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Jones v. Wal-Mart Stores

May 19, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas A. Varlan United States District Judge



This civil action is before the Court on Defendants Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P. and Wal-Mart Store #2065's (hereinafter collectively referred to as "Defendants") Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. [Doc. 4.] Plaintiff Kenneth D. Jones ("Plaintiff"), who is proceeding pro se, has not responded to Defendants' motion. The Court has carefully reviewed the pending motion, supporting memorandum, and underlying pleadings in light of the applicable law. [Docs. 3, 4, 5.] For the reasons set forth herein, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment will be denied.

I. Relevant Facts

In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants unlawfully discriminated against him under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") by failing to provide reasonable accommodation for his hearing impairment sufficient to allow him to understand and perform essential functions of his job with Defendants. [Doc. 3 at ¶ 2.] Plaintiff's complaint outlines several alleged unlawful actions by Defendants, including a failure to provide certified/qualified interpreters for employee orientation and subsequent training programs, a failure to provide closed-captioning for videos during training programs, and failure to provide other deaf-appropriate accommodations so that Plaintiff could learn Defendants' policies and procedures. [Id.] As a result of Defendants' alleged actions, Plaintiff claims that he (1) was unable to apply for or otherwise seek bonuses and/or raises; (2) was unable to conform with employer drug policies; (3) lost his job as a result of marijuana usage; (4) unable to properly file workplace injury claims; (5) suffers from continued pain as a result of limited treatment for an on-the-job injury due to communication problems with company doctors; and (6) suffers from other emotional and physical distress. [Doc. 3 at ¶ 3.]

On September 7, 2007, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") mailed Plaintiff a "Notice of Suit Rights," which stated that "[y]our lawsuit must be filed WITHIN 90 DAYS of your receipt of this Notice." [Doc. 3-2 at 7 (emphasis in original).] According to Plaintiff, he received this notice "between September 7, 2007, when it was mailed by the EEOC, and September 17, 2007, when a copy of the Notice was received by facsimile at the Knoxville Center for the Deaf." [Doc. 3 at ¶ 1.] Plaintiff filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis on December 7, 2007. The application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis was granted on December 17, 2007, and Plaintiff's complaint was filed the same day.

II. Standard of Review

A. Motion to Dismiss - Rule 12(b)(6)

A party may move to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). In determining whether to grant a motion to dismiss, all well-pleaded allegations must be taken as true and be construed most favorably toward the non-movant. Trzebuckowski v. City of Cleveland, 319 F.3d 853, 855 (6th Cir. 2003). While a court may not grant a Rule 12(b)(6) motion based on disbelief of a complaint's factual allegations, Lawler v. Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196, 1199 (6th Cir. 1990), the court "need not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences." Morgan v. Church's Fried Chicken, 829 F.2d 10, 12 (6th Cir. 1987). The Sixth Circuit has made it clear that despite the liberal system of notice pleading, conclusory allegations are not enough to survive Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal. See MacDermid v. Discover Fin. Servs, 488 F.3d 721, 733 (6th Cir. 2007). The issue is not whether the plaintiff will prevail, but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support his or her claim. Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 377 (6th Cir. 1995). Consequently, a complaint will not be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) unless there is no law to support the claims made, the facts alleged are insufficient to state a claim, or there is an insurmountable bar on the face of the complaint.

B. Motion for Summary Judgment - Rule 56(c)

Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), summary judgment is proper if "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The moving party bears the burden of establishing that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 n.2 (1986). The court must view the facts and all inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd., v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Burchett v. Kiefer, 310 F.3d 937, 942 (6th Cir. 2002). To establish a genuine issue as to the existence of a particular element, the non-moving party must point to evidence in the record upon which a reasonable jury could find in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The genuine issue must also be material; that is, it must involve facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id.

The judge's function at the point of summary judgment is limited to determining whether sufficient evidence has been presented to make the issue of fact a proper jury question. Id. at 249. The judge does not weigh the evidence, judge the credibility of witnesses, nor determine the truth of the matter. Id. Thus, "[t]he inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is the need for trial - whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Id. at 250.

III. Analysis

A. Timeliness of ...

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