United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
C. Mullen United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court upon Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss (Doc. No. 16) pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This Motion has been fully
briefed and is ripe for disposition. For the following
reasons, the Motion is granted in part, denied in part.
Hazel (“Plaintiff”) initiated this claim against
Caldwell County Schools and Caldwell County Board of
Education (“Defendants”) alleging (1) disability
discrimination in violation of the ADA, (2) retaliation in
violation of the ADA, and (3) wrongful discharge in violation
of the public policy of North Carolina. Plaintiff voluntarily
dismissed her third claim for wrongful discharge.
to the Complaint, Plaintiff was employed by Caldwell County
Schools as an Exceptional Children's Teacher (“EC
Teacher”). As an EC Teacher, Plaintiff instructed
students with disabilities, maintained IEPs, and provided
guidance and education to her students. Plaintiff suffers
from hearing loss and regularly wears a hearing aid in each
ear. Despite the hearing aids, Plaintiff suffers from
significant hearing loss when substantial background noise is
present and in larger and open areas. This hearing loss
impacts her ability to hear and understand speakers.
alleges that her hearing disability can be reasonably
accommodated with the aid of various devices. Specifically,
Plaintiff claims to have successfully managed the disability
in the past with devices such as an FM Listening System and a
alleges that she provided information concerning her
disability and the accommodations she required at the time of
her hiring. She followed up approximately one month later,
sending reports of her hearing loss and prior recommendations
for accommodations to the appropriate parties. These parties
included the principal, the director for students with
disabilities, and the audiologist for Caldwell County
Schools. Shortly after her request in September, Defendant
arranged for an audiologist to observe Plaintiff in the
classroom. Despite that observation, no one ever followed up
with Plaintiff concerning her disability. In late January,
the audiologist again observed Plaintiff in the classroom.
February 22, 2016, at the direction of her doctor, Plaintiff
took one week's leave from work. Plaintiff alleges that
this leave was due to symptoms stemming from the stress
caused by months of teaching without the aids she requested,
and from her supervisor's unwillingness to assist her or
otherwise engage in the interactive process. On February 29,
2016, Plaintiff met with a representative with human
resources (“HR”). During that meeting, an HR
representative allegedly told Plaintiff that her only option
was retirement. Plaintiff subsequently retired.
filed suit on June 29, 2017, alleging that Defendants failed
to accommodate her disability and forced her into an
Standard of Review
purpose of a motion to dismiss is to test the legal
sufficiency of the complaint. Edwards v. City of
Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). A
complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). This
plausibility standard requires “more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
“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.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550
U.S. at 570). A claim has facial plausibility “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. (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Conclusory allegations or
legal conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of
truth. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681.
Caldwell County Schools
brought this suit against both Caldwell County Schools, a
school district, and the Caldwell County Board of Education.
Under North Carolina law, however, the local board of
education-not the local school district-is the entity with
legal capacity to sue and be sued. N.C. Gen. Stat. §
115C-40; see also Miller v. Henderson, 322 S.E.2d
594, 598 ( N.C. Ct. App. 1984). Because the Caldwell County