Sheppard v. Evans and Assoc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: 09-12-2012
  • Case #: 11-35164
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Pregerson for the Court; Circuit Judge B. Fletcher and District Judge Walter
  • Full Text Opinion

The Federal Civil Procedure Rule 8(a)(2)’s pleading standard can be satisfied for a complaint of wrongful discharge under Oregon law and age discrimination based on circumstantial evidence if the complaint establishes a prima facie case of age discrimination and alleges that the plaintiff was fired after requesting Family Medical Leave.

Kathryn Sheppard filed a complaint against David Evans and Associates (“Evans”), her former employer, in federal district court. In her two-and-a-half-page complaint, Sheppard alleged that her termination by Evans was in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) and constituted a “wrongful discharge” under Oregon law. In an ADEA case, circumstantial evidence can be used to establish a claim of age discrimination, if the plaintiff can establish “a prima facie case of age discrimination.” Under Oregon law, an employee can bring “a claim for wrongful discharge ‘when the discharge is for exercising a job-related right that reflects an important public policy’” such as an “employee requesting leave under the Oregon Family Leave Act.” Sheppard alleged that she was fired “immediately after she scheduled the surgery for which she requested Family Medical Leave.” The district court dismissed Sheppard’s complaint “for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2).” Sheppard then submitted an amended complaint, but it was dismissed for the same reason. Sheppard appealed. The Ninth Circuit reasoned that Sheppard had a “‘plausible claim’ [of] age discrimination based on circumstantial evidence,” because Sheppard’s complaint satisfied the requirements for a prima facie case of age discrimination. The Court determined that Sheppard’s allegation of being fired after requesting Family Medical Leave was sufficient to establish a claim for “wrongful discharge” under Oregon law. Thus, the Court held that Sheppard’s amended complaint satisfied Federal Civil Procedure Rule 8(a)(2)’s pleading standard. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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