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Ramsey v. Greenbush Logistics, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northwestern Division

December 19, 2017




         Billy Paul Ramsey brings this employment discrimination case under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 104 Stat. 327, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (the ADA) and the Tennessee Human Rights Act, T.C.A. § 4-21-101 et seq. (the THRA), against his employer, Greenbush Logistics, Inc. Ramsey alleges that Greenbush failed to reasonably accommodate his disability and retaliated against him when he requested an accommodation in the first instance. Greenbush has now moved to dismiss this action under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, doc. 55. That motion is fully briefed, docs. 56; 59; and 60, and ripe for review. After carefully examining the complaint and the parties' thorough and well-reasoned briefs, the court concludes Greenbush's motion is due to be granted.


         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” “[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Mere “‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action'” are insufficient. Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits dismissal when a complaint fails to comply with Rule 8(a)(2) or does not otherwise state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When evaluating a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the court accepts “the allegations in the complaint as true and constru[es] them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Hunt v. Aimco Props., L.P., 814 F.3d 1213, 1221 (11th Cir. 2016). However, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must . . . ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A complaint states a facially plausible claim for relief “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. The complaint must establish “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id.; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (emphasizing that “[f]actual allegations [included in the complaint] must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level”). Ultimately, the line between possibility and plausibility is a thin one, and making this determination is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679.[1]


         Ramsey, who suffers from epilepsy, was hired as a mechanic by Greenbush, an Alabama corporation, on May 14, 2012. Doc. 54 at 3. As a new hire, Ramsey informed Greenbush of his condition and requested that Greenbush allow him to work the day shift. Id. Greenbush originally scheduled Ramsey to work from 4:00 p.m. until 12:00 a.m., but, after Ramsey requested an earlier shift, rescheduled him to work from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Id. However, on June 2, 2013, Greenbush switched Ramsey to the 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. shift. Id.

         Ramsey alleges that this change caused him to suffer from sleep deprivation and worsened his epileptic symptoms. Id. Seeking to avoid these symptoms, Ramsey requested a shift “swap” with a coworker on the day shift but, after a two week interval, Greenbush ended the swap and assigned Ramsey to work from 6:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. Id. at 3-4. Shortly after the change, Ramsey notified Greenbush in writing that he could not perform his job adequately on the night shift in light of his disability, and that he needed a more accommodating work schedule. Id. at 4. As part of this request, Ramsey provided medical information indicating that sleep deprivation and irregular sleep patterns due to frequent shift changes could worsen his epileptic symptoms. Id. Roughly two months later, Ramsey followed up on his request with a letter from his attorney documenting his disability. Id. Finally, in late August 2014, Ramsey's treating physician, Dr. Norman McNulty, also provided Greenbush with information regarding Ramsey's disability noting that, while Ramsey could work regular hours during the day, working at night impaired his ability to perform his job safely. Id. at 4-5.

         In addition to purportedly failing to accommodate Ramsey, Greenbush also allegedly retaliated against him by denying him raises, insisting that he perform more tasks than other employees, and issuing him multiple “write-ups” for failure to complete tasks. Id. at 5, 7. Ramsey remains employed at Greenbush, at least at the time he filed the second amended complaint now before the court. Id. at 3. On June 21, 2016, Ramsey filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging disability discrimination and retaliation. Doc. 56-1 at 12. Seven days later, the EEOC dismissed the charge as untimely. Id. at 9. Ramsey subsequently filed suit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, doc. 1, and Greenbush filed a motion to dismiss or transfer, arguing, among things, that the Tennessee court lacked personal jurisdiction. Doc. 24 at 1. The court agreed and transferred the case to the Northern District of Alabama where, it explained, Ramsey's cause of action arose. Doc. 31 at 9. After the transfer, Greenbush renewed the motion to dismiss presently under consideration. Doc. 55.


         Greenbush raises three arguments in support of its motion: (1) that Ramsey has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies; (2) that Ramsey has failed to plead sufficient factual allegations to support his claims; and (3) that there is no basis for imposing liability under the THRA because all of the relevant employment decisions took place in Alabama and the Act is limited to claims arising within Tennessee. The court will address each argument in turn.

         A. Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies

         The parties agree that “under the ADA, plaintiffs must comply with the same procedural requirements to sue as exist under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” Zillyette v. Capital One Fin. Corp., 179 F.3d 1337, 1339 (11th Cir. 1999) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 12117(a)). As relevant here, the plaintiff must show that she timely filed her complaint with the EEOC. See, e.g., Maynard v. Pneumatic Prods. Corp., 256 F.3d 1259, 1262 (11th Cir. 2001). Moreover, to make sure that the EEOC has “the first opportunity to investigate the alleged discriminatory practices, ” a plaintiff's subsequent “judicial complaint is limited by the scope of the EEOC investigation which can reasonably be expected to grow out of the charge of discrimination.” Gregory v. Ga. Dep't of Human Res., 355 F.3d 1277, 1279-80 (11th Cir. 2004) (quotation omitted).

         Broadly read, Ramsey's EEOC charge alleges that Greenbush both failed to reasonably accommodate his disability and retaliated against him for seeking an accommodation. Doc. 56-1 at 12. Greenbush contends, however, that Ramsey failed to timely file the charge and that Ramsey's retaliation claims are not logically encompassed by the contents of his EEOC charge. The court will examine each claim to verify ...

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