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Mejia v. Wal-Mart

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

November 3, 2014

LUIS D. CABRERA MEJIA, Plaintiff,
v.
WAL-MART, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

THOMAS D. SCHROEDER, District Judge.

This is an employment discrimination action. Plaintiff Luis D. Cabrera Mejia, proceeding pro se, alleges that Wal-Mart failed to provide him with a reasonable accommodation, subjected him to acts of disability discrimination, and terminated him because of his disability, in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. ยง 12101 et seq. Wal-Mart argues that Mejia's complaint fails to state a claim and moves to dismiss it pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).[1] (Doc. 14.) Mr. Mejia's personal situation appears difficult and sad, but, for the reasons set forth below, it fails to rise to the level of an ADA claim. Accordingly, Wal-Mart's motion to dismiss will be granted, and the case will be dismissed.

I. BACKGROUND

On a motion to dismiss, the court views the facts in the light most favorable to Mejia. See Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc. , 591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009).

From 2011 until June 21, 2013, Mejia, a naturalized Dominican-American, worked at an unspecified Wal-Mart store as a customer service manager. (Compl. at 3, 10.) While at work on May 1, 2013, Mejia became worried about being fired (apparently because of a criminal assault charge against him filed by his wife, with whom he was having marital problems) and asked for time to talk to shift manager Dave Rhyne and other employees. (Id. at 10, 29.) On May 1st, 2013, Rhyne - along with several other employees and managers - met with Mejia in the store's "cash office." (Id. at 21, 29.) According to Mejia, during the course of that conversation he asked Rhyne whether he was racist, to which Rhyne replied "he might be right about that.'"[2] (Id. at 20, 29.)

Later that day, Mejia had a second conversation with Rhyne. (Id. at 20-21, 30.) That conversation concerned a "personal discussion" Mejia had had with a Wal-Mart cashier. (Id.) After being informed of that discussion, Rhyne turned to another employee and, referring to Mejia, said "this man is going to make me kill him." (Id.) Following these two incidents, Mejia developed an anxiety disorder and depression.[3] (Compl. at 2, 6-9, 18-19.) The two conversations with Rhyne further agitated Mejia's prior intestinal problem. (Id. at 2.) Mejia also lost approximately twenty to thirty pounds and attempted suicide. (Id. at 2-4.) A few weeks after the incidents, in June 2013, Mejia stopped coming to work for a week and a half without prior notice. (Id. at 2-3.) Mejia alleges that a variety of medically-related issues caused this absence. (See id. at 2-3 (citing a lack of sleep, "passing gas, " and uncontrollable bowel movements)).

Mejia eventually reported both conversations with Rhyne to Wal-Mart's home office but was told to speak to the store manager, Daniel Barsdin, because the conversations had occurred more than three weeks prior. (Id. at 2.) On June 21, 2013, after his week-and-a-half absence from work, Mejia met with Barsdin. (Id. at 2-4.) He told Barsdin that he had developed an anxiety disorder and depression because of the conversations with Rhyne and that he had stopped coming to work as a result. (Id. at 2.) According to Mejia, he had previously discussed his medical conditions with Barsdin in March and May of 2013. (Id. at 4.) Mejia also told Barsdin that, if he "fix[ed] the problem, " he would return to work. (Id. at 4, 23, 31.) At the meeting, Mejia attempted to give Barsdin a police report and one of his medical evaluations at the meeting. (Id. at 4.) Barsdin refused to accept those documents and instead asked that Mejia write a statement. (Id. at 3.) Mejia refused Barsdin's request and said that he was going to contact a lawyer. (Id. at 3-4.) After this meeting with Barsdin, Mejia "never returned to work" and has "since been separated." (Id.) Following the June 21 meeting, Mejia filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") charge on December 9, 2013, claiming disability discrimination. (Id. at 23.) In his EEOC charge, Mejia stated that, as of May 4, 2013, he "did not ask nor did [he] need reasonable accommodation." (Id.)

Mejia filed this pro se complaint on March 20, 2014. (Doc. 2.) The complaint asserted claims of disability discrimination based on Wal-Mart's failure to accommodate Mejia's disability, Wal-Mart's refusal to accept documentation of his disability, and Mejia's discharge.[4] (Id. at 2-5.) Attached to the complaint are medical records, a police report, an EEOC charge and right-to-sue letter, and a number of documents typed and written by Mejia. (See Doc. 2.) Subsequent to filing the complaint, Mejia filed several additional documents as attachments and exhibits to his complaint.[5] (Docs. 5, 11, 13.) On June 26, 2014, Wal-Mart filed a motion to dismiss Mejia's complaint for failure to state a claim. (Doc. 15.) Mejia responded (Doc. 17), Wal-Mart replied (Doc. 18), and Mejia filed a further response (Doc. 19). Wal-Mart's motion is now ripe for consideration.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Standard of Review

A court must construe pro se litigants' complaints liberally, thus permitting a potentially meritorious case to develop if one is present. Hill v. Braxton , 277 F.3d 701, 707 (4th Cir. 2002) (citing Haines v. Kerner , 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972)). However, this rule does not require that the court become an advocate for the unrepresented party. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. , 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990). "Only those questions which are squarely presented to a court may properly be addressed." Id.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) provides that a complaint must contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter... to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible "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 . (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss "challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint considered with the assumption that the facts alleged are true." Francis v. Giacomelli , 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (internal citations omitted).

B. Failure to Accommodate

Mejia first asserts that Wal-Mart failed to reasonably accommodate his disability. (Compl. at 3.) Wal-Mart counters that Mejia fails to state a claim for reasonable accommodation ...


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