United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
A. Gibney, Jr., United States District Judge
case arises from firefighter David Webb's request for an
employment accommodation due to his post-traumatic stress
disorder ("PTSD"). Webb filed a complaint against
Chesterfield Fire and Emergency Medical Services
("Chesterfield Fire"), alleging failure to
accommodate under the Americans with Disabilities Act
("ADA"). Chesterfield Fire moved to dismiss
Webb's complaint for failure to state a claim. Because
Webb does not need to plead all of the essential functions of
his work as a fireman, and he sufficiently pleads the other
elements of his ADA claim, the Court will deny the motion to
FACTS ALLEGED IN THE COMPLAINT
began working as a firefighter with Chesterfield Fire in
2003. In late 2015 or early 2016, Webb began to suffer from
PTSD. His doctor informed him that some symptoms, such as
insomnia, depression, and panic attacks, would be very severe
for three to five years, and that extended periods of
downtime or idleness would aggravate his PTSD.
at Chesterfield Fire regularly work 24-hour shifts, which
results in extended periods of downtime at work. Webb
informed Chesterfield Fire that his doctor recommended that
he stop working 24-hour shifts to avoid aggravating his PTSD.
Webb asked Chesterfield Fire to assign him to a "day
work" shift where he would work normal, daytime hours
adding up to 40 hours per week. (Dk. No. 1, at 3.)
Chesterfield Fire agreed, and Webb worked "day
work" hours without incident until late 2017.
time, Chesterfield Fire switched Webb back to 24-hour shifts.
Webb reminded Chesterfield Fire about his PTSD and that
working 24-hour shifts could aggravate his symptoms. His
supervisor refused to schedule Webb for a "day
work" shift, but did not provide a reason. Instead, his
supervisor asked, "What are we to do with the next 25
employees who need accommodations?" (Dk. No. 1, at 4.)
Thus, starting in December, 2017, Webb returned to a 24-hour
shift schedule indefinitely. Chesterfield Fire placed another
fireman on the "day work" shift to replace Webb.
Webb continues to work for Chesterfield Fire.
February, 2018, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
("EEOC") issued a notice of right to sue. Webb then
brought this action against Chesterfield Fire under the ADA
for failing to accommodate his PTSD. Webb also seeks punitive
Failure to Accommodate in Violation of the ADA
the ADA, an employer discriminates against an employee by
failing to "mak[e] reasonable accommodations to the
known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise
qualified individual with a disability . . . unless [the
employer] can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose
an undue hardship on the operation of the business[.]"
42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(5)(A).
a failure to accommodate claim, a plaintiff establishes a
prima facie case by showing that: (1) he was an individual
who had a disability within the meaning of the statute; (2)
the employer had notice of his disability; (3) with
reasonable accommodation he could perform the essential
functions of the position; and (4) the employer refused to
make such accommodation." Orne v. Christie, No.
3:12-cv-290-JAG, 2013 WL 85171, at *4 (E.D. Va. Jan. 7, 2013)
(citing Rhoads v. FDIC, 257 F.3d 373, 387 n.11 (4th
Fire only disputes the third element. In particular, it argues
that Webb did not allege any detail as to the essential
functions of his job, or that he could fulfill those
functions. Webb must plead that, as a "qualified
individual," he "with or without reasonable
accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the
employment position." 42 U.S.C. § 12111(8). Instead
of requiring ADA plaintiffs to prove their essential job
functions, the Fourth Circuit has required plaintiffs to
demonstrate that they can perform those essential functions.
See Myers v. Hose, 50 F.3d 278, 281 (4th Cir. 1995)
(requiring only proof that the plaintiff "[was] able to
perform the essential functions of the job" on a motion
for summary judgment).
this Court has not required plaintiffs to allege their
essential job functions to survive a motion to dismiss.
See Jones v. HCA, 16 F.Supp.3d 622, 632 (E.D. Va.
2014) ("[The plaintiff] did not set forth the
'essential functions' of his job, but [the defendant]
has not provided any case law that suggests he must at this
stage."). Instead, the Court has focused on whether a
plaintiff has alleged that he could perform the essential
functions. Id.; see also Sumner v. Mary Washington
Healthcare Physicians, No. 3:15-cv-42, 2016 WL 5852856,
at *6 (E.D. Va. Sept. 30, 2016) (concentrating on the
plaintiffs ability to perform his essential job functions).
Some district courts have agreed with the Court's
approach, e.g., EEOC v. Advanced Home Care, Inc.,
305 F.Supp.3d 672, 676 (M.D. N.C. 2018) (declining to require
allegations of essential job functions), while others have
not, e.g., Munoz v. Bait. Cty., Md, 2012 WL 3038602,
No. RDB-11-02693, at *7 (D. Md. July 25, 2012) (dismissing an
ADA claim when the plaintiff failed to define the essential
functions of his position). At the motion to dismiss stage,
factual allegations that a plaintiff can perform his
essential job functions suffice.
although Webb does not allege the essential functions of his
position as a firefighter, he does not need to. He
sufficiently alleges that he can perform those essential
functions. See Jones, 16 F.Supp.3d at 632.
Specifically, Webb says that he has worked as a firefighter
for Chesterfield Fire since 2003. He continued to perform his
duties when he began suffering from PTSD in 2015 or 2016. For
the first two years following his ...