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Sutton v. Globe Energy Services, LLC

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

July 19, 2018



         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss brought under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and filed on October 27, 2017. (Doc. 3). Plaintiff filed his response on December 12, 2017, and Defendant filed its reply on December 21, 2017. (Docs. 11 and 12). Having reviewed the parties' briefing, the relevant law, and Plaintiff's “Complaint for Employment Discrimination” (“Complaint”), (Doc. 1) at 6, the Court grants Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff alleges in his Complaint that Defendant employed him from June 21, 2012, until January 9, 2015. (Doc. 1) at 6, ¶ 5. Sometime in November 2014, Plaintiff became ill and was later diagnosed with a ruptured ulcer in his abdomen. Id. at 7, ¶ 6. Plaintiff then underwent emergency surgery. Id. at 7, ¶ 7. Defendant placed Plaintiff on paid leave while Plaintiff recovered from his surgery and until Plaintiff returned to work on January 8, 2015. Id. at 7, ¶¶ 8-9. Plaintiff returned to work with doctor's orders to perform light work duty, which Plaintiff provided to his supervisor. Id. at 7, ¶ 10.

         When Plaintiff returned to work on January 8, 2015, Defendant tasked him with lifting tools weighing over 100 pounds and traveling to four or five locations on rough roads. Id. at 7, ¶ 11. At some point that day, Plaintiff informed his supervisor that he could not make any more trips. Id. at 7, ¶ 12. Plaintiff's supervisor directed Plaintiff to obtain a doctor's note if he could not complete a full day's work. Id. That same day, Plaintiff visited his doctor who gave Plaintiff a note explaining that Plaintiff should lift no more than ten pounds and avoid jarring movements. Id. at 7, ¶ 13. Plaintiff returned to work later that day but was unable to give the note to his supervisor. Id. at 7, ¶ 14. Instead, Plaintiff was instructed to meet with Glenn Coates the next morning. Id.

         The next day, on January 9, 2015, Plaintiff met with Mr. Coates, who asked Plaintiff to resign. Id. at 7, ¶ 15. Plaintiff refused, and Defendant thereafter fired him. Id. at 8, ¶ 16. At some later time, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Id. at 8, ¶ 17. On April 26, 2017, he received a Notice of Right to Sue. Id. at 8, ¶ 18.

         On July 25, 2017, Plaintiff filed his Complaint in the Fifth Judicial District Court, claiming that Defendant discriminated against him because of his alleged disability. (Doc. 1) at 7-10, ¶¶ 6-36. He asserted three claims against Defendant: violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) (“Claim I”); violation of the New Mexico Human Rights Act (“NMHRA”) (“Claim II”); and violation of the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) (“Claim III”). Id. at 8-10, ¶¶ 20-36. Defendant removed the matter to this Court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction related to the ADA and FMLA claims and supplemental jurisdiction over the NMHRA claim. (Doc. 1).

         II. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss

         Defendant contends that Plaintiff fails to state a claim for relief under the ADA, the NMHRA, and the FMLA. Specifically, Defendant argues that with respect to the ADA claim, Plaintiff fails to allege the existence of a disability or that Plaintiff was qualified, with or without reasonable accommodation, to perform the essential functions of his job; that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies under the NMHRA; and, that Plaintiff's FMLA claims fall outside the statute of limitations.[1] In response to the ADA arguments, Plaintiff argues (1) the existence of an actual disability, that (2) Defendant regarded him as having a physical impairment, and that (3) Defendant failed to provide reasonable accommodation. Plaintiff also argues that he filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC and received a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC, thereby exhausting administrative remedies under the NMHRA. Plaintiff did not respond to Defendant's FMLA argument. In the alternative, Plaintiff seeks leave to amend his Complaint if the Court finds his allegations insufficient. The Court first addresses the Motion to Dismiss as to Claims I and III under Rule 12(b)(6), and then Claim II under Rule 12(b)(1).

         III. Standard of Review

         A. Rule 12(b)(6)

         When ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all well-pleaded allegations as true and must view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Zinermon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113, 118 (1990); Swanson v. Bixler, 750 F.2d 810, 813 (10th Cir. 1984). Rule 12(b)(6) requires that a complaint set forth the grounds of a plaintiff's entitlement to relief through more than labels, conclusions and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to state a plausible claim of relief. Id. at 570. A claim is facially plausible if the plaintiff pleads facts sufficient for the court to reasonably infer that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id.

         B. Rule 12(b)(1)

         “Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.” Henry v. Office of Thrift Supervision, 43 F.3d 507, 511 (10th Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). The Court presumes “that a cause lies outside [of its] limited jurisdiction” until the party asserting jurisdiction proves otherwise. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994) (citations omitted). In cases like this, in which a Rule 12(b)(1) motion “challenges the facts upon which subject matter depends, a district court may not presume the truthfulness of the complaint's factual allegations.” Sizova v. Nat. Inst. of Standards & Tech., 282 F.3d 1320, 1324 (10th Cir. 2002) (internal quotation ...

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