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Walker v. L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

September 11, 2018



         Plaintiff Treasea Walker alleges that her employer, Defendant L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, discriminated against her because of her sex and disability. L-3 moves to dismiss [7] the disability-based discrimination claims. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds the motion should be granted.


         Walker is a female who was previously employed in L-3's corrosion control department. Compl. [1] ¶ 6. One function that department performs is particle media blasting, which requires lifting heavy weight. Walker, due to a disability, was unable to perform blasting. Instead, male coworkers performed that job function in the department for her Id. ¶¶ 7, 9.

         In March 2017, L-3 instituted a change in their workflow that would require all employees in the corrosion control department to perform blasting. Id. ¶ 8. Because Walker could not perform that work, L-3 gave her the option of transferring to other positions. Id. ¶ 10. According to Walker, these new positions were not suitable because they either paid less or required skills which Walker did not possess. Id. Ultimately, Walker moved to a position that paid less than her previous position in the corrosion control department. Id. ¶ 11.

         Walker filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, received a right to sue notice, and filed the current action against L-3. She alleges that L-3 engaged in disability discrimination by refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation that would allow her to continue working in the corrosion control department without performing the blasting work. She also alleges that L-3 engaged in sex discrimination because L-3 allowed some male employees to continue working in positions in which they could not perform certain job functions.

         L-3 filed the present motion seeking to dismiss Walker's disability-based discrimination claims. Walker responded, and the matter is now ripe for review.

         12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss Standard

         When deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court is limited to the allegations set forth in the complaint and any documents attached to the complaint. Walker v. Webco Indus., Inc., 562 Fed.Appx. 215, 216-17 (5th Cir. 2014) (citing Kennedy v. Chase Manhattan Bank USA, NA, 369 F.3d 833, 839 (5th Cir. 2004)). "[A plaintiffs] complaint therefore 'must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Phillips v. City of Dallas, Tex., 781 F.3d 772, 775-76 (5th Cir. 2015) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)).

         A claim is facially plausible when the pleaded factual content "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (citing Bell Atl Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). "[P]laintiffs must allege facts that support the elements of the cause of action in order to make out a valid claim." Webb v. Morella, 522 Fed.Appx. 238, 241 (5th Cir. 2013) (quoting City of Clinton, Ark. v. Pilgrim's Pride Corp., 632 ¶ 3d 148, 152-53 (5th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted)). "[C]onclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions will not suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss." Id. (quoting Fernandez-Montes v. Allied Pilots Ass'n, 987 F.2d 278, 284 (5th Cir. 1993) (internal quotation marks omitted)). "Dismissal is appropriate when the plaintiff has not alleged 'enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face' and has failed to 'raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'" Emesowum v. Hous. Police Dep't 561 Fed.Appx. 372, 372 (5th Cir. 2014) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955).


         Walker makes disability discrimination claims under both Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended. L-3 argues that the Rehabilitation Act does not provide Walker with a cause of action. L-3 further argues that Walker has not exhausted her administrative remedies for her disability claims under the ADA because a disability discrimination claim was outside the scope of her EEOC charge. Walker concedes her claims under the Rehabilitation Act should be dismissed. Thus, the only question remaining before the Court is whether a claim of disability discrimination is within the scope of Walker's EEOC discrimination charge.

         To bring a discrimination claim under the ADA, a plaintiff must first exhaust his or her administrative remedies by filing "a timely charge with the EEOC and receiv[ing] a statutory notice of right to sue."[1] Taylor v. Books A Million, Inc., 296 F.3d 376, 379 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing Dao v. Auchan Hypermarket, 96 F.3d 787, 788-789 (5th Cir. 1996)). The subsequent action is limited in scope to claims that could only arise out of an "EEOC investigation which 'can reasonably be expected to grow out of the charge of discrimination.'" Pacheco v. Mineta, 448 F.3d 783, 789 (5th Cir. 2006) (quoting Sanchez v. Standard Brands, Inc., 431 F.2d 455, 466 (5th Cri. 1970)).

         Determining whether the claim is within that scope requires the Court to "engage in a fact-intensive analysis of the statement given by the plaintiff in the administrative charge, and look slightly beyond its four corners, to its substance rather than its label." Id. (citations omitted).

         Examining Walker's charge, the Court finds no investigation into disability discrimination would be reasonably expected to grow out the charge presented here. EEOC Charge [1-3]. The "disability" box is not checked, and the word "disability" does not appear at all in the charge. It is doubtful that one reading the charge would even be able to ascertain that Walker has a disability, because no mention is made of it. Walker further states multiple ...

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