United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division
TONYA C. BINIARIS, Plaintiff,
HANSEL UNION CONSULTING, PLLC, Defendant.
REBECCA BEACH SMITH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the court on Defendant Hansel Union
Consulting, PLLC's ("Hansel") Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings ("Motion"), ECF No. 12,
and accompanying Memorandum in Support, ECF No. 13, filed on
April 17, 2019. Plaintiff Tonya C. Biniaris
("Biniaris") filed a Response on May 1, 2019, ECF
No. 14, and Hansel filed a Reply on May 7, 2019, ECF No. 15.
The matter has now been fully briefed and is ripe for
review. For the reasons below, Hansel's Motion
is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.
following facts are taken from Biniaris' First Amended
Complaint, ECF No. 5, and for the purposes of this Motion are
accepted as true. See, e.g.,
Venkatraman v. REI Sys., Inc., 417 F.3d 418, 420
(4th Cir. 2005). Biniaris was employed by Hansel from July
31, 2017 through March 13, 2018, and in her most recent
position at Hansel she worked as a physical therapist. Am.
Compl. ¶ 11. Hansel is a professional limited liability
company that provides physical therapy and consultation
services. Id. ¶¶ 7, 12. In its business,
Hansel receives payments via Medicare and Medicaid.
Id. ¶ 34.
February 13, 2018, Biniaris suffered a lower back injury
while on the job at Hansel. Id. ¶ 16. The lower
back injury "substantially limited one or more of
[Biniaris's] major life activities." Id. On
February 20, 2018, Hansel assigned Biniaris to a revised work
schedule due to her injury. Id. ¶ 18. Biniaris
alleges that, even after her injury, her performance
continued to meet or exceed Hansel's expectations.
Id. ¶ 15.
February 20 and 26, 2018, Biniaris requested an accommodation
from Hansel that would allow her to continue performing
"physical" consulting work, which Biniaris alleges
is an essential function of her job as a physical therapist.
Id. ¶¶ 19-20. Hansel
refused to accommodate Biniaris, and informed her that she
could only return to her "regular" employment
duties, if she was "released with no restrictions."
Id. ¶ 48-4 9.
March 13, 2018, Hansel terminated Biniaris. Id.
¶ 24. Hansel's stated reasons for terminating
Biniaris were that she had taken patient files outside of the
office, and that she had made out-of-office patient visits.
Id. ¶ 26. Biniaris alleges that she had
permission to conduct out-of-of fice patient visits.
Id. ¶ 28. She further alleges that at least two
other Hansel employees took patient files out of the office,
and said employees were not terminated by Hansel.
Id. ¶ 27. Biniaris asserts that Hansel's
stated reasons for her termination are pretextual, and that
she was actually terminated due to her back injury.
Id. ¶ 51. Due to her termination, Biniaris has
suffered "lost or diminished earnings, pain and
suffering, or mental and emotional distress."
Id. ¶ 29.
4, 2018, Biniaris filed a charge of disability discrimination
with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission PEEOC")
. Id. ¶ 9. On May 31, 2018, the EEOC issued
Biniaris a Notice of Right to Sue. Id. ¶ 10. On
August 29, 2018, Biniaris filed her Complaint in this court,
ECF No. 1, and on December 11, 2018, she filed her First
Amended Complaint, ECF No. 5. Biniaris claims that
Hansel's actions have violated the Rehabilitation Act of
1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 ("Rehabilitation Act" or
"Act"), and the Virginians with Disabilities Act,
Va. Code § 51.5-41. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 39, 56.
filed an Answer to Biniaris's First Amended Complaint on
December 26, 2018. ECF No. 8. A Rule 16(b) Scheduling
Conference was held on January 28, 2019, at which time it was
ordered that Biniaris's discovery shall be completed by
June 11, 2019; Hansel's discovery shall be completed by
July 9, 2019; and trial shall begin on August 20, 2019. ECF
No. 11. On April 17, 2019, Hansel filed the instant Motion
and accompanying Memorandum in Support, claiming that
Biniaris's First Amended Complaint should be dismissed in
its entirety pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(c). ECF Nos. 12, 13.
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), "[a]fter the
pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a
party may move for judgment on the pleadings."
Id. In considering a motion under Rule 12(c), the
court applies the same legal standard as it does in a motion
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Walker v.
Kelly, 589 F.3d 127, 139 (4th Cir. 2009) (citing
Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th
Cir. 1999)) .
to Rule 12(b) (6), a complaint must be dismissed when a
plaintiff's allegations fail to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. Id. "To survive a motion
to dismiss, 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)). To evaluate
a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court accepts facts alleged in
the complaint as true, and views those facts in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff. E.g.,
Venkatraman, 417 F.3d at 420.
advances three arguments in support of its Motion.
See ECF No. 13. First, Hansel argues that
Biniaris's Rehabilitation Act claim must be dismissed
because the Rehabilitation Act does not apply to Hansel.
Id. at 4. Second, Hansel argues that, if the court
concludes that the Rehabilitation Act applies to Hansel, then
Biniaris's Virginians with Disabilities Act claim must be
dismissed, because the Virginians with Disabilities Act does
not apply to employers already covered by the Rehabilitation
Act. Id. at 5 n. 4. Third, Hansel argues that both
of Biniaris's claims should be dismissed because
Biniaris's First Amended Complaint contains only
conclusory allegations, and does not sufficiently allege ...