United States District Court, D. Arizona
G. Campbell United States District Judge.
Plaintiff Charity Mitchell has filed a Third Amended
Complaint against Defendant American Airlines, Inc. alleging
a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act
(“ADA”) and breach of contract. Doc. 41.
Defendant has filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state
a claim. Doc. 45. The motion is fully briefed. Docs. 47, 48.
For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in
part and denied in part.
who suffers from a physical impairment that requires her to
use a “colostomy apparatus” and “medicines,
” began working for Defendant as a customer service
employee in Phoenix, Arizona in November 2010. Doc. 41
¶¶ 1-3. In order to get to her work station,
Plaintiff was required to pass through TSA security
screening. Id. ¶¶ 1-2. Plaintiff's
impairment required that a female TSA agent be available to
search her personal items and under her clothing.
Id. ¶ 3. But because a female TSA agent was not
always readily available, Plaintiff was late to her work
station on several occasions. Id. ¶¶ 2-3.
Plaintiff alleges she was harassed and disciplined for being
late. Id. ¶¶ 3-5.
January 2011, Plaintiff met with her supervisor, Steve Olson,
regarding her impairment and trouble getting through TSA
security. Id. ¶ 4. During the meeting, Mr.
Olson informed Plaintiff that it was just a matter of time
before she would no longer be employed with the company and
that perhaps she did not fit in at the Phoenix station.
Id. In March 2011, Plaintiff discussed the
difficulties she was experiencing with a human resources
representative. Id. ¶ 9. Mr. Olson responded
that Plaintiff should consider alternatives to her
employment. Id. Plaintiff was ultimately terminated.
Plaintiff alleges that these encounters and comments, and her
termination, were a direct result of her impairment and
associated personal needs while working. Id. ¶
5; Doc. 47 at 2.
successful motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) must show
either that the complaint lacks a cognizable legal theory or
fails to allege facts sufficient to support its theory.
Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d
696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). A complaint that sets forth a
cognizable legal theory will survive a motion to dismiss as
long as it contains “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) (citing Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim has
facial plausibility when “the plaintiff pleads factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (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.
plaintiff is proceeding pro se, factual allegations,
“however inartfully pleaded, ” are held “to
less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007). The rule of liberal construction of pleadings is
“particularly important in civil rights cases.”
Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1261 (9th Cir.
ADA Discrimination Claim.
Plaintiff's pleadings liberally, the Court understands
Plaintiff to be raising a claim of disability discrimination
under Title I of the ADA. 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112,
et seq. ADA discrimination claims are analyzed under
the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework,
which requires an employee to carry the initial burden of
establishing a prima facie case of discrimination. See
Raytheon Co. v. Hernandez, 540 U.S. 44 (2003). If the
employee meets this burden, the burden shifts to the employer
to articulate “a legitimate nondiscriminatory
reason” for the employee's discharge. Id.
at 50. To establish a prima facie case, Plaintiff must show
that: (1) she is disabled within the meaning of the ADA; (2)
she is otherwise qualified, meaning with or without
reasonable accommodation she is able to perform the essential
functions of her job; and (3) she suffered an adverse
employment action because of her disability. Samper v.
Providence St. Vincent Med. Ctr., 675 F.3d 1233, 1237
(9th Cir. 2012); 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112(a), (b)(5)(A).
Disabled Within the Meaning of the Act.
defines a “disability” as “a physical or
mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major
life activities of such individual; a record of such an
impairment; or being regarded as having such an
impairment.” 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1). According to
the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (“ADAAA”), the
definition of disability is “construed in favor of
broad coverage” of individuals asserting claims under
the Act. Id. § 12102(4)(A); Rohr v. Salt
River Project Agric. Improvement & Power Dist., 555
F.3d 850, 853 (9th Cir. 2009). Further, the ADAAA
implementing regulations provide that the “question of
whether an individual meets the definition of disability
under [the ADA] should not demand extensive analysis.”
29 C.F.R. § 1630.1(c)(4).
argues that Plaintiff failed to assert that she suffers from
a disability because she has not alleged that her colostomy
apparatus and related medications substantially limit a major
life activity. Doc. 45 at 5. But the ADA expressly lists the
operation of the “digestive” and
“bowel” systems as major bodily functions that
qualify as major life activities. 42 U.S.C. §
12102(2)(A)-(B). Plaintiff's allegation that she must use
an apparatus to eliminate waste through a surgical opening in
her abdomen reasonably alleges that she has an impairment
that substantially limits a major life activity. As one court
[I]t is apparent that Plaintiff's colostomy severely
limits the operation of his bowel and digestive functions -
portions of these systems were removed from his body and he
now eliminates waste through an opening in his abdomen. That
it takes Plaintiff “a few minutes longer than the
average person” to use the restroom is not dispositive
of whether Plaintiff is disabled. If that were the case, a
wheelchair user that needed just ...