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Steele v. Stallion Rockies, Ltd.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

May 7, 2015



NINA Y. WANG, Magistrate Judge.

This matter comes before the court on Defendants Stallion Rockies, LTD and Stallion Oilfield Services LTD's (collectively "Stallion" or "Defendants") Motion to Dismiss. [#19, filed September 24, 2014]. This Motion was referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to the Order of Reference dated August 29, 2014 [#10] and memorandum dated September 25, 2014 [#21]. After carefully considering the Motion and related briefing, the entire case file, and the applicable case law, I respectfully RECOMMEND that Defendants' Motion to Dismiss be GRANTED.


Plaintiff Robert Steele ("Plaintiff" or "Robert Steele") filed this lawsuit in the District Court, City and County of Denver, Colorado on August 4, 2014, asserting state and federal claims of discrimination on account of age and disability under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act ("CADA"), as well as a claim for "Wrongful Termination for Breach of Implied Contract Based upon Employer's Policies, " and Tortious Interference with Contract. [#4]. The Complaint named Defendants, Anthony "Bart" Steele, and Scott Anderson, and sought an unspecified sum of monetary damages.[1] [ Id. at 15-16].

Stallion removed the action to the United States District Court for the District of Colorado on August 27, 2014 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. [#1] This court exercises supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

The following facts are drawn from the Complaint, and are taken as true for the purposes of considering the instant motion. Plaintiff first began working for Stallion in February 2008 at its facility in Rifle, Colorado. [#4 at ¶ 9]. He was laid off in 2009, "along with almost 90% of the staff." [ Id. ] Plaintiff alleges he was laid off instead of two younger employees who were 21 and 23, and that "out of the dozen or so employees who were still employed, only 2 were over the age of forty." [ Id. at ¶ 10]. Stallion rehired Plaintiff in March 2011 to work as a truck driver for the Rifle facility. [ Id. at ¶ 11]. At the time, Plaintiff was 47 years of age and suffering from diagnosed Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease. [ Id. at ¶¶ 12, 17]. Stallion was aware of the condition, that Plaintiff utilized medical marijuana as a result of his condition, and that he was listed in the Colorado Medical Marijuana Registry. [ Id. ] Plaintiff's job duties required him to drive a company truck between various work sites and perform maintenance work. [ Id. at ¶ 15]. Plaintiff alleges that despite his condition, he was able to "complete the essential job duties and functions for Stallion without any restrictions in a professional and workman like manner" from May 2011 until June 2012, when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament ("ACL") during an altercation with Bart Steele. [ Id. at ¶¶ 18, 19]. Stallion subsequently placed Plaintiff on administrative leave for approximately three months, and he returned to work in September 2012 on a medical limited ability status and was assigned to light duty in Stallion's workshop. [ Id. at ¶¶ 19, 20]. He began driving a passenger vehicle as his health improved. [ Id. at ¶ 22]. At this time, he observed that he was one of the oldest employees employed at the Rifle facility. [ Id. at ¶ 21]. Plaintiff alleges that throughout his employment co-workers made offensive comments regarding his age. [ Id. at ¶ 23]. He further alleges that he had a poor relationship with Bart Steele, who used his influence on management to hinder Plaintiff in his job performance. [ Id. at ¶ 24]. Plaintiff began receiving "write-ups for allegedly being insubordinate and for incorrectly filling out paper work." [ Id. ].

In early March 2013, Stallion hired a third party company to administer a drug and alcohol test at its facilities in Rifle, Colorado. [#4 at ¶ 25]. The results of Plaintiff's March 3, 2013 test were indeterminate due to a malfunction in the testing mechanism. [ Id. at ¶¶ 26, 27]. Plaintiff was asked to retake the test "wherein he would be observed"; a management employee whose test results were similarly indeterminate was asked simply to retake the test at a later time. [ Id. at ¶¶ 29, 30]. Plaintiff entered the Operations Manager's office to take a second test and reminded his managers that he was a Registered Medical Marijuana Participant. [ Id. at ¶ 31]. Mr. Anderson then instructed Plaintiff that he was fired and asked him to collect his belongings and vacate the premises. [ Id. at ¶ 33]. The stated reason for termination was Plaintiff's violation of Defendants' Drug and Alcohol Policy, which prohibits the "use of intoxicants or controlled substance off the job resulting in interference with job performance"; "use of intoxicants or controlled substance on the job"; and the "presence of intoxicants or controlled substances during work hours, at or above levels established by statute, regulation, or written policy." [ Id. at 37].

Plaintiff alleges that he never failed a drug or alcohol test while employed for Stallion, and there was "no indication that [his] urine sample contained any type of substance, nor did the pretreated vials show any indication of a reactive substance." [ Id. at ¶ 32]. He further alleges that Stallion had no evidence that he kept "intoxicants or controlled substances" on his person or that his use of intoxicants or controlled substances interfered with his job performance. He claims that his relationship with Stallion had been "strained since Defendant, by words and conduct, demonstrated its disapproval of the need to accommodate Plaintiff's work restrictions and his disability." [ Id. at ¶ 35]. Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination and retaliation based on age and disability with the Colorado Civil Rights Division and the Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") Commission on September 4, 2013 and received his Right to Sue on June 4, 2014. [#4 at ¶¶ 44, 45].

Defendants filed the pending Motion to Dismiss on September 24, 2014. [#19]. Plaintiff filed his Response on October 10, 2014. [#23]. Defendants filed their Reply on October 27, 2014. [#25]. On February 10, 2015, this action was reassigned to the undersigned Magistrate Judge to conduct pre-trial matters. [#46, see also #50]. The instant motion is ripe, and the court has determined that oral argument would not materially assist in its disposition.


Under Rule 12(b)(6) a court may dismiss a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In deciding a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must "accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations... and view these allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Casanova v. Ulibarri, 595 F.3d 1120, 1124 (10th Cir. 2010) (quoting Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1098 (10th Cir. 2009)). However, a plaintiff may not rely on mere labels or conclusions, "and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

"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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Plausibility refers "to the scope of the allegations in a complaint: if they are so general that they encompass a wide swath of conduct, much of it innocent, then the plaintiffs have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.'" Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). "The burden is on the plaintiff to frame a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest' that he or she is entitled to relief." Id. The ultimate duty of the court is to "determine whether the complaint sufficiently alleges facts supporting all the elements necessary to establish an entitlement to relief under the legal theory proposed." Forest Guardians v. Forsgren, 478 F.3d 1149, 1160 (10th Cir. 2007).


I. Administrative Exhaustion ...

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