United States District Court, District of Columbia
U.S. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
WAL-MART STORES, EAST, LP, Defendant.
ROSEMARY M. COLLYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sues on behalf
of former Wal-Mart employees Troy Miles and Sonya Bland,
alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act
(ADA), and seeking remedies under the Civil Rights Act of
1991. Wal-Mart Stores, East, LP, moves to
dismiss for failure to state a claim. While for these
purposes the Court accepts the allegations comprising the
EEOC Complaint as true, it finds that the Complaint lacks
sufficient factual allegations to raise a plausible claim for
relief. The Complaint will be dismissed without prejudice.
Miles is an individual with moderate to severe hearing loss
in his right ear and profound hearing loss in his left ear.
Compl. ¶ 17. He is limited in hearing and communication
that is dependent on hearing, in that he can understand
speech only in limited circumstances, such as a quiet setting
with a speaker positioned close to him. Id.
¶¶ 18-19. Mr. Miles' primary language is
American Sign Language (ASL). Id. ¶ 20. Mr.
Miles was employed from June 2014 until August 2017 as a
Sales Associate, Merchandise Manager, and Department Manager
at Wal-Mart Store No. 5941 in Washington, D.C. Id.
¶ 22. Wal-Mart was aware of Mr. Miles' disability
“at all times relevant to this action.”
Id. ¶ 23.
Bland is a profoundly deaf individual, whose primary language
is ASL. Id. ¶ 28, 30. From September 2013
through March 2016, and again in August 2016, Ms. Bland was
employed as an Overnight Stocker at Wal-Mart Store No. 5941
in Washington, D.C. Id. ¶¶ 32, 34.
Wal-Mart was aware of Ms. Bland's disability “at
all times relevant to this action.” Id. ¶
Mr. Miles and Ms. Bland made repeated requests to management
for accommodations including ASL interpreting, consistent
comprehensive note-taking for certain meetings (Mr. Miles),
and closed-captioning for video presentations (Ms. Bland).
Mr. Miles and Ms. Bland filed charges of discrimination with
EEOC alleging, among other issues, violations of the ADA by
Wal-Mart. Id. ¶ 7. After completing the
administrative process without resolution, EEOC filed this
lawsuit. Id. ¶ 10. It alleges that Wal-Mart
violated the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a) and (b)(5)(A) in
failing to provide Mr. Miles and Ms. Bland “with
effective reasonable accommodations, ” and seeks
additional remedies pursuant to the Civil Rights Act of 1991,
42 U.S.C. § 1981a. Compl. [Dkt. 1] at 1.
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) requires a complaint to be
sufficient “to give the defendant fair notice of what
the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)
(internal citations omitted). Although a complaint does not
need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's
obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to
relief “requires more than labels and conclusions, and
a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do.” Id. The facts alleged
“must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Id. A complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter to state a claim for relief
that is “plausible on its face.” Id. at
570. When a plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged, then the claim has facial
plausibility. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009). “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.”
Id. A court must treat the complaint's factual
allegations as true, “even if doubtful in fact.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. But a court need not
accept as true legal conclusions set forth in a complaint.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
deciding a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a court may consider
the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached to the
complaint as exhibits or incorporated by reference, and
matters about which the court may take judicial notice.
Abhe & Svoboda, Inc. v. Chao, 508 F.3d 1052,
1059 (D.C. Cir. 2007).
primary contention is that the Complaint fails to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted. See Def.
Wal-Mart Stores East, LP's Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. 5]. This
prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals on the
basis of disability. 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). It defines a
qualified individual as “an individual who, with or
without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential
functions of the employment position that such individual
holds or desires.” Id. § 12111(8).
Discrimination, as relevant here, is defined as “not
making reasonable accommodations to the known physical or
mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with
a disability who is an applicant or employee, unless such
covered entity can demonstrate that the accommodation would
impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business of
such covered entity.” Id. § 12112
(b)(5)(A). To state a claim for failure to accommodate, a
plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to show that: (1) he
had a disability within the meaning of the ADA; (2) his
employer had notice of his disability; (3) he could perform
the essential functions of the position with or without
reasonable accommodation; and (4) his employer refused to
make such accommodation. See Gordon v. District of
Columbia, 480 F.Supp.2d 112, 115 (D.D.C. 2007).
is no debate that EEOC has pled sufficiently the first and
second elements of its failure to accommodate claim. The
Complaint states that Mr. Miles has “moderate to severe
hearing loss in his right ear and profound hearing loss in
his left ear, ” Compl. ¶ 17, and that Mr. Miles is
“substantially limited in major life activities,
including but not limited to, hearing and communication that
is dependent on hearing.” Id. ¶ 18. It
also states that Ms. Bland is profoundly deaf, id.
¶ 28, and that, at all times relevant to this action,
Wal-Mart was aware that Mr. Miles and Ms. Bland are deaf.
Id. ¶¶ 23, 33. These facts are sufficient
to allege that each of them had a disability within the
meaning of the ADA, and that their employer, Wal-Mart, had
notice of both individuals' disability. A complaint does
not need to allege specific dates and times of employee
requests for accommodation to state a plausible claim for
the third element of the reasonable accommodation claim that
EEOC fumbles. The Complaint makes no attempt to mention, much
less elucidate, the essential functions of either Mr.
Miles' or Ms. Bland's position. In this respect, it
does not rise even to level of a “threadbare recital of
the elements of a cause of action, ” Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 768, as it does not contain facts sufficient to
allege a required element: that both individuals were capable
of performing the essential functions of their positions with
(or without) reasonable accommodation. A well-pled complaint
requires more; namely, the facts alleged must be enough to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Here, to the contrary,
EEOC presents an amalgam of bare assertions that do not
provide factual support for a ...