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Walsh v. Greater Richmond Association For Retarded Citizens

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

December 14, 2018




         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Greater Richmond Association for Retarded Citizens ("GRARC"), John Walker, and Charles Story, Ill's (collectively, "Defendants") Partial Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint (the "Motion to Dismiss"). (ECF No. 7.) Plaintiff Virginia Walsh responded, (ECF No. 11), and Defendants replied, (ECF No. 12). This matter is ripe for disposition. The Court dispenses with oral argument because the materials before it adequately present the facts and legal contentions, and argument would not aid the decisional process. The Court exercises jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331.[1] For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny the Motion to Dismiss.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background[2]

         A. Procedural Background

         On May 1, 2018, Walsh filed a two-count Complaint against Defendants in this Court. (Compl. 9, 11, ECF No. 1.) In Count One, she claims disparate treatment by GRARC, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. (the "ADA"). Count Two alleges wrongful termination against all Defendants, in violation of the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq. (the "FMLA").[3] On May 23, 2018, Defendants filed the Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), [4]seeking dismissal of Count One for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

         B. Walsh's Employment Background

         Walsh's claims arise from the termination of her employment with GRARC. She began working with GRARC in April 2012 and GRARC terminated her employment on September 20, 2016. Throughout her tenure with GRARC, Walsh "received positive performance evaluations, promotions, and increases to her annual salary." (Compl. ¶ 19, ECF No. 1.) Walsh claims that "[h]er superiors were uniformly pleased with her performance." (Id.)

         In 2015, Walsh became the step-mother to a five-year-old girl, M, who had been the victim of sexual abuse and required treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. Due to M's diagnosis, Walsh required "intermittent leave from work to care for M and allow M to receive the medical treatment necessary." (Id. ¶ 26.) Specifically, M required "weekly treatment sessions with a therapist. . . between August 17, 2015 and September 26, 2016." (Id. f 28.) Because the 37 therapy sessions took place at 4:00 p.m., Walsh was "absent from work for a few hours on the day[s] of the treatment." (Id. K 29, 30.)

         In July 2015, Walsh informed her supervisors[5] of her family's situation. She states that "[b]oth managers seemed very supportive and understanding and expressed to Walsh that they understood the emotional impact such a traumatic event would have on M and her family." (Id. ¶ 25.) She also asserts that she "kept her supervisors ... informed of M's treatment and the fact that Walsh would need to leave early approximately once a week." (Id. ¶ 27.)

         A year later, in July 2016, "Defendants suddenly put Walsh on a Performance Improvement Plan." (Id. ¶ 32.) But during an August 26, 2016 meeting, the next month, Walsh alleges that she received positive feedback from Story, the Vice President of GRARC's Human Resources. On September 20, 2016, less than one month after the meeting with Story, GRARC terminated Walsh's employment. During the September 20, 2016 meeting in which she was terminated, Story told Walsh: "'This doesn't have anything to do with you taking time off,' or words to that effect." (Id. ¶ 34 (quoting Story).) Walsh states that Walker agreed, saying, "that is correct." (Id. (quoting Walker).) According to Walsh, Defendants maintained that GRARC "had decided to make a change and that her leadership skills were not sufficient." (Id. ¶ 35.) Walsh maintains that she was terminated "because of [her] role as caretaker of her disabled daughter and because she had been taking intermittent FMLA leave." (Id. ¶ 38.)

         C. EEOC Filing

         On July 13, 2017, following her termination, Walsh, through the same counsel currently representing her, timely filed a charge of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "EEOC"). On July 25, 2017, the EEOC contacted Walsh's counsel to request a telephonic interview with Walsh. On July 27, 2017, the EEOC interviewed Walsh via a conference call which included Walsh, representatives of the EEOC, and Walsh's counsel.

         On August 8, 2017, two weeks after Walsh's EEOC interview, the EEOC issued Walsh's right-to-sue letter[6] (the "EEOC Notice" or "Notice"). Walsh maintains that neither she nor her counsel knew that the EEOC sent the EEOC Notice. Walsh asserts that the EEOC failed to send her or her counsel the EEOC Notice, and that neither ever received it.

         Walsh claims that she first learned that the EEOC issued its Notice nearly eight months after the EEOC says it sent the EEOC Notice, during an April 4, 2018 telephone call between an EEOC investigator and Walsh's counsel.[7] During a second phone call three days later, this time between the EEOC Director for the Richmond office and Walsh's counsel, Walsh learned "that the EEOC was looking into whether it could issue a new" right-to-sue letter. (Id. K 8e.) As of the May 1, 2018 filing date of her Complaint, Walsh states that "[n]either [Walsh] nor her counsel has heard anything else on the matter from the EEOC."[8] (Id. ¶ 8f.)

         II. Applicable Legal Standards

         A. Standard of Review: Rule 12(b)(6) Standard[9]

         "A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint; importantly, it does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (citing 5 A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1356 (1990)). In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations are taken as true and the complaint is viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993); see also Martin, 980 F.2d at 952. This principle applies only to factual allegations, however, and "a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "required only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (omission in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson,355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Plaintiffs cannot satisfy this standard with complaints containing only "labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Id. (citations omitted). Instead, a plaintiff must assert facts that rise above speculation and conceivability to those that "show" a claim that is "plausible on its face." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Therefore, in order for a claim or complaint to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, the ...

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