Taylor v. C & B Piping Inc
MEMORANDUM OPINION - For the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES C&Bs motion to dismiss the amended complaint. (Doc. 19). The Court directs the parties to please confer and propose new scheduling deadlines within seven days. Signed by Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala on 3/20/2017. (KEK)
2017 Mar-20 AM 09:04
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
JESSICA R. TAYLOR,
C&B PIPING, INC.,
Case No.: 2:14-cv-01828-MHH
Jessica Taylor brings this action against her former employer, C&B Piping,
Inc., alleging pregnancy discrimination in violation of Title VII and a failure to
accommodate pregnancy restrictions in violation of the Americans with
Disabilities Act. (Doc. 18). C&B filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The Court denies the motion.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule 12(b)(6) enables a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint for
“failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” FED. R. CIV. P.
12(b)(6). Pursuant to Rule 8(a)(2), 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). “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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court must view the
allegations in a complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.
Watts v. Fla. Int’l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007). A court must
accept well-pled facts as true. Grossman v. Nationsbank, N.A., 225 F.3d 1228,
1231 (11th Cir. 2000).
RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Ms. Taylor began working for C&B as an accounting clerk on February 7,
2012. (Doc. 18, ¶ 5). In July 2012, Ms. Taylor learned that she was pregnant.
(Doc. 18, ¶ 7). That month, Ms. Taylor informed her supervisor and the owners of
C&B that she was pregnant. (Doc. 18, ¶ 7).
According to Ms. Taylor, after she informed C&B that she was pregnant, she
was treated differently. (Doc. 18, ¶ 8). Approximately 12 weeks into Ms. Taylor’s
pregnancy, her blood pressure spiked while she was at work. (Doc. 18, ¶ 9). Ms.
Taylor went to a nearby fire station for treatment, where EMTs recommended that
she go to the emergency room immediately. (Doc. 18, ¶ 9). Ms. Taylor’s
supervisor convinced her to return to work instead. (Doc. 18, ¶ 9). Later that day,
Ms. Taylor’s doctor directed her to go home and lay down with her feet up. Ms.
Taylor complied with her doctor’s instruction. (Doc. 18, ¶ 10). When Ms. Taylor
returned to work the next day, C&B’s office manager, Beth, “stated that Mrs.
Taylor needed to stop using her pregnancy as a crutch.” (Doc. 18, ¶ 11).
On September 24, 2012, Beth informed Ms. Taylor that she was getting
complaints that Ms. Taylor was not sociable enough with other co-workers. (Doc.
18, ¶ 12). Beth again stated that Ms. Taylor was using her pregnancy as a crutch.
(Doc. 18, ¶ 13). Ms. Taylor informed the manager, Chad, who told Ms. Taylor that
there were no complaints and to ignore Beth. (Doc. 18, ¶¶ 14-15). On October 9,
2012, Beth reprimanded Ms. Taylor for talking too much and told Ms. Taylor that
she needed to focus on her work. (Doc. 18, ¶ 16).
As part of her job, Ms. Taylor had to lift large file boxes and place the boxes
on shelves at various levels ranging from knee-height to overhead-height. (Doc.
18, ¶ 18). During Ms. Taylor’s pregnancy, she had difficulty lifting the boxes and
noticed cramping and other issues that seemed related to her pregnancy. (Doc. 18,
¶¶ 19-20). On November 5, 2012, Ms. Taylor’s doctor sent a letter to C&B stating
that Ms. Taylor should not do heavy lifting for two weeks. (Doc. 18, ¶ 21). C&B
refused to provide her help and continued to require her to lift boxes. (Doc. 18, ¶
22). Ms. Taylor “requested help with lifting the boxes multiple times up until she
went on maternity leave on February 20, 2013.” (Doc. 18, ¶ 24). C&B required
her to lift boxes until the day before she delivered her daughter. (Doc. 18, ¶ 23).
In planning for her return to work after maternity leave, to create a private
space for her to pump breast milk, Ms. Taylor asked if she could purchase and
install blinds for her office window at her own expense. (Doc. 18, ¶¶ 27-29).
C&B refused, stating that if Ms. Taylor wanted to pump she could use the
employee bathroom. (Doc. 18, ¶ 29).
Ms. Taylor gave birth to her daughter on February 21, 2013. (Doc. 18, ¶
31). Ms. Taylor was on maternity leave for two months. The day that she returned
from maternity leave, C&B eliminated Ms. Taylor’s position and terminated her
employment. (Doc. 18, ¶¶ 32-33).
Ms. Taylor filed a complaint with the EEOC on June 6, 2013, alleging
discrimination based upon her pregnancy. (Doc. 18-1, p. 2-3). On June 26, 2014,
the EEOC issued Ms. Taylor a right to sue letter. (Doc. 18-2).
Ms. Taylor filed her initial complaint on September 26, 2014. (Doc. 1). Ms.
Taylor filed an amended complaint on July 3, 2015. In her amended complaint,
she alleges that C&B discriminated against her on the basis of her pregnancy in
violation of Title VII and failed to provide a reasonable lifting accommodation
during her pregnancy in violation of the ADA. (Doc. 18, ¶¶ 37-58).
In its motion to dismiss Ms. Taylor’s amended complaint, C&B argues that:
(1) Ms. Taylor’s Title VII and ADA claims are time barred; (2) with respect to her
Title VII claim, Ms. Taylor has not sufficiently alleged differential treatment based
on her pregnancy; (3) Ms. Taylor’s Title VII claim fails because the alleged denial
of her request for a reasonable accommodation did not constitute an actionable
adverse action; and (4) Ms. Taylor’s ADA claim fails because Ms. Taylor’s alleged
requests for help did not seek a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. (Doc.
C&B incorrectly characterizes Ms. Taylor’s Title VII claim.
C&B attempts to frame Ms. Taylor’s Title VII claim as a discriminatory
failure to accommodate claim. (Doc. 19, pp. 5-12). C&B’s reading of the
complaint is too narrow. Ms. Taylor contends broadly that C&B discriminated
against her because she was pregnant. She alleges that C&B not only refused to
provide various accommodations that she requested but also that C&B treated her
differently because she was pregnant. (See, e.g., Doc. 18, ¶¶ 42, 44). She also
alleges that C&B eliminated her position and fired her on the day that she returned
to work from maternity leave. (Doc. 18, ¶¶ 32-33). C&B’s erroneous narrow
interpretation of Ms. Taylor’s Title VII claim is fatal to most of C&B’s arguments
Ms. Taylor’s claims are not time barred.
A plaintiff must file an EEOC charge “within one hundred and eighty days
after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e5
5(e)(1). “[T]he timely-filing requirement of [Title VII] erects an absolute bar on
recovery for ‘discrete discriminatory or retaliatory acts’ occurring outside the
limitations period.” Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., 421 F.3d 1169,
1178 (11th Cir. 2005) (quoting Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S.
101, 114 (2002)). Additionally, “[p]laintiffs proceeding under the ADA must
comply with the same procedural requirements articulated in Title VII, including
the duty to exhaust administrative remedies” and the duty to file an EEOC charge
within 180 days of the alleged unlawful employment practice. See E.E.O.C. v.
Summer Classics, Inc., 471 Fed. Appx. 868, 869-70 (11th Cir. 2012) (citing
Alexander v. Fulton Cnty., 207 F.3d 1303, 1332 (11th Cir. 2000)). Ms. Taylor
filed her EEOC charge on June 6, 2013. (Doc. 18-1, pp. 2-3). Therefore, any
claim based on a discrete incident occurring before December 8, 2012 falls outside
of the statute of limitations and is time barred.
Ms. Taylor’s Title VII claim is not time barred because that claim does not,
as C&B argues, pertain only to a request for accommodation that Ms. Taylor made
in November 2012. Ms. Taylor’s Title VII claim (and her EEOC charge) pertain to
conduct that extended through April 22, 2013, the day that C&B terminated Ms.
Taylor’s employment. Ms. Taylor filed her Title VII claim well within the 180day window.
Ms. Taylor’s ADA claim also is timely because she has alleged that C&B
refused her requests for reasonable accommodation within the 180-day window.
Under the ADA, “each discrete discriminatory act starts a new clock for filing an
EEOC charge alleging that act; and time-barred acts are not actionable, even if
they are related to acts alleged in a timely-filed charge.” Abram v. Fulton Cty.
Gov’t, 598 Fed. Appx. 672, 675 (11th Cir. 2015) (citing Nat’l R.R., 536 U.S. at
105, 110-15 (2002)).
The denial of a request for a light work assignment
constitutes a discrete act. See Davis v. Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consol., 516 F.3d
955, 970 (11th Cir. 2008).
Ms. Taylor alleges the following in her amended complaint:
21. On November 5, 2012, her doctor, Dr. Dey, sent a letter to C &
B stating that Mrs. Taylor should not do any heavy lifting for two
22. C & B refused to provide Mrs. Taylor any help and she
continued to be required to lift the boxes.
23. C & B continued to require Mrs. Taylor to lift the boxes until
February 20, 2013, which was the last day she worked before giving
birth to her daughter the next day.
24. Mrs. Taylor requested help with lifting the boxes multiple times
up until she went on maternity leave on February 20, 2013.
(Doc. 18). C&B argues that the only discrete instance of discrimination alleged in
Ms. Taylor’s amended complaint—C&B’s refusal to accommodate Ms. Taylor’s
requested two-week lifting restriction between November 5, 2012 and November
19, 2012—is time barred. (Doc. 19, pp. 5-9). This initial event took place outside
of the statutory period, so Ms. Taylor may not pursue a discrete ADA claim
relating to that alleged failure to accommodate. For Ms. Taylor’s ADA reasonable
accommodation claim to proceed, Ms. Taylor must have alleged at least one
additional discrete act of discrimination that occurred within the statutory period.
Ms. Taylor alleges that C&B refused her “requests for help lifting boxes up
until February 20, 2013,” the day before she delivered her baby. C&B argues that
[m]erely requesting help from coworkers to lift boxes does not
constitute a request for reasonable accommodations that, if unfulfilled,
is actionable under  the ADA. As a matter of law, such informal,
unspecific requests do not put an employer on notice that an
accommodation has been requested for a particular disability.
(Doc. 19, p. 8). C&B cites for this proposition a Ninth Circuit opinion concerning
a female employee’s back injury and an opinion from a district court in New York
in which the court found that the plaintiff “‘never informed [his employer] of his
diagnosis or requested specific accommodations for his alleged disability.’” (Doc.
19, p. 8) (citing Arroyo v. Continental Airlines, Inc., 173 Fed. Appx. 634 (9th Cir.
2006), and quoting Falso v. SPG Direct, 2008 WL 1946542, at *3 (W.D.N.Y. May
Ms. Taylor is not a female employee complaining of a back injury or a male
employee who has not informed his employer of his diagnosis. Ms. Taylor was
pregnant. Although her condition may not have been readily apparent to her
employer within the first few weeks of her pregnancy, Ms. Taylor alleges that she
had to leave work because of a pregnancy complication 12 weeks into her
pregnancy, and the day she returned, C&B’s office manager told Ms. Taylor to
“stop using her pregnancy as a crutch.” (Doc. 18, p. 3). Ms. Taylor also alleges
that she provided a note from her doctor in which he restricted her from heavy
lifting for two weeks. (Doc. 18, ¶ 21). Ms. Taylor has not specifically alleged that
in the weeks that followed, when she asked for help lifting boxes, she told C&B
that she needed the help because she was pregnant, but the basis for the
accommodation can be reasonably inferred, given the fact that Ms. Taylor was
pregnant and Ms. Taylor had provided a note from her doctor restricting her lifting
because she was pregnant.
The Court denies C&B’s motion to dismiss pertaining to the 180-day
C. Ms. Taylor sufficiently alleges a Title VII claim.
C&B argues that Ms. Taylor’s Title VII claim fails because she has not
adequately alleged differential treatment. (Doc. 19, p. 9). A plaintiff who was
pregnant may prove disparate treatment through indirect evidence that
demonstrates that “she belongs to the protected class, that she sought
accommodation, that the employer did not accommodate her, and that the
employer did accommodate others ‘similar in their ability or inability to work.’”
Young v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 135 S.Ct. 1338, 1354 (2015). To adequately
state a claim under Title VII, Ms. Taylor’s “complaint need not allege facts
sufficient to make out a classic McDonnell Douglas prima facie case.” See Surtain
v. Hamlin Terrac Found., 789 F.3d 1239, 1246 (11th Cir. 2015). “This is because
McDonnell Douglas’s burden-shifting framework is an evidentiary standard, not a
pleading requirement.” Id. (quoting Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506,
As to differential treatment, Ms. Taylor alleges that:
26. C & B makes reasonable accommodations for other workers
who are under lifting restrictions.
41. C & B treated Mrs. Taylor differently than the male employees
who were under medical lifting restrictions.
(Doc. 18). C&B argues that Ms. Taylor’s amended complaint merely recites the
differential treatment element without indicating when C&B provided other
alleged accommodations, how the requests were made, what medical conditions or
impairments required them, the identity of Ms. Taylor’s comparators, how they
were similarly situated, or how they were treated more favorably. (Doc. 19, p. 10).
As Surtain makes clear, a Title VII plaintiff’s failure to adequately allege an
element of the McDonnell Douglas prima facie case is not necessarily fatal to that
plaintiff’s Title VII claim. To survive a motion to dismiss on her Title VII claim,
Ms. Taylor’s complaint need only provide enough factual matter, taken as true, to
indicate intentional pregnancy discrimination. See Surtain, 789 F.3d at 1246.
Ms. Taylor alleges that she, a pregnant woman, asked for various
accommodations based on her pregnancy. She also alleges that C&B refused those
accommodations and fired her on the day she returned from maternity leave. 1 Ms.
Taylor asserts that C&B treated her differently than the company did male
employees who were on lifting restrictions. Therefore, Ms. Taylor has alleged
enough facts to plausibly plead intentional pregnancy discrimination.
C&B’s “essential function” argument cannot be resolved at this stage of
Finally, C&B argues that Ms. Taylor’s request for help lifting boxes during
her pregnancy was not a reasonable request for accommodation because lifting
boxes was an “essential function of her job.” (Doc. 19, pp. 12-14). “Determining
whether a particular job duty is an essential function involves a factual inquiry to
be conducted on a case-by-case basis.” Lucas v. W. W. Granger, Inc., 257 F.3d
1249, 1258 (11th Cir. 2001); see also Agee v. Mercedes-Benz U.S. Int’l, Inc., 646
Fed. Appx. 870, 874 (11th Cir. 2016) (“An essential function of a job is a
C&B also argues that the refusal of a lifting accommodation is not an actionable adverse
employment action. Even if that is true, termination is an adverse employment action. Ms.
Taylor alleges that C&B discriminated against her based on her pregnancy, and she alleges that
C&B fired her the day she returned from maternity leave. These allegations are sufficient.
fundamental duty of the position that an individual with a disability is actually
required to perform, and we evaluate whether a particular function is essential on a
case-by-case basis. Substantial weight is accorded to the employer’s judgment as
to which functions are essential. In addition, other factors courts consider include:
(1) written job descriptions prepared for interviewing applicants, (2) the amount of
time spent performing the function, (3) the consequences of not requiring the
employee to perform the function, and (4) past work experience of employees in
similar jobs.”) (citing Lucas, 257 F.3d at 1257-58; 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(n)(3)). This
fact question cannot be resolved on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES C&B’s motion to dismiss the
amended complaint. (Doc. 19). The Court directs the parties to please confer and
propose new scheduling deadlines within seven days. 2
DONE and ORDERED this March 20, 2017.
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
The Court sincerely apologizes to the parties for the delay in issuing this opinion. The Court
will be happy to help the parties expedite this matter. If an early mediation may help the parties
resolve the matter, the Court will appoint a judge to assist in the mediation.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?