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Johnson v. Waterlogic East, LLC

United States District Court, D. Delaware

August 3, 2017

PAUL JOHNSON, Plaintiff,

          Paul Johnson, New Castle, Delaware. Pro Se Plaintiff.

          Sarah Michelle Ennis, Esquire, Margolis Edelstein, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Defendant.



         Plaintiff Paul Johnson, who appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis, filed this action on August 5, 2016. (D.I. 2). Plaintiff brings this action under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101. Defendant moves to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (D.I. 13). Plaintiff opposes. (D.I. 14). Briefing on the motion is complete.


         At the time of his discharge, Plaintiff was employed by Defendant as a dispatcher. The Complaint alleges that employment discrimination by reason of disability occurred on March 19, 2015, when Plaintiffs employment was terminated.[1](D.I. 2).

         Plaintiff alleges that he has a physical impairment, heart failure, that substantially limits a major life activity. (Id. at ¶¶ 14, 16-19). Following a heart-related medical hospitalization, Plaintiff was able to return to work by wearing an automated external defibrillator ("AED"). (Id. at ¶¶ 16, 17). Plaintiff wore the AED from June 28, 2014 forward. (Id. at ¶ 18) He alleges that the AED allowed him to perform the essential functions of his job, and Defendant permitted him to wear the AED as a reasonable accommodation. (Id.).

         Plaintiff alleges that in about January 2015, he received a "meets expectations" for his nine-month performance review as a dispatcher in the Southeast Region of the company. (Id. at ¶ 12). Plaintiff was transferred to the Northeast Region on February 2, 2015. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that the Northeast Region was understaffed, had consistent problems retaining dispatchers to work in the region, and dispatchers were transferred from the Northeast Region and reassigned upon their evaluations of "not meeting expectations." (Id.).

         On March 3, 2015, Plaintiff was "coached by Defendant on how to improve his job performance. (Id. at ¶ 21). On March 9, 2015, Plaintiff requested an extended leave of absence under the Family Medical Leave Act for necessary heart surgery. (Id. at ¶ 20). Plaintiff was given thirty days of non-paid FMLA leave, and Defendant offered Plaintiff the opportunity to work from home during recovery from surgery as a reasonable accommodation. (Id.). The surgery was postponed, and Plaintiff was allowed to return to work on March 11, 2015. (Id. at ¶ 21). Plaintiff was terminated on March 19, 2015 for his "alleged poor performance as the dispatcher for the Northeast Region." (Id.). Plaintiff alleges his employment was terminated because he requested a leave of absence under the FMLA and that Defendant's reason for the termination was a pretext for firing him. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that other similarly situated, non-disabled, individuals were reassigned out of the Northeast Region, and he was not. (Id.) Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief.


         Defendant moves for dismissal pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

         Plaintiff proceeds pro se and, therefore, his pleadings are liberally construed and his complaint, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Under Rule 12(b)(6), a motion to dismiss may be granted only if, accepting the well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, a court concludes that those allegations "could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558 (2007). "Though 'detailed factual allegations' are not required, a complaint must do more than simply provide 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.'" Davis v. Abington Mem'l Hosp., 765 F.3d 236, 241 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). In addition, a plaintiff must plead facts sufficient to show that a claim has substantive plausibility. See Johnson v. City of Shelby, ___U.S.___, 135 S.Ct. 346, 347 (2014). A complaint may not dismissed, however, for imperfect statements of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted. See id. at 346.

         When reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, a court should follow a three-step process: (1) consider the elements necessary to state a claim; (2) identify allegations that are merely conclusions and therefore are not well-pleaded factual allegations; and (3) accept any well-pleaded factual allegations as true and determine whether they plausibly state a claim. See Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp.,809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016); Williams v. BASF Catalysts LLC,765 F.3d 306, 315 (3d Cir. 2014). Deciding whether a claim is plausible will be a "context-specific ...

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