United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS, United States District Judge
se Plaintiff Christopher Todd Ruggieri alleges a
violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act
(“ADA”) and the Health Insurance Portability and
Accountability Act (“HIPAA”). (See Doc.
1 at 3).
the Court are two motions. Defendant City of Hoover (the
“City”) filed a Motion To Dismiss on May 1, 2018.
(Doc. 6). Defendants Melinda James Lopez and Mesha Dacus
filed a Motion To Dismiss on the same day. (Doc 7). Plaintiff
Ruggieri responded on May 8. (Doc. 14). Defendants filed a
joint reply on that same day. (Doc. 15). Mr. Ruggieri then
filed a sur-reply three days later. (Doc. 16). Accordingly,
this Motion is ripe for review. For the reasons stated in
today's opinion, the motions are due to be
GRANTED in part and otherwise
with the standard at the motion to dismiss stage, the Court
accepts all the alleged facts in Mr. Ruggieri's Complaint
to be true for the purpose of these motions. For the
reader's benefit, the Court summarizes what Mr. Ruggieri
Ruggieri worked for the City in Information Technology.
(See Doc. 1 at 8). Ms. Lopez and Ms. Dacus also
worked for the City. (See Id. at 2, 8). In July
2017, Ms. Lopez and Ms. Dacus ordered Mr. Ruggieri to
“undergo psychiatric counseling.” (See
Id. at 8). Mr. Ruggieri recorded this conversation and
believes the counseling was unrelated to job performance.
Ruggieri attended counseling with Dr. Lita Clark. (See
id.). Dr. Clark told Mr. Ruggieri “that the City
of Hoover, through Mesha Dacus, was requiring [him] to waive
[his] HIPPA [sic] rights.” (See id.).
“Dr. Clark instructed [Mr. Ruggieri] that if [he]
refused then the sessions would terminate and the City would
terminate [his] employment.” (See id.). Mr.
Ruggieri recorded his therapy sessions. (See id.).
the third session, [Mr. Ruggieri] was released from
counseling with Dr. Clark stating there was nothing
wrong.” (Id.). “[Mr. Ruggieri] brought
[his] concerns over why [he] was sent to counseling . . . to
Mesha Dacus, the City of Hoover Assistant [Human Resources]
Director the same day of [his] release.”
(Id.). “Less than a week later, [Mr. Ruggieri
was] called into [Ms. Lopez's] office again, told [his]
fears were unfounded, but that [he was] now forbidden from
recording any further communications.” (Id.).
Ruggieri filed an EEOC charge on December 21, 2017.
(See Doc. 6-1).The EEOC issued a right to sue notice on
January 3, 2018. (See Doc. 1 at 9). Mr. Ruggieri
filed this federal lawsuit on March 26, 2018. (See
12(b)(6) motion attacks the legal sufficiency of the
complaint. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) (“[A]
party may assert the following defenses by motion: (6)
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted[.]”). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
require only that the complaint provide “‘a short
and plain statement of the claim' that will give the
defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is
and the grounds upon which it rests.” Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 103, 2 L.Ed.2d 80
(1957) (footnote omitted) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)),
abrogated by Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007);
see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) (setting forth general
pleading requirements for a complaint including providing
“a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief”).
plaintiff must provide the grounds of his entitlement to
relief, Rule 8 does not mandate the inclusion of
“detailed factual allegations” within a
complaint. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at
1964 (quoting Conley, 355 U.S. at 47, 78 S.Ct. at
103). However, at the same time, “it demands more than
an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me
accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009).
“[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be
supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the
allegations in the complaint.” Twombly, 550
U.S. at 563, 127 S.Ct. at 1969.
court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by
identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than
conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of
truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. at
1950. “While legal conclusions can provide the
framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual
allegations.” Id. “When there are
well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their
veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give
rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id.
(emphasis added). “Under Twombly's
construction of Rule 8 . . . [a plaintiff's] complaint
[must] ‘nudge [any] claims' . . . ‘across
the line from conceivable to plausible.'
Ibid.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680, 129
S.Ct. at 1950-51.
is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at
1949. “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. (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965).
The City's Motion Is Due To Be Granted in Part and
City argues that the ADA claim “is due to be dismissed
because [Mr. Ruggieri] failed to file a charge of
discrimination with the EEOC alleging discrimination based on
disability.” (See Doc. 6 at 1). Indeed, Mr.
Ruggieri's EEOC charge does not check the box indicating
that he was alleging “discrimination based on”
“disability.” (See Doc. 6-1 at 2)
(capitalization omitted). He checked the box for
“discrimination based on” “other.”
(See id.) (capitalization omitted). Mr. Ruggieri
wrote the following:
I was hired by the above-named employer on July 6, 2015, as a
Network Systems Analyst. My immediate supervisor was Melinda
James Lopez, CIO. I reported that my organization was not PCI
compliant of which Ms. Lopez was aware. On July 6, 2017, I
was forced into anger management counseling. I was the only
one in my department required to do so, thereby showing it
was inconsistent with job requirements and business
necessity. Thereafter I was consistently being subjected to
verbal disciplines, and I did not receive my annual review or
step increase. On October 11, 2017, I was placed on
administrative leave pending an investigation. On November
16, 2017, I was informed that internal documents were found
on my computer and that I was using my computer for personal
gain. I was accused of unethical behavior and it was at that
point I resigned my position on November 16, 2017.
I believe that I was discriminated against and singled out
however, I cannot identify a basis for my filing my charge.
City relies on the McWhorter decision to support
dismissal. (See Doc. 6 at 2-5) (citing McWhorter
v. Nucor Steel Birmingham Inc., 304 F.Supp.3d 1185 (N.D.
Ala. 2018)). In that case, “the EEOC charge as drafted
gave no notice whatsoever to [d]efendant that [p]laintiff was
claiming age or disability discrimination, or retaliation
because of opposition to age or disability discrimination or
participation in any age or disability proceeding.”
See McWhorter, 304 F.Supp.3d at 1192-93. This was
because the plaintiff did not check the box corresponding to
“age” and “disability” and his intent
to bring those claims could not be gleaned from his written
description. See Id. at 1191. Here, the Defendants
argue that this case is factually analogous. (See
Doc. 6 at 2-5).
this case is distinguishable in a significant way. Here,
unlike in McWhorter, Mr. Ruggieri is pro
se. See McWhorter, 304 F.Supp.3d at 1192;
(see Doc. 16 at 1) (implying that Mr. Ruggieri
prepared the EEOC charge without the benefit of an attorney).
The court in McWhorter noted that “[c]ourts
have broadly interpreted the scope of administrative charges
filed by unrepresented parties.” Id. at 1192
(citing Gregory v. Ga. Dep't of Human Res., 355
F.3d 1277, 1280 (11th Cir. 2004)). The Eleventh Circuit in
Gregory noted that “[c]ourts are nonetheless
‘extremely reluctant to allow procedural technicalities
to bar claims brought under [Title VII].'”
Gregory, 355 F.3d at 1280 (citing another
source). “As such, [the Eleventh Circuit] has
noted that ‘‘the scope of an EEOC complaint
should not be strictly interpreted.''”
Id. (citing another source); see also Jerome v.