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Holmes v. General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems, Inc.

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

July 20, 2018

SHELIA HOLMES, Plaintiff,
v.
GENERAL DYNAMICS ORDNANCE AND TACTICAL SYSTEMS, INC., Defendant.

          RICHARD F. HAWKINS, III, THE HAWKINS LAW FIRM, P.C., RICHMOND, VIRGINIA, FOR PLAINTIFF; JOHN B. FLOOD, OGLETREE, DEAKINS, NASH, SMOAK & STEWART, PC, WASHINGTON, D.C., FOR DEFENDANT.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JAMES P. JONES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The plaintiff in this case claims that her former employer wrongfully terminated her, denied her a reasonable accommodation, and retaliated against her, all in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112-12117. For the reasons that follow, I will grant the defendant's partial Motion to Dismiss.

         I.

         The Amended Complaint alleges the following facts, which I must accept as true for purposes of deciding the Motion to Dismiss.

         The plaintiff, Shelia Holmes, was an employee of defendant General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems, Inc. (“General Dynamics”) from 1998 until June 2016. She worked at General Dynamics's Marion, Virginia, plant.

         Holmes has a congenital condition called brachymetatarsia, characterized by one or more abnormally short or overlapping toes. Wearing steel-toed shoes causes friction between her toes and ulcerations on her feet. She also has diabetes. Steel-toed shoes constrict her toes, causing swelling and dangerous circulation problems. Holmes's diabetes and brachymetatarsia interfere with her major life activities of walking and standing.

         Until 2013, Holmes wore tennis shoes or other loose-fitting shoes while working at General Dynamics. In 2013, General Dynamics told Holmes she would be required to wear steel-toed shoes. Holmes explained that she could not wear steel-toed shoes, provided documentation from her doctors, and requested an accommodation. She further informed General Dynamics that other employees working in the same area of the Marion, Virginia, plant did not wear steel-toed shoes.

         General Dynamics declined Holmes's accommodation request and did not allow her to return to work unless she wore steel-toed shoes. After attempting for some time to convince Holmes to wear steel-toed shoes, General Dynamics terminated Holmes effective June 1, 2016. Holmes learned of her termination by letter received June 3, 2016.

         Holmes filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), received a Right to Sue Letter on January 24, 2018, and thereafter timely filed her Complaint in this court. She asserts that General Dynamics violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by terminating her employment because of her disability (Count I), denying her a reasonable accommodation (Count II), and retaliating against her for exercising her rights under the ADA (Count III).

         The defendant has moved to dismiss Counts II and III of the Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.[1] The Motion to Dismiss has been fully briefed and is now ripe for decision.[2]

         II.

         In order to survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a “complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, 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 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.” Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Further, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678. “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Id. at 679.

         In the context of employment discrimination claims, “a plaintiff is not required to plead facts that constitute a prima facie case” in order to survive a motion to dismiss. Coleman v. Md. Ct. of Appeals, 626 F.3d 187, 190 (4th Cir. 2010) (citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 510-15 (2002)). Nevertheless, a complaint's “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a ...


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