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McFadden v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

United States District Court, District Circuit

June 12, 2013

COREY McFADDEN, Plaintiff,
v.
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

REGGIE B. WALTON, District Judge.

Plaintiff Corey McFadden, proceeding pro se, brings this action against his employer, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ("WMATA"), and three WMATA employees, Lisa Cooper Lucas, Ron A. Kelley, and John Coleman (the "individual defendants"), asserting claims for disability discrimination, retaliation, and defamation. See Complaint ("Compl.") ¶¶ 79-119. Currently before the Court is the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss in Part.[1] Upon careful consideration of the parties' submissions, [2] the Court concludes for the following reasons that the defendants' motion must be granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

The complaint contains the following allegations pertinent to the defendants' motion. WMATA hired the plaintiff as a bus mechanic in October 2008. Compl. ¶ 11. In June 2009, the plaintiff was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ("ADHD") and prescribed the drug Adderall "to increase his focus and concentration." Id . ¶ 14. Pursuant to a WMATA policy forbidding employees in "safety-sensitive positions" from using amphetamines, the defendants prohibited the plaintiff from working as a bus mechanic while taking Adderall, and suspended his employment after he tested positive for use of the drug. See id. ¶¶ 22-77. Subsequently, at a grievance hearing before WMATA's Joint Labor Management Committee in March 2011 ("Labor-Management Hearing"), the individual defendants made statements, prior to the plaintiff's arrival at the hearing, indicating that the plaintiff was a drug addict who was abusing Adderall. See id. ¶¶ 72-74. WMATA later fired the plaintiff for violating the company's substance abuse policy, but then reinstated his employment pursuant to an agreement with the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 689, of which the plaintiff is a member. Id . ¶¶ 75, 77, 16.

The plaintiff instituted this action on June 8, 2012. His complaint contains three counts. Count I asserts a claim under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701 (2012), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2)(B) (2012), alleging that the defendants failed to provide the plaintiff with a reasonable accommodation for his ADHD and otherwise discriminated against him based on his disability. See id. ¶¶ 79-96. Count II asserts a retaliation claim under the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA, alleging that the defendants subjected the plaintiff to adverse employment actions as a result of his filing of a charge with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. See id. ¶¶ 97-104. And Count III asserts a defamation claim based on the individual defendants' alleged statements about the plaintiff's drug use at the Labor-Management Hearing in March 2011. See id. ¶¶ 105-119. The plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, among other forms of relief. Id . ¶¶ 120, 122.

The defendants have now moved for partial dismissal of the complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Specifically, WMATA moves to dismiss the ADA, defamation, and punitive damages claims against it, and the individual defendants have moved to dismiss all claims against them. Defs.' Mem. at 7.

II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

Rule 12(b)(1) allows a party to move to dismiss "for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). When a defendant moves to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), "the plaintiff[] bear[s] the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction." Biton v. Palestinian Interim Self-Gov't Auth. , 310 F.Supp.2d 172, 176 (D.D.C. 2004); see Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife , 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992). A court considering a Rule 12(b)(1) motion must "assume the truth of all material factual allegations in the complaint and construe the complaint liberally, granting [a] plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged.'" Am. Nat'l Ins. Co. v. FDIC , 642 F.3d 1137, 1139 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (citation omitted).

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests whether the complaint "state[s] a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). "To survive a motion to dismiss [under Rule 12(b)(6)], 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 plaintiff receives the "benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged." Am. Nat'l Ins. Co. v. FDIC , 642 F.3d 1137, 1139 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). A claim is facially plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw [a] reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556). While the Court must "assume [the] veracity" of any "well-pleaded factual allegations" in the complaint and draw all inferences in the plaintiff's favor, conclusory allegations "are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id. at 679.

"A pro se complaint, " such as the plaintiff's, "must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Atherton v. D.C. Office of the Mayor , 567 F.3d 672, 681-82 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)). "But even a pro se complainant must plead factual matter' that permits the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct.'" Id . (quoting Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678-79).

III. ANALYSIS

A. The Plaintiff's ADA Claims Against WMATA

WMATA moves to dismiss the ADA claims against it on the basis of Eleventh Amendment immunity. Defs.' Mem. at 2. "Under the Eleventh Amendment, an unconsenting State is immune from suits brought in federal courts by her own citizens as well as by citizens of another State.'" Jones v. WMATA , 205 F.3d 428, 432 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (citation omitted). "WMATA, a mass transit system for the District of Columbia and surrounding suburban areas, was created by an interstate compact among Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, and enjoys the Eleventh Amendment immunity of the two signatory states." Barbour v. WMATA , 374 F.3d 1161, 1163 (D.C. Cir. 2004). Although Title I of the ADA purports to abrogate states' Eleventh Amendment immunity by authorizing private suits for money damages against states for disability discrimination in employment, the Supreme Court has held that this attempted abrogation was invalid. See Bd. of Trustees of the Univ. of Ala. v. Garrett , 531 U.S. 356, 374 n.9 (2001). Thus, as several other members of this Court have likewise concluded, WMATA is immune from ...


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