United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Damon Adams, Plaintiff: Daniel G. Leland, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO
HAC VICE, Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP, Minneapolis, Mn;
Michael William Strain, LEAD ATTORNEY, Sturgis, SD.
Persona, Inc., Defendant: Sandra K. Hoglund-Hanson, LEAD
ATTORNEY, Davenport, Evans, Hurwitz & Smith, Sioux Falls, SD.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S
MOTION TO DISMISS
L. Piersol, United States District Judge.
the Court is Defendant Persona, Inc.'s (Persona) motion
to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). Persona is seeking to dismiss two of Plaintiff
Damon Adams's (Adams) causes of action. The first, Count
II in Plaintiff's Complaint, is an allegation of unlawful
retaliation in violation of the Americans with Disabilities
Act (" ADA" or the " Act" ). The second,
Count IV of the Complaint, is an allegation of associational
discrimination also in violation of the ADA. For the
following reasons, the motion will be denied.
this is a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the facts set out
in the Complaint, taken as true, must be viewed in light most
favorable to Complainant-Adams and all logical inferences
must be drawn in his favor. Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d
Plaintiff's Alcohol Dependency
began working for Persona in February 1982 at Persona's
plant and warehouse in Madison, South Dakota. During his time
with Persona, Adams was promoted to various positions,
reaching the position of Plant Manager by the time Adams was
terminated from employment. Adams, during all relevant time
working for Persona, suffered from alcoholism. In August
2012, after being notified of possible alcohol related
misconduct at the workplace, David Holien (Holien),
Persona's CEO, A1 Haselhorst (Haselhorst), Persona's
Production Manager, and Carol Hinderaker (Hinderaker),
of Human Resources, met with Adams. During this meeting,
Adams was told that Persona was engaging in a " fact
finding mission," Complaint at 3, and was asked
questions about his alcohol consumption. In response, Adams
admitted to his alcohol dependency. Hinderaker thereafter
advised Adams to enter treatment and that Persona would allow
him ten weeks leave. Additionally, Adams was suspended from
work and his employment status set to be reevaluated in
days following the " fact finding" meeting, Adams
spoke with Hinderaker and was informed of his suspension.
Hinderaker also stated that she would attempt to find a new
position for Adams upon his return, but that it may not be in
Madison. Furthermore, Adams was informed by Hinderaker that
the ten weeks of leave would be covered through Adams's
accumulated vacation pay and that he would have four weeks of
accumulated vacation pay remaining. Adams entered a 30-day
treatment facility on the same day he spoke with Hinderaker.
He completed the treatment on September 12, 2012 and, on
September 28, again met with Holien, Haselhorst, Hinderaker,
and Greg Kulesa (Kulesa), Persona's President. At this
meeting, Adams detailed his struggle with alcoholism and
expressed his commitment to his job, his recovery, and
sobriety. Further, Adams stated his wish to return to his old
position as Plant Manager. Adams was again told that Persona
was engaging in a " fact finding mission" and that
it was " 'not prepared to make a decision'"
as to Adams's employment. Complaint at 4. On October 10,
2012, Adams again met with Kulesa, Haselhorst, Holien, and
Hinderaker. This time Adams was told that Persona was
terminating Adams as of that day.
Daughter's Autoimmune Disease
daughter suffers from an autoimmune disease requiring
transfusion treatments every six to eight weeks. Adams's
daughter's health insurance was provided through
Adams's insurance plan with Persona. In November of 2011,
Hinderaker held a company meeting wherein she stated that
Persona's health insurance premiums were to be increased
to 22.51%. It was also at this meeting that Hinderaker stated
that two of Persona's employees were causing the premium
hike. Specifically, the Complaint alleges that Hinderaker
implicitly named Adams as one of the two employees insofar as
Hinderaker stated " that one reason the insurance
premium rates were going to be higher was because one
employee's daughter needed treatments every six to eight
weeks and the treatments were expensive." Complaint at
August 14, 2012, a day after Adams entered treatment,
Adams's wife, Jody, spoke with Dennis Holien (Chairman
Holien), Persona's Chairman of the Board, regarding
Hinderaker's November 2011 comments regarding the
Adams' daughter's treatments. Chairman Holien stated
that Persona runs a report " every so often to see which
employees have the highest payout of/ insurance benefits, . .
." and the report indicated that Adams was an employee
with one of the highest amounts. Complaint at 4.
February 2013, Adams filed a Charge of Discrimination with
the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). On
September 29, 2014, the EEOC dismissed Adams's charge ...