United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division
GLEN E. CONRAD SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Donaldson filed this action under the Americans with
Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C.
§§ 12101-12213, against Trae-Fuels, LLC
("Trae-Fuels") and EnviroTech Services, Inc.
("EnviroTech"). The defendants have moved to
dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below,
the court will deny the defendants' motion.
following factual allegations, taken from the plaintiffs
complaint, are accepted as true for purposes of the pending
motion. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 924
(2007) ("[When ruling on a defendant's motion to
dismiss, a judge must accept as true all of the factual
allegations contained in the complaint.").
October 17, 2013, Donaldson began working as the financial
controller of Trae-Fuels, a limited liability company in
Bumpass, Virginia that manufacturers heating pellets. Compl.
¶¶ 13, 15, Dkt. No. 1. Donaldson reported directly
to John Frink, the general manager of Trae-Fuels, and Kevin
Whyrick, the chief financial officer of EnviroTech,
Trae-Fuel's managing member. Id. ¶¶
17, 30-31. Chris LaRocco, EnviroTech's corporate
strategist, and Beth Aleman, its director of human resources,
also supervised the performance of certain duties assigned to
Donaldson. Id. ¶¶ 35-36.
of 2014, Donaldson was diagnosed with "inoperable
Adenocarcinoma pancreatic cancer (Stage IV)."
Id. ¶ 37. Of the two primary types of
pancreatic cancer, Adenocarcinoma is "the deadlier and
more common." Id. ¶ 38. "In 2014, 75%
of individuals with Adenocarcinoma pancreatic cancer died
within one year of diagnosis, with only 6% having a 5-year
life expectancy survival rate." Id. ¶ 39.
learning of the diagnosis, Donaldson's supervisors
expressed concern about his ability to work. For instance,
LaRocco told Donaldson that his aunt had died from pancreatic
cancer, and he inquired as to whether Donaldson would want to
work part-time as a result of the diagnosis. Id.
¶¶ 51-52. On another occasion, Whyrick asked
Donaldson if his particular type of cancer was "slow or
aggressive." Id. ¶ 55.
19, 2014, Donaldson met with an oncologist. Id.
¶ 42. During the appointment, Donaldson's
temperature was elevated. Id. ¶ 43.
Consequently, Donaldson was hospitalized for a few days.
Id. On the day that he was discharged from the
hospital, Whyrick informed Donaldson by telephone that the
defendants had "hired a temporary accountant to assist
[him] while he was sick, since [Donaldson] was the only
accountant in the Trae-Fuels office." Id.
thereafter, Donaldson left on a pre-planned trip to Utah to
adopt a newborn child. Id. ¶ 45. Upon returning
to work on May 27, 2014, Donaldson began to train the
temporary accountant at Whyrick's direction. Id.
¶ 46. However, because the plaintiff was
"functioning well," the defendants decided to
release the temporary accountant shortly thereafter.
Id. ¶ 47. Aleman acknowledged that the hiring
of the temporary accountant was "premature," since
Donaldson "had continued to perform his duties well
despite his health issues." Id. ¶ 49.
to his cancer diagnosis, Donaldson never received any
negative feedback or reviews regarding his job performance.
Id. ¶ 59. However, within a few weeks of being
informed of the diagnosis, Aleman and LaRocco met with
Donaldson and critically questioned his decision to leave his
company cell phone at the office while he was in Utah.
Id.¶¶ 60-63. At the beginning of the
meeting, Aleman indicated that she was
'"documenting"' their conversation.
Id. ¶ 62. Donaldson advised Aleman and LaRocco
that the phone was not working properly and that he had left
it with the office administrator to be repaired while he was
gone. Id. ¶¶ 64-65. Donaldson "also
explained that his supervisors and colleagues knew he was
available on his personal phone and that his home, company
cell, and personal cell phone numbers were listed on the
company contact list available to all employees."
Id. ¶ 66. "In fact, Plaintiffs supervisors
had called him on his personal cell phone many times before
this incident." Id. ¶ 67.
June or early July 2014, Donaldson advised the defendants
that he would be undergoing chemotherapy at Johns Hopkins in
Baltimore, Maryland. Id. ¶ 76. Donaldson
provided a copy of his chemotherapy schedule to Frink,
Whyrick, and Trae-Fuel's office manager. Id.
¶ 78. The schedule consisted of chemotherapy on
"two out of every three Fridays." Id.
¶ 77. Donaldson advised Frink that he intended to
maintain a full, forty-hour workweek while undergoing
treatment. Id. ¶ 79. Frink subsequently
informed Donaldson that the defendants had "agreed to
this plan." Id. ¶ 80.
started chemotherapy on July 3, 2014. Id. ¶ 76.
He handled the treatment "extremely well" and
"experienced no negative symptoms." Id.
¶ 82. As a result, he "was able to maintain a forty
to forty-five-hour work week, even on weeks that he underwent
on August 20, 2014, less than two months after he began
chemotherapy, Frink and Aleman informed Donaldson that he was
being terminated and should not return to work. Id.
¶ 83. "Aleman provided no explanation for the
firing, but began the conversation by saying 'We are not
letting you go because you are sick.'"
Id.¶ 84. When Donaldson
inquired as to the reason for his termination, "Aleman
said only 'I think you know what it is'" and did
not respond any further. Id.¶
86. Prior to his termination, none of Donaldson's
supervisors voiced any concerns regarding his job
performance. Id. ¶¶ 88-90.