United States District Court, D. Kansas
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
D. CRABTREE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on defendant Newman University
Inc.’s Motion to Dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)
for failure to state a claim. Doc. 8. Defendant moves to
dismiss two Counts in plaintiff Mandy Greenfield’s
First Amended Complaint (“Complaint”) (Doc. 5):
Count IV (Defamation) and Count V (Invasion of Privacy).
Id. Plaintiff has filed a Response. Doc. 15. And
defendant has filed a Reply. Doc. 21. For the reasons
explained below, the court grants defendant’s Motion to
Dismiss Counts IV and V of plaintiff’s Complaint.
following facts come from plaintiff’s Complaint and the
court views them in the light most favorable to her.
S.E.C. v. Shields, 744 F.3d 633, 640 (10th Cir.
2014) (“We accept as true all well-pleaded factual
allegations in the complaint and view them in the light most
favorable to the [plaintiff].” (citation and internal
quotations marks omitted)).
lawsuit arises from plaintiff’s termination as Newman
University’s Director of Human Resources in January
2018. Much of the Complaint details events surrounding
plaintiff’s Title IX investigation of Newman’s
Athletic Director & Vice President for Student Affairs,
Victor Trilli. But the court need only consider the following
facts to decide this Motion to Dismiss.
November 23, 2017, at about 5:00 p.m., plaintiff entered
Newman University’s Human Resources office and believed
that someone had broken into the office. Doc. 5 at 10 (Compl.
¶ 61). She found her office door and desk drawers
unlocked. Id. Someone had moved or knocked her
computer mouse and tape dispenser to the floor. Id.
Also, she noticed a folder lying open on an assistant’s
desk. Id. The drawers on both Human Resources
assistants’ desks were unlocked. Id. And,
there was a key in the filing cabinet and the classroom door
behind plaintiff’s office was unlocked. Id.
reported the break-in to Newman Director of Security and to
the Wichita Police Department. Id. at 10 (Compl.
¶ 62). Plaintiff then notified her Human Resources
employees of the incident and asked them to keep the
information confidential. Id. at 11 (Compl. ¶
63). On November 26, 2017, plaintiff spoke by phone with
Newman President Noreen Carocci about the break-in and about
a breach of confidentiality issue with a Human Resources
employee. Id. at 11 (Compl. ¶ 66). The next
day, plaintiff met with Ms. Carocci and Vice President for
Finance and Administration Jennifer Gantz about the same
issues. Id. at 11 (Compl. ¶ 68). Ms. Carocci
“suggested that it may have been the HR employee who
was behind the break-in, which [p]laintiff refuted and stated
she did not believe the HR employee was involved with the
November 28, 2017, Ms. Gantz told plaintiff that
Newman’s Executive Board recommended that the
termination of the Human Resources employee wait until after
the Title IX investigation had concluded. Id. at
12 (Compl. ¶ 73). But later the same morning, Ms. Gantz
told plaintiff that she and Ms. Carocci agreed with
plaintiff’s recommendation to terminate the employee.
Id. (Compl. ¶ 74). Plaintiff did so.
Id. (Compl. ¶ 75). Then, Ms. Gantz and Ms.
Carocci “disregarded procedure and made contact with
the terminated employee, who was then reinstated to her
position . . . .” Id.
December 1, 2017, plaintiff “was locked out of her
computer, for the alleged reason that [she] had been
terminated for terminating her HR employee.”
Id. at 13 (Compl. ¶ 80). That afternoon, Jeremy
Schrag, an attorney from the law firm Lewis Brisbois,
arrived at plaintiff’s office. Id. (Compl.
¶ 81). Newman Board Chair Teresa Hall Bartels joined the
meeting by phone. Id. (Compl. ¶ 82). Mr. Schrag
told plaintiff that Lewis Brisbois was taking over Title IX
investigations. Id. (Compl. ¶ 81). Also, Ms.
Bartels placed plaintiff on administrative leave.
Id. (Compl. ¶ 82). Ms. Bartels said “the
leave was not a disciplinary action” and asked
plaintiff to assist the Lewis Brisbois attorneys with the
investigation. Id. Mr. Schrag gave plaintiff a
letter from Ms. Bartels placing her on administrative leave,
effective immediately. Id. (Compl. ¶ 84). Mr.
Schrag told plaintiff to gather her things and leave.
December 5, 2017, Newman University emailed meeting minutes
to the “Newman community which contained notice of
[p]laintiff’s administrative leave, contrary to the
protocol not to publish personnel actions regarding employees
being placed on leave or suspended.” Id. at 14
(Compl. ¶ 87). Then, on December 7, 2017, the Newman
University newspaper printed a front-page story about
plaintiff’ that “linked her leave to the criminal
break-in of the HR offices.” Id. (Compl.
¶ 88). The article reported, “Newman
University’s Director of Human Resources, Mandy
Greenfield, was put on administrative leave this week –
less than two weeks after she reported a trespassing incident
in her department to the Wichita Police Department.”
January 31, 2018, plaintiff received an email from Ms. Gantz
terminating plaintiff’s employment, effective
immediately. Id. at 15 (Compl. ¶ 99). On
February 22, 2018, the Newman University newspaper published
an article about plaintiff’s termination. Id.
(Compl. ¶ 100).
Rule 12(b)(6), a defendant may move to dismiss for failing to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). To survive such 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 complaint need not include
“‘detailed factual allegations, ’”
but must offer more than “‘labels and
conclusions’ or ‘a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action’” which, as the
Supreme Court explained, “‘will not
do.’” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555). Essentially, “the complaint must give the
court reason to believe that this plaintiff has a
reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for
these claims.” Ridge at Red Hawk, LLC v.
Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007). This
plausibility standard reflects the requirement in
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 that pleadings must provide defendants with
fair notice of the nature of the claims as well as the
grounds upon which each claim rests. See Khalik v. United
Air Lines, 671 F.3d 1188, 1191–92 (10th Cir.
2012); see also Fed R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) (“A
pleading that states a claim for relief must contain [a]
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief . . . .”).
considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a district court must
accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint, but
need not extend this presumption to any legal conclusions it
asserts. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Viewing the
complaint in this fashion, a court must decide whether
plaintiff’s allegations give rise to more than
speculative possibilities. See Id . (“The
plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability
requirement, ’ but it asks for more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”).
If the allegations in the complaint allow a district court
“to draw the reasonable inference that defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged, ” the claim has
facial plausibility and the court should not dismiss it under
Rule 12(b)(6). Davenport v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.,
No. 14–CV–2124–JAR–JPO, 2014 WL
3361729, at *2 (D. Kan. July 9, 2014). But, if the
allegations in the complaint at issue are “so general
that they ...