Snider v. United States Steel -Fairfield Works Medical Department
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER: 8 , Motion to Dismiss the Complaint or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment filed by United States Steel- Fairfield Works Medical Department, is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART. As set out in order, the m otion is GRANTED as to Counts 2 and 3, GRANTED IN PART, as to the retaliation claim in Count 1, and DENIED as to the ADA discrimination claim in Count 1. Accordingly, Snider's ADA retaliation and Title VII claims are DISMISSED. Signed by Judge Abdul K Kallon on 03/26/13. (CVA)
2013 Mar-26 AM 10:42
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
DAVID M SNIDER,
UNITED STATES STEELFAIRFIELD WORKS
Civil Action Number
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
David M. Snider (“Snider”) brings this employment discrimination action
against United States Steel - Fairfield Works Medical Department (“US Steel”)
under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), ADA Amendments
Act of 2008 (“ADAAA”), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title
VII), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Doc. 5. US Steel now moves to
dismiss Snider’s complaint or, alternatively, for summary judgment. Doc. 8. The
motion is fully briefed and ripe for review. Docs. 9, 16, 19. For the reasons stated
below, US Steel’s motion is DENIED as to the ADA discrimination claim (Count
I), but otherwise GRANTED.
I. STANDARD OF REVIEW
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-defendantunlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(citing 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. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations and internal quotation marks
omitted). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]’ devoid of
‘further factual enhancement.’” Id. (citing Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 557).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits dismissal when a
complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. “To survive a
motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Iqbal,556 U.S. at 678
(citations and internal quotation marks omitted). 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. (citation omitted). The complaint must establish “more
than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id.; see also Bell
Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 555 (“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.”). Ultimately, this inquiry is a “context-specific
task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and
common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
II. PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND1
US Steel hired Snider in 1988 and by 2010 Snider made $10,000 per month
as a Maintenance Technician Electrical. Doc. 5 at ¶¶ 5-7. On April 18th of that
year, US Steel placed Snider on medical leave and referred him to a psychiatrist.
Id. at ¶ 8. Accordingly, Snider met with psychologist Tony Martin, who then
referred Snider to an associate psychiatrist. Id. However, because of that
psychiatrist’s schedule, Snider made an appointment instead with psychiatrist Dr.
Leesha Ellis-Cox. Id. at ¶10. At the end of May, Dr. Ellis-Cox released Snider to
return to work. Id. at ¶ 12. As a result, US Steel representative James Schenher
forced Snider to sign an authorization form allowing Dr. Ellis-Cox to release
Snider’s medical records to Dr. Cheryl Szabo at US Steel. Id. at ¶ 14.
Despite Dr. Ellis-Cox’s medical release letter, Dr. Szabo told Snider in June
that, based on her communications with Dr. Ellis-Cox, Snider needed to undergo
“When considering a motion to dismiss, all facts set forth in the plaintiff’s complaint
‘are to be accepted as true and the court limits its consideration to the pleadings and exhibits
attached thereto.’” Grossman v. Nationsbank, N.A., 225 F.3d 1228, 1231 (11th Cir. 2000)
(quoting GSW, Inc. v. Long Cnty., 999 F.2d 1508, 1510 (11th Cir. 1993)). In other words, the
“facts” here are taken directly from the complaint.
anger management before he could return to work. Id. at ¶ 15. The following
month, Schenher and Dave Thompson, Hot Mill Area Coordinator, told Snider
that in order to return Snider work he needed to sign a Memorandum of
Understanding (“MOU”) that stated “(1) that [Snider] had been deemed medically
unfit for work, then chose his own medical provider, who conditionally released
[Snider] to work; and (2) ‘employee’s current provider’ has developed a long-term
treatment plan to address his condition and how he interacts with others in the
workplace.” Id. at ¶ 16. The MOU ultimately provided that if Snider failed to
comply with its terms, US Steel would immediately remove him from the plant.
Id. at ¶ 17. The request triggered Bob Jones, the Grievance Committeeman of
United Steelworkers Local 1013, to submit a letter to US Steel stating that “Snider
has not had any discipline of any sort in the previous three years and to the best of
my knowledge has not received any discipline in the last five years for any rules
violation. Dr. Cheryl Szabo has a history of mis-diagnosing employee’s that Local
1013 represents and we have a large file of those cases on hand.” Id. at ¶ 18.
On August 11, 2010, Snider filed a charge with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging that US Steel had discriminated
against him on the basis of a perceived disability in violation of the ADA:
I am a White male. My employer perceived that I have a disability. I
was employed as an electronic repairman with the above named
employer. On April 9, 2010, I was asked to work at a work location
which I considered to be unsafe. After meeting with labor relations area
supervisor and grievance committeeman, I was referred to the company
medical doctor on the next day. The medical doctor referred me to EAS
and I was unknowingly placed on medical leave. On April 18, 2010, I
reported to work for my regular shift and was told that I had been placed
on medical leave.
Doc. 5-1 at 1.
In September, Snider received an anger management certificate of
completion. Doc. 5 at ¶19. The following month, Dr. Ellis-Cox wrote a second
medical release letter stating that Snider could return to work with no restrictions.
Id. at ¶ 20. However, Schenher again forced Snider to sign a medical release form
allowing Dr. Szabo to review his medical records from Dr. Ellis-Cox. Id. at ¶ 21.
In January 2011, Schenher sent a letter to Bob Jones stating “If U.S. Steel, The
United Steelworker’s Union, and Mr. Snider can reach an agreement resolving the
current grievances, complaints, and any other charges relating to the events of
April 2010, in full and final settlement, then I believe we can resolve this matter
and return Mr. Snider to work.” Id. at ¶ 22. A week later, Snider learned that US
Steel cancelled his medical insurance, but the subsequent week, on February 4,
2011, US Steel allowed Snider to return to work. Id. at ¶¶ 23, 26.
Snider asserts claims under the ADA and ADAAA for disability based
discrimination and under Title VII for retaliation and hostile work environment.
See doc. 5. US Steel contends that these claims are due to be dismissed because
the ADAAA does not establish a cause of action separate from the ADA and
because Snider failed to exhaust his administrative remedies or properly state a
claim for relief. See doc. 9. The court discusses each contention below.
The ADA Amendments Act of 2008
The court agrees that the ADAAA, which was enacted by Congress in 2008
to “reinstat[e] a broad scope of protection to be available under the ADA[,]” PL
110-325, September 25, 2008, 122 Stat. 2553, at Section 2(b)(1) (emphasis
added), does not establish a cause of action separate from the ADA. The ADAAA
merely broadens the scope of protection available to plaintiffs under the ADA by
redefining particular terms such as “disability” and “major life activities.” Id. at
section 4. Accordingly, the proper cause of action still exists under the ADA.
Therefore, the court will treat Count 1 as a claim under the ADA, as amended by
the broadened scope of coverage of the ADAAA, and US Steel’s motion to
dismiss Count 2 is GRANTED.
The Americans with Disabilities Act
In Count 1, Snider alleges that US Steel discriminated against him based on
a perceived disability. Doc. 5 at ¶ 50. To adequately state a claim under the ADA,
“the plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination . . . by
showing (1) he is disabled, (2) he is a qualified individual, and (3) he was
subjected to unlawful discrimination because of his disability.” Dulaney v.
Miami-Dade Cnty, 481 F. App’x 486, 489 (11th Cir. 2012). In light of the
ADAAA, a plaintiff may also satisfy the first prong by showing that he is
“regarded as having such an impairment [that substantially limits one or more of
the major life activities of such individual]. This means that the individual has
been subjected to an action prohibited by the ADA as amended because of an
actual or perceived impairment that is not both ‘transitory and minor.’” 29 C.F.R.
US Steel contends that Snider cannot establish that he is a “qualified
individual.” Doc. 9 at 9. However, this argument requires the court to look
beyond the face of the complaint and the court declines to do so since Snider has
not had adequate time to conduct discovery on his claim and this analysis is more
appropriate at the summary judgment stage. See section D, infra. US Steel
contends also that Snider’s claim fails because he was not subjected to
discrimination based on his perceived disability. Doc. 9 at 10. However, Snider
alleges that US Steel denied some of his sickness and accident benefits, cancelled
his medical insurance, and refused to allow him to return to work because of his
perceived disability. See doc. 5 at 9-10. Whether Snider will ultimately succeed
on his claim is not for the court to determine at this juncture. Rather, the court is
tasked solely with ascertaining whether Snider has pled a plausible claim. See
Iqbal,556 U.S. at 678. Snider has and, accordingly, US Steel’s motion to dismiss
the discrimination claim in Count 1 is DENIED.
Additionally, since Count 1 arguably states a retaliation claim under the
ADA, see doc. 5 at ¶ 47 (“Plaintiff was not allowed to return to work in retaliation
of his filing a grievance.”), the court also construes US Steel’s arguments against
Snider’s Title VII retaliation as applicable to the ADA retaliation claim.
Specifically, US Steel contends that Snider failed to exhaust his administrative
remedies or to properly plead a claim for retaliation. With respect to the first
contention, a plaintiff asserting a claim under the ADA “must comply with the
same procedural requirements to sue under Title VII, and thus, a timely EEOC
charge is required[.]” Houston v. Army Fleet Servs., LLC, 509 F. Supp. 2d 1033,
1039 (M.D. Ala. 2007) (citing Fry v. Muscogee Cnty Sch. Dist., 150 F. App’x 980,
981-2, 2005 WL 2596880, at *1 (11th Cir. 2005)). However, this requirement is
not strictly construed and the judicial complaint may encompass any claims
“which can reasonably be expected to grow out of the charge of discrimination.”
Sanchez v. Standard Brands, Inc., 431 F.2d 455, 466 (5th Cir. 1970); see also
Gregory v. Ga. Dept. of Human Resources, 355 F.3d 1277, 1280 (11th Cir.2004).
In this case, Snider indicated in his EEOC charge that US Steel placed him
on leave after he objected to working “at a work location which [he] considered to
be unsafe.” Doc. 5-1 at 1. Refusing to work in a purported unsafe area is not the
same as engaging in protected activity as that term is used under the ADA.
Accordingly, the resulting EEOC investigation would not reasonably have
encompassed a claim that US Steel placed Snider on medical leave in retaliation
for his exercise of protected activity. Therefore, the court finds that Snider failed
to properly exhausted his administrative remedies for his retaliation claim and US
Steel’s motion to dismiss this portion of Count 1 is GRANTED.
Retaliation & Hostile Work Environment Under Title VII
In Count 3, Snider pleads claims for retaliation and hostile work
environment under Title VII. However, Title VII is limited to discrimination on
the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a),
and Snider failed to allege discrimination based on any of these protected
characteristics, see doc. 5. In fact, Snider’s complaint only raises allegations of
disability based discrimination. Moreover, even if Snider properly alleged a Title
VII claim, he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies because his EEOC
charge is limited to the ADA and only asserts facts related to disability based
discrimination. See doc. 5-1 at 1. Accordingly, US Steel’s motion to dismiss
Count 3 is GRANTED.
Alternative Motion for Summary Judgment
US Steel alternatively moves for summary judgment and attaches
evidentiary material purportedly establishing that Snider’s claims fail. See doc. 9.
However, “[a]s a general rule summary judgment should not be granted until the
party opposing the motion has had an adequate opportunity to conduct discovery.”
Reflectone, Inc. v. Farrand Optical Co., 862 F.2d 841, 843 (11th Cir. 1989). In
this case, US Steel filed its motion before Snider had an opportunity to conduct
any discovery regarding his ADA claims. Accordingly, US Steel’s alternative
motion is DENIED as premature, without prejudice to it filing a renewed motion
at the appropriate juncture.
For the reasons stated above, US Steel’s motion is GRANTED as to Counts
2 and 3, GRANTED in part as to the retaliation claim in Count 1, and DENIED
as to the ADA discrimination claim in Count 1. Accordingly, Snider’s ADA
retaliation and Title VII claims are DISMISSED.
DONE this 26th day of March, 2013.
ABDUL K. KALLON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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