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Clark v. City of Adamsville

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

December 3, 2018

RYON CLARK, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF ADAMSVILLE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KARON OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This disability discrimination and retaliation matter comes before the court on Defendant City of Adamsville's motion to dismiss Plaintiff Ryon Clark's complaint. (Doc. 3).

         Mr. Clark, who worked as a police officer for the City, suffered from mental health issues after a traumatic experience on the job. Mr. Clark brings a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act asserting that the City discriminated against him because of his mental disability by, among other actions, not approving paid administrative leave when the City permitted him to take time off from work to recover. He further alleges that the City retaliated against him in violation of the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act after he complained of disability and gender discrimination.

         The court will DENY IN PART and GRANT IN PART the City's motion to dismiss because Mr. Clark has sufficiently pled a prima facie case of disability discrimination based on the City's failure to approve paid leave, but he has failed to establish a prima facie case of retaliation.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). If a complaint fails to comply with this rule, the court will dismiss the complaint on a defendant's Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”

         To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). And for a complaint to be “plausible on its face, ” it must contain enough “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         When construing a complaint on a motion to dismiss, the court accepts as true the factual allegations in the complaint. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. But the court does not accept “labels and conclusions, ” a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, ” speculation, or statements that “merely create[] a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotations and citations omitted). So, the court will look only at well-pled facts, and if those facts, accepted as true, state a plausible claim for relief, then the complaint will survive the motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The court accepts as true the following facts alleged in Mr. Clark's complaint.

         Mr. Clark worked as a police officer for the City. On September 6, 2017, while executing an arrest warrant with the SWAT team on a suspect charged with child pornography offenses and assault, Mr. Clark saw a significant amount of evidence of the suspect's abuse of a child. The evidence caused Mr. Clark significant stress, insomnia, and difficulties eating.

         The chief of police arranged counseling for Mr. Clark. The chief also told Mr. Clark that the City would place him on paid administrative leave while he took time off to recover. After taking some time off from work, Mr. Clark learned that the City applied vacation days to his time off as opposed to paid administrative leave. So he inquired with the City's human resources director, who told him that only the mayor of the City, not the chief of police, could place him on administrative leave and that the mayor did not approve paid administrative leave for mental health issues. But, according to Mr. Clark, the mayor had previously allowed a female City employee to take paid leave for a personal problem involving depression.

         Mr. Clark wrote a letter to the mayor in which he stated that he felt the City discriminated against him because of his gender and the type of health condition he faced-a mental health issue as opposed to physical health-by not placing him on paid administrative leave.

         Then, when Mr. Clark returned to work, the mayor's office subjected him to “heightened scrutiny . . . in the form of constant checking-in ...


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