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Seay v. Eagle Cleaning Service

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

April 29, 2019

EAGLE CLEANING SERVICE, et al., Defendants.


          L. Scott Coogler, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Ivory Jean Seay (“Seay”), who is proceeding pro se, brings this action against her former employer Eagle Cleaning Service (“Eagle”), alleging claims for disability discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12112 et seq. (“the ADA”). Before the Court is Eagle's Motion to Dismiss. (See Doc. 9.) The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for review. For the reasons stated below, Eagle's motion (doc. 9) is due to be denied. However, Seay's supervisor, Debra Lewis (“Lewis”), who Seay also names as a defendant, is due to be dismissed from this action.

         I. Background[1]

         On March 7, 2017, Eagle hired Seay to work as a cleaning service agent. On September 19, 2017, Seay told Lewis, her supervisor, that she was experiencing pain and needed to go to the hospital. Seay was then informed that she needed to work, so she waited to go to the hospital until after her last cleaning assignment. On September 20, 2017, Seay's physician advised her not to return to work the next day due to the medication she had been provided. That same day, after Seay provided this information to Lewis, Lewis terminated Seay's employment.

         Seay claims to suffer from degenerative arthritis in her arms, hips, and lower back. Seay receives injections for this condition. According to Seay, after a fellow employee resigned, Eagle assigned her extra work, which caused her medical condition to deteriorate. Seay states that she told Lewis that the extra work was too much and that additional help was needed. However, even after Lewis informed Seay that a new employee had been hired, she was still being assigned extra work.

         II. Standard of Review

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To meet this standard, the complaint must state enough facts to raise the right to relief “above a speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Pleadings based upon “labels and conclusions” or “naked assertion[s]” without supporting factual allegations will not suffice. Id. at 555, 557. A party need not specifically plead each element in his or her cause of action, but the pleading must contain “enough information regarding the material elements of a cause of action to support recovery under some viable legal theory.” Am. Fed'n of Labor & Cong. Of Indus. Orgs. v. City of Miami, Fla., 637 F.3d 1178, 1186 (11th Cir. 2011). Ultimately, the Court must be able to draw a reasonable inference from the facts that the other party is liable. Reese v. Ellis, Painter, Ratterree & Adams, LLP, 678 F.3d 1211, 1215 (11th Cir. 2012).

         The process for evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint has two steps. This Court “begin[s] by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). Conclusory statements and recitations of a claim's elements are thus disregarded for purposes of determining whether a plaintiff is entitled to survive a motion to dismiss. Id. at 678. Next, this Court “assume[s] [the] veracity” of “well-pleaded factual allegations” and “determine[s] whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. Id. at 679. In reviewing the complaint, this Court “draw[s] on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.

         Because Seay has submitted her complaint pro se, this Court must construe her complaint liberally. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). However, while a pro se plaintiff will be given greater leniency, “[t]his leniency . . . does not require or allow courts to rewrite an otherwise deficient pleading in order to sustain an action.” Thomas v. Pentagon Fed. Credit Union, 393 Fed.Appx. 635, 637 (11th Cir. 2010).

         “A copy of a written instrument that is an exhibit to a pleading is a part of the pleading for all purposes.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c). Thus, exhibits attached to a complaint may be considered when ruling on a motion to dismiss without converting that motion into a motion for summary judgment. See Horsley v. Feldt, 304 F.3d 1125, 1134 (11th Cir. 2002). Because Seay has attached her EEOC charge as an exhibit to her complaint, the Court has considered the allegations contained within the EEOC charge when rendering this Opinion.[2]

         III. Discussion

         A. ADA Discrimination

         To state an ADA discrimination claim, a plaintiff must allege that she was disabled, qualified to perform the job, and discriminated against because of her disability. See Mazzeo v. Color Resolutions Int'l, LLC, 746 F.3d 1264, 1268 (11th Cir. 2014). A disability, for the purposes of the ADA, is “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits . . . [a] major life activit[y].” 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1)(A). A physical impairment includes “[a]ny physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss” that affects the musculoskeletal system. See 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(h)(1). Working, walking, standing, sitting, and bending are all examples of major life activities. See 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(i). An impairment “substantially limits” one of these activities if it restricts “the ability of an individual to perform [the life activity] as compared to most people in the general population.” 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(j)(1)(ii).

         Here, Seay has sufficiently alleged that she was disabled. Degenerative arthritis is a condition that affects the musculoskeletal system. Seay states that when Eagle assigned her additional duties her condition deteriorated and that “the added work was too much and additional help was needed.” (See Doc. 1 at 11.) Thus, Seay has plausibly alleged that her arthritis made it more difficult for her to work, which is considered a major life activity. Construing Seay's complaint liberally, as it must, the Court finds that it is plausible that “most people in the general ...

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