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Cooper v. Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Jail Authority

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Harrisonburg Division

October 31, 2017



          Michael F. Urbanski, Chief United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the court on defendant's Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 4, in which defendant asks the court to dismiss plaintiffs Complaint (the "Complaint" or "Compl."), ECF No. 1, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and plaintiffs Motion for Leave to File EEOC Documents to Support Opposition to Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 17, in which plaintiff asks the court to consider supplemental Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") documents when adjudicating the motion to dismiss. For the reasons set forth below, the court will DENY the motion to dismiss and DENY AS MOOT the motion to supplement.

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff William Todd Cooper ("Cooper") filed the present lawsuit against defendant Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Jail Authority ("RSW") for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the "ADA"). Cooper contends that RSW improperly denied his application for a custodial officer position because it regarded him as having a disability when, in fact, he did not have a limiting disability.

         On January 13, 2014, Cooper applied for a jail custodial officer position with RSW.[1]On March 20, 2014, Deputy Superintendant Russ Kirkinson ("Kirkinson") told Cooper that when Cooper first applied, Kirkinson thought Cooper would be one person he would hire for the position, but he would not hire him because he only had one eye. Kirkinson suggested that Cooper apply for a janitorial position, walked Cooper to the secretary, and told the secretary to change his application to janitor.

         On April 2, 2014, RSWs chief financial personnel officer asked Cooper what Kirkinson had told him. On April 7, 2014, the hiring sergeant asked Cooper to undergo a background check. The next day, Cooper was asked to take a full physical with Dr. Kevin Culbert, RSWs occupational health consultant.

         On April 8, 2014, after a five-minute meeting with Cooper, Dr. Culbert opined that Cooper was "not likely" to meet the physical requirements of the job. The examination consisted of Dr. Culbert holding up a finger in Cooper's peripheral vision. Despite Cooper reporting he could see Dr. Culbert wiggling his finger, Dr. Culbert said he did not believe Cooper and drew his negative conclusion without conducting any further examination. Dr. Culbert told Cooper if he did not agree, he should see an ophthalmologist.

         On April 11, 2014, RSW conditionally offered Cooper a position contingent upon passing a medical examination by a licensed ophthalmologist. RSW paid for Cooper to visit Dr. Anthony Viti, a licensed ophthalmologist. Dr. Viti concluded that Cooper's visual field was full both to confrontation and formal visual fields and that he saw the nasal and temporal side of the world. Dr. Viti found that Cooper was fully able to obtain an unrestricted driver's license. The only recommendation he made was that Cooper wear safety glasses as a preventative measure.

         Cooper was also examined by Dr. Sona Kalara and Dr. Frank Rueling, both of whom were licensed ophthalmologists. Dr. Kalara opined that she had full confidence that Cooper's peripheral vision was sufficient for any task that he would encounter. Dr. Rueling opined that Cooper had excellent vision without anomalies and met the requirements to legally operate a motor vehicle, the standard most often used to evaluate visual functionality.

         On June 10, 2014, RSWs occupational health doctor rescinded the offer of employment, stating that "[p]reviously submitted statements by optometrist and ophthalmologist should be disregarded." RSW concluded that Cooper was medically unqualified because "[m]onocular vision is a disqualifying condition" for a corrections officer according to the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine's Guidance for the Medical Evaluation of Law Enforcement Officers.

         On April 23, 2014, Cooper filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC (the "EEOC Charge"), ECF No. 5 Ex. A, which read in full:

On January 13, 2014, I applied for the position of Jail Custodian Officer with the RSW Regional Jail.
On March 20, 2014, I was informed by Russ Kirkison [sic], Deputy Superintendant, that I did not qualify for the Jail Custodian Officer position because of my impairment. After I contacted the County Building about my situation, on April 7, 2014, Investigating Hiring Sergeant, Chris Williams, asked me to come in to sign the documents for my background check. On April 8, 2014, while I was doing the physical exam, I was failed by the RSW Regional Jail doctor, Kevin Culbert. On April 9, 2014, I was examined by a specialized physician. On April 10, 2014, I submitted to RSW Regional Jail the documents I was provided by the specialized physician which indicated that my impairment would not impede any task that I may encounter. I am aware that the School for Jail Custodian Officer started on April 21, 2014.
I believe I have been discriminated against based on my disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities ...

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