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Brownwood v. Wells Trucking, LLC

United States District Court, D. Colorado

August 22, 2017




         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint [Docket No. 21]. The Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Defendant Wells Trucking, LLC hired plaintiff Clinton A. Brownwood as a truck driver in October, 2012. Docket No. 19 at 2, ¶ 9. Defendant required plaintiff to maintain an active Commercial Driver's License (“CDL”) in order to work as a truck driver. Id. at 3, ¶ 11. On multiple occasions, plaintiff requested “that he be considered and promoted for a permanent Operator position.” Id. at 3, ¶ 15. The operator position did not require a CDL or other certification. Id., ¶ 16. On one occasion, Nate Owens, a lead manager for defendant, told plaintiff that he was “too fat” to be an operator. Id. at 4, ¶ 24.

         Plaintiff suffers from morbid obesity. Id. at 4, ¶ 25. As a result, a physician required plaintiff to take a sleep apnea test before the physician would approve plaintiff for his CDL-required physical. Id. at 5, ¶ 32. Plaintiff was unable to pay for the required test. Id., ¶¶ 34-35. Plaintiff spoke with Mr. Owens about whether defendant would help plaintiff to pay for the sleep apnea test, but defendant refused to provide financial assistance. Id., ¶¶ 36-37. Following plaintiff's request for assistance with the sleep apnea test, defendant informed plaintiff that it intended to terminate his employment. Id. at 6, ¶ 39. Plaintiff once again “requested a promotion, or at the very least a temporary accommodation, and to be placed in the Operator position.” Id., ¶ 40.

         Defendant refused to pay for the sleep apnea test or allow plaintiff to work in the operator position until he could take the sleep apnea test. Id., ¶ 42. Defendant terminated plaintiff on September 22, 2014. Id., ¶ 44.

         On May 25, 2016, plaintiff filed this lawsuit against defendant. Docket No. 1. Plaintiff's amended complaint seeks relief under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq. Docket No. 19 at 7-9, ¶¶ 55-72. Specifically, plaintiff claims that defendant discriminated against him in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 12112 and retaliated against him in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 12203. Id. Defendant has moved to dismiss both of plaintiff's claims. Docket No. 21.


         “The court's function on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is not to weigh potential evidence that the parties might present at trial, but to assess whether the plaintiff's Complaint alone is legally sufficient to state a claim for which relief may be granted.” Dubbs v. Head Start, Inc., 336 F.3d 1194, 1201 (10th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted). In doing so, the Court “must accept all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true and must construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Alvarado v. KOB-TV, L.L.C., 493 F.3d 1210, 1215 (10th Cir. 2007) (quotation marks and citation omitted). At the same time, however, a court need not accept conclusory allegations. Moffett v. Halliburton Energy Servs., Inc., 291 F.3d 1227, 1232 (10th Cir. 2002).

         Generally, “[s]pecific facts are not necessary; the statement need only ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)) (omission marks, internal quotation marks, and citation omitted). The “plausibility” standard requires that relief must plausibly follow from the facts alleged, not that the facts themselves be plausible. Bryson v. Gonzales, 534 F.3d 1282, 1286 (10th Cir. 2008).

         However, “where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not shown - that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009) (internal quotation marks and alteration marks omitted). Thus, even though modern rules of pleading are somewhat forgiving, “a complaint still must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory.” Bryson, 534 F.3d at 1286 (quotation marks and citation omitted).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Plaintiff's Discrimination Claim

         The ADA prohibits discrimination “against a qualified individual on the basis of disability.” Adair v. City of Muskogee, 823 F.3d 1297, 1304 (10th Cir. 2016) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a)). In order to establish a discrimination claim under the ADA, “a plaintiff must show that (1) he is disabled as defined under the [ADA]; (2) he is qualified, with or without reasonable accommodation by the employer, to perform ...

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