plaintiff alleges that PFI was owned by Michael Murphy, Sr. and that M & M was owned and operated by Michael Murphy, Jr. and Mark Murphy, the sons of Michael Murphy, Sr. ( Id. ¶¶ 20–22).

Adam Breaux (PlaintiffIntervenor) asserts claims for violation of the ADA, a retaliatory discharge in violation of Minn.Stat. § 176.82, subd. 1, and refusal to offer continued employment in violation of Minn.Stat. § 176.82, subd. 2. (Compl. of Plaintiff–Intervenor Adam Breaux [Docket No. 30] ¶¶ 16–29).

In their answer to the Amended Complaint, Defendants raise several affirmative defenses that Plaintiff argues “are unavailable as a matter of law, and/or cannot be established by plausible facts in Defendants' pleading.” (Mem. in Supp. of EEOC's Rule 12(f) Mot. [Docket No. 15] at 1). As such, Plaintiff has filed the present motion to strike the affirmative defenses asserted in paragraphs 21, 23, 24, 25, and 26 of Defendants' Answer to the Amended Complaint. ( Id.)

II. PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO STRIKEA. Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) permits the Court to “strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Because such relief is an “extreme measure,” however, motions under Rule 12(f) are viewed with disfavor in the Eighth Circuit and are infrequently granted. Stanbury Law Firm, P.A. v. Internal Revenue Serv., 221 F.3d 1059, 1063 (8th Cir.2000); Daigle v. Ford Motor Co., 713 F.Supp.2d 822, 830 (D.Minn.2010). Nevertheless, the Court has “liberal discretion” under the rule, Stanbury, 221 F.3d at 1063, and a motion to strike should be granted “if the result is to make a trial less complicated or otherwise streamline the ultimate resolution of the action.” Daigle, 713 F.Supp.2d at 830.

“A motion to strike a defense will be denied if the defense is sufficient as a matter of law or if it fairly presents a question of law or fact which the court ought to hear.” Lunsford v. United States, 570 F.2d 221, 229 (8th Cir.1977). However, where the defense asserted is “foreclosed by prior controlling decisions or statutes,” the Court may strike it as legally insufficient. Holt v. Quality Egg, LLC, 777 F.Supp.2d 1160, 1169 (N.D.Iowa 2011). In that regard, [t]he motion closely resembles a motion to dismiss in that all well plead allegations in the affirmative defense must be accepted as true and the Court must find that the defense at issue is legally insufficient.” United States v. NHC Health Care Corp., 2000 WL 33146581, at *1 (W.D.Mo. Dec. 29, 2000).

B. Affirmative Defense that Plaintiff's Claims may be Barred by the Minnesota Workers Compensation Act

The Minnesota Worker's Compensation Act provides that [t]he liability of an employer prescribed by this chapter is exclusive and in the place of any other liability....” Minn.Stat. § 176.031.

Plaintiff argues that Defendants' contention that EEOC's suit is barred by the exclusivity provision of the Minnesota Workers Compensation Act ignores the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution and the explicit provisions for damages in the federal laws under which the EEOC is proceeding.” (Mem. in Supp. of EEOC's Rule 12(f) Mot. at 2). The Court agrees.

Defendants argue that the Minnesota Supreme Court “has conclusively held that the Minnesota Workers' Compensation Acts exclusivity provision precludes any additional employer liability for disability discrimination under the Minnesota Human Rights Act.” (Defs.' Resp. to Pl.s' Rule 12(f) Mot. [Docket No. 23] at 2) (citing Karst v. F.C. Hayer Co., Inc., 447 N.W.2d 180 (Minn.1989)). Here, the Plaintiff has brought an action under federal law, specifically, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)—not under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. The Minnesota Supreme Court's decision that the exclusivity provision of the Minnesota Workers' Compensation Act bars any subsequent actions under the Minnesota Human Rights Act is inapposite to the present case.

Defendants also argue that Plaintiff has not provided any “precedential case law from the Eighth Circuit conclusively holding that the Minnesota Workers' CompensationAct cannot limit remedies under the Americans with Disabilities Act.” (Defs.' Resp. to Pl.s' Rule 12(f) Mot. at 3). Plaintiffs, rely on Karcher v. Emerson Electric Co., 94 F.3d 502, 509 (8th Cir.1996) for the proposition that “the exclusivity provision of a state worker's compensation law cannot preempt a federally created right to recover damages under Title VII.” (Mem. in Supp. of EEOC's Rule 12(f) Mot. at 5). In Karcher, the Eighth Circuit held that the “exclusivity provision of the Missouri workers' compensation statute ... [c]learly ... cannot preempt [the plaintiff's] federally created right to recover damages for emotional distress under Title VII.” 94 F.3d at 509. The Missouri statute exclusivity provision included language very similar to the language of the Minnesota statute: [t]he rights and remedies herein granted to an employee shall exclude all other rights and remedies of the employee, ... at common law or otherwise, on account of such accidental injury or death, except such rights and remedies as are not provided for by this chapter.” Karcher, 94 F.3d at 509 (citing Mo.Rev.Stat. § 287.120.2). Though the Eighth Circuit was directly addressing exclusivity provision of a Missouri workers' compensation statute, rather than the Minnesota workers' compensation statute, its' holding that a state workers' compensation statute “clearly ... cannot preempt [a plaintiff's] federally created right to recover damages for emotional distress under Title VII is equally applicable to the present case. Indeed, the Eighth Circuit has previously even held that the Federal Employees' Compensation Act, which is “the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries suffered by federal employees, ... does not bar federal employees from suing their employers under the antidiscrimination laws.” Meester v. Runyon, 149 F.3d 855, 856 (8th Cir.1998).

Defendants attempts to distinguish Karcher by highlighting that, as the court in Karcher even stated, the Missouri exclusivity provision did not bar recovery under the Missouri Human Rights Act. As already explained above, the Court finds irrelevant the interplay between a state's workers' compensation statute and that state's human rights act when considering whether the exclusivity provision of the state workers' compensation statute bars a federal cause of action under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This Court has previously held, in addressing preemption with respect to the Minnesota Workers Compensation Act and the United States Rehabilitation Act of 1973, that “the federal remedy for disability discrimination cannot be limited by a state workers compensation act.” Smith v. Lake City Nursing Home, 771 F.Supp. 985, 987 (D.Minn.1991). The Court's holding in Smith is also applicable here.

Other courts addressing the issue have likewise unanimously found that a state workers' compensation statute cannot preempt a federal cause of action under the ADA. In Liss v. Nassau Cnty., 425 F.Supp.2d 335, 342 (E.D.N.Y.2006), addressing a defendant's argument that “the plaintiff may not seek damages under the ADA” in light of the exclusivity provision of the New York workers' compensation statute, the court stated that “the defendants' argument is without merit.” “The New York State Worker's Compensation does not bar an employee from suing his employer under federal civil rights laws.” Liss, 425 F.Supp.2d at 342. In Lopez v. S.B. Thomas, Inc., 831 F.2d 1184, 1190 (2d Cir.1987), the court held: we do not read the workers' compensation law to deny relief under a federal statute.” “Were state law to erect such a bar, it would clearly run afoul of the Supremacy...

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