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Lamb v. Rockwell Automation Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

August 12, 2016

LISA LAMB, Plaintiff,
v.
ROCKWELL AUTOMATION INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          J.P. Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge

         1. INTRODUCTION

         On December 28, 2015, Defendant Rockwell Automation Inc. (“Rockwell”) filed a partial motion to dismiss Plaintiff Lisa Lamb’s (“Lamb”) complaint along with a brief in support of the motion. (Motion, Docket #7; Brief in Support, Docket #8). Lamb filed a brief in opposition on January 18, 2016, as well as a declaration of counsel with exhibits attached. (Brief in Opposition, Docket #9; Declaration of Alan Olson, Docket #10; Exhibits A, B and C to Olson Declaration, Docket #11, #12, and #13, respectively). Rockwell submitted a reply in support of its motion on February 1, 2016. (Docket #14). The motion is fully briefed and, for the reasons explained below, it will be granted.

         2. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Rockwell has moved to dismiss Lamb’s complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). This rule provides for dismissal of complaints which fail to state a viable claim for relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To state a viable claim, a complaint must provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In other words, the complaint must give “fair notice of what the…claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted). The allegations must “plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a speculative level[.]” Kubiak v. City of Chicago, 810 F.3d 476, 480 (7th Cir. 2016) (citation omitted).

         In reviewing Lamb’s complaint, the Court is required to “accept as true all of the well-pleaded facts in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” Id. at 480-81. However, a complaint that offers “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). The Court must identify allegations “that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. at 679.

         3. THE AMENDED COMPLAINT

         Accepting the truth of Lamb’s well-pleaded allegations and drawing all reasonable inferences in her favor, the relevant facts are as follows. Lamb asserts two claims against Rockwell. First, Lamb claims that she was subject to “whistleblower retaliation” in violation of Section 806 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (“SOX”). (Docket #1 at ¶¶ 131-32); see 18 U.S.C. § 1514A. Second, Lamb asserts another “whistleblower retaliation” cause of action, this time pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (“DFA”). (Docket #1 at ¶¶ 133-34); see 15 U.S.C. § 78u-6.

         Lamb worked for Rockwell for almost 25 years. (Docket #1 at ¶ 7). For most of that time, she was a Database Administrator in Information Technology. Id. at ¶ 8. From January 2012 to her termination, Lamb was the IT Risk and Controls Lead. Id. at ¶ 9. In that position, Lamb reported to Sharon Clement (“Clement”), Manager of IT Controls, who herself reported to Mary Ward (“Ward”), Manager of Compliance. Id. at ¶¶ 9-10.

         Lamb’s department monitored access to Rockwell’s data related to SOX-reporting requirements. Id. at ¶ 12. The system it used to do so, the “GRC tool, ” kept track of user access to the data that may be beyond that user’s needs. Id. at ¶¶ 11-26. Such monitoring is necessary both for SOX compliance and to mitigate business risk. Id. at ¶ 27.

         Soon after Lamb became the IT Risk and Controls Lead, conflicts began between herself and Clement. Id. at ¶¶ 31-37. On June 28, 2012, Clement ordered Lamb to disable certain aspects of the GRC tool, which would make it difficult or impossible to monitor data access. Id. at ¶¶ 38, 40-45. Lamb believed that doing so was dangerous for Rockwell, against industry best practices, and violative of SOX regulation. Id. at ¶¶ 38-46, 54-55. The change was made, but Clement did not appreciate Lamb’s objection to the change, and Ward defended Clement’s position. Id. at ¶¶ 47-49.

         Clement then began retaliating against Lamb for her resistance, including spreading gossip about her and refusing to meet or speak with Lamb. Id. at ¶¶ 58-65. Ward eventually assisted in the retaliatory activity, which had escalated to giving Lamb unworkable projects and a “performance improvement plan” which was essentially a criticism of her work. Id. at ¶¶ 67-74.

         On April 7, 2013, Lamb complained to Rockwell’s legal counsel about the retaliatory activity. Id. at ¶ 78. Lamb criticized Clement’s GRC tool change and stated that it allowed Clement to present falsified reports to management to protect her job. Id. at ¶¶ 79-92. Rockwell’s counsel never responded to Lamb’s April 7, 2013 complaint. Id. at ¶ 94.

         On April 17, 2013, Lamb received a request for access to Rockwell’s computer system from a contractor hired by Rockwell, Balaji K. Jilla (“Jilla”). Id. at ¶¶ 96-97. Lamb passed on the request for approval by Ward or Clement, as she was required to do, but it was inexplicably delayed. Id. at ¶¶ 99-104. Lamb eventually agreed to share her password to the “sandbox” side of the system ...


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