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Rose v. Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

October 29, 2019

DORIEN GREYSON ROSE, Plaintiff,
v.
BAPTIST CHILDREN'S HOMES OF NORTH CAROLINA, JOHN ADAMICK, REGINA KEENER, RUSTY BUNKER, AMANDA PARTON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Catherine C. Eagles, District Judge.

         In August 2018, the Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina was looking for a married couple to provide live-in child care at the residential facility it operates in Thomasville, North Carolina. Plaintiff Dorien Rose and his wife Lorelei Rose applied. The positions came together: either both spouses would be hired, or neither would be. After a multi-stage interview process that included several inquiries about Mrs. Rose's hearing loss, neither was hired.

         After receiving a right-to-sue letter, Mr. Rose filed suit, alleging BCH and several individual BCH employees discriminated against him based on Mrs. Rose's disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The individual defendants move to dismiss; BCH moves to dismiss or, in the alternative, for judgment on the pleadings; and Mr. Rose moves to amend his complaint.

         Because the ADA does not permit individual liability, the claims against the individual defendants will be dismissed. As to BCH, Mr. Rose has alleged facts sufficient to state a claim in the proposed amended complaint, and it would not be futile for him to amend his complaint as proposed. Accordingly, the Court grants Mr. Rose's motion to amend his complaint and denies BCH's motion to dismiss as moot.

         FACTS ASSERTED IN THE COMPLAINT AND PROPOSED AMENDED COMPLAINT

         In August 2018, Mr. and Mrs. Rose applied for a position with BCH in response to BCH's job posting for “a Christian, married couple to serve as residential houseparents.” Doc. 21-3 at 2;[1] Doc. 2 at 8; Doc. 25 at p. 5 ¶ 1. Either both spouses would be hired, or neither. Doc. 2 at 8, 9; Doc. 25 at p. 5 ¶ 1, p. 7 ¶ 8. Daily responsibilities included “[p]rovid[ing] Christian Role Model and spiritual guidance and a Christian environment to include Daily Devotions and regular church attendance, ” as well as nearly three dozen other tasks which do not appear religious in nature. Doc. 21-3 at 2-3. The listed qualifications do not include any religious training or experience. Doc. 21-3 at 3.

         After Mr. and Mrs. Rose applied and had two interviews online, they came for an in-person interview. Doc. 25 at pp. 5-7 ¶¶ 3-8; Doc. 2 at 8-9. Mrs. Rose twice had to ask BCH interviewers to speak up, and one BCH representative, Rusty Bunker, asked questions about her hearing loss. Doc. 2 at 9; Doc. 25 at pp. 6-7 ¶ 8.

         In a follow-up conversation, Mr. Bunker told Mrs. Rose that BCH was “very, very interested” in the couple and had questions about Mrs. Rose's hearing loss and any needed accommodations. Doc. 2 at 10; Doc. 25 at pp. 9-11 ¶ 12. According to Mr. Rose's first complaint, Mrs. Rose “informed them that we had service dogs, but could tell that [there] would be an issue with them.” Doc. 2 at 10. According to the proposed amended complaint, Mrs. Rose told Mr. Bunker that the dogs are “hearing dogs for when someone is at the door or events take place outside that she cannot hear, ” and they are “mostly used when she is by herself.” Doc. 25 at p. 9 ¶ 12. Mrs. Rose told Mr. Bunker she was trying to get hearing aids; while visiting BCH, her hearing was a bit worse than usual due to congestion; and she was speaking with Mr. Bunker by phone “without any hearing accommodation.” Doc. 25 at pp. 9-10 ¶ 12. In addition, she told him “she is usually okay if the person she is talking to is looking at her;” that “she usually only has a problem with someone knocking at the door;” and that the BCH home's doorbells “should be fine for her hearing.” Doc. 25 at p. 10 ¶ 12. After Mr. Bunker inquired further about Mrs. Rose's service dogs, she told him that “if anything, they would be restricted to her room” and “that they are ADA dogs.” Doc. 25 at p. 10 ¶ 12.

         After the phone call, the Roses asked Mrs. Rose's mother if she could care for the dogs if they were hired. Doc. 25 at p. 11 ¶ 12. Later that same day, Mrs. Rose informed Mr. Bunker that “the dogs were no longer an issue, ” Doc. 2 at 10; Doc. 25 at p. 11 ¶ 12, and “[n]o accommodations will be needed.” Doc. 25 at p. 11 ¶ 12.

         Mr. Bunker and BCH's director of Human Resources, John Adamcik, called back the next day to discuss the dogs further. They focused on Mrs. Rose's ability to care for the children and on accommodations. Doc. 2 at 10; Doc. 25 at pp. 12-13 ¶ 13. Mrs. Rose repeated that she would not need accommodations and explained she had not taken the dogs with her when she was a house parent at the Arkansas Sheriff's Youth Ranch. Doc. 25 at pp. 12-13 ¶ 13. Mrs. Rose told Mr. Bunker and Mr. Adamcik that “she has functioned her entire life without having hearing aids, ” though she required accommodations in college to hear certain professors. Id. at p. 13 ¶ 13.

         Two weeks later, the director of BCH's Thomasville house, Regina Keener, called to say they had “decided to go in a different direction.” Id. at p. 14 ¶ 15; see also Doc. 2 at 11. She asked the Roses “to consider allowing them to call” if BCH has another opening. Doc. 25 at p. 14 ¶ 15; see also Doc. 2 at 11.

         Mr. Rose filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and later received his right-to-sue notice. Doc. 25 at pp. 14-15 ¶¶ 17, 19; see also Doc. 2 at 12-16 (Charge of Discrimination filed against BCH by Mr. Rose, and Dismissal and Notice of Rights from EEOC). Mr. Rose then timely filed this case.

         According to the proposed amended complaint, two months after this lawsuit was originally filed, Mrs. Rose-who also filed a charge with the EEOC and then a federal case[2]-received her complete EEOC file. Doc. 25 at p. 15 ¶ 18. In the file was an email by Ms. Keener dated November 13, 2018, apparently written after Mr. Bunker's conversation with Mrs. Rose about the service dogs and before Mrs. Rose rescinded her accommodation request related to the dogs. Id. at 21. Ms. Keener wrote that while the Roses “were our next choice to consider for employment, ” her hearing loss and need for accommodations were a surprise and that “I will need time to think about who we choose next.” Id.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Motion to Dismiss by Individual Defendants

         The BCH employees named as individual defendants in Mr. Rose's original complaint move to dismiss Mr. Rose's claims against them. There is no liability for individuals under the ADA, whether in their personal or official capacities. Swaim v. Westchester Acad., Inc., 170 F.Supp.2d 580, 583 (M.D. N.C. 2001); see also Woodbury v. Victory Van Lines, 286 F.Supp.3d 685, 693-94 (D. Md. 2017) (citing cases that interpret Title VII and ADA coextensively as to the definition of an “employer” that bears liability, which excludes individual supervisors). In Mr. Rose's proposed amended complaint, Doc. 25, he names only BCH as a defendant. The Court will grant the individual defendants' motion to dismiss the ADA claim with prejudice. Doc. 17.

         II. Motion to Amend Complaint by Mr. Rose

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2), “a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave, ” which the court “should freely give . . . when justice so requires.” “The Fourth Circuit has stated that leave to amend under Rule 15(a) should be denied only in three situations: when the opposing party would be prejudiced, when the amendment is sought in bad faith, or when the proposed amendment would be ...


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