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Cook v. George's Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division

October 22, 2018

JERRY COOK, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated PLAINTIFF
v.
GEORGE'S, INC. DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          TIMOTHY L. BROOKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Now pending before the Court are a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 9) and Brief in Support (Doc. 10) filed by Defendant George's, Inc. ("George's"), Plaintiff Jerry Cook's Response in Opposition (Doc. 19) and Brief in Support (Doc. 20), and George's Reply (Doc. 25); and Cook's First Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint (Doc. 27) and George's Response in Opposition (Doc. 29). For the reasons explained herein, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED, and Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The original Complaint (Doc. 1) was filed in this Court on June 28, 2018. It alleges that Cook and members of a putative class were discriminated against by George's due to a disability or perceived disability. In the Complaint, Cook maintains that he "has a mental impairment that substantially impairs his ability to think, communicate, concentrate, work, and interact with others, as well as a physical impairment that substantially impairs his ability to lift." Id. at 2. He contends he applied for a job with George's, but he fails to disclose in the Complaint either the name of the job he applied for or the nature of the duties associated with the job. He focuses instead on his allegation that on "[t]he first day the George's Employment Center opened," someone at George's had already placed the code "333" next to Cook's name in the company's applicant database. George's supposedly placed the "333" code next to an applicant's name when it was determined that the applicant had a "medical problem which precluded any consideration whatsoever." Id.

         Cook admits he was offered an interview "almost two weeks after his original application [was submitted]. . . ." Id. at 3. He also admits that he "missed the interview." Id. He claims he traveled to George's Employment Center the day after he missed the interview and asked to reschedule it, but his request was denied-even though George's supposedly "let other applicants interview after a no-show interview, very often." Id. at 4.

         In the Complaint, Cook asserts a cause of action for illegal discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Arkansas Civil Rights Act ("ACRA"), as well as a cause of action for retaliation under both the ADA and ACRA. The retaliation claim merely states that George's "retaliated against Plaintiff for opposing discriminatory activities and engaging in a protected activity," id. at 6, but fails to disclose any facts that would explain: (1) how Cook "oppos[ed] discriminatory activities" prior to or during the job application process, or (2) what sort of protected activities Cook engaged in that allegedly provoked George's to retaliate against him.

         On August 15, 2018, George's moved to dismiss the Complaint, arguing that Cook failed to allege facts to support that he is disabled under the ADA and ACRA, that there is a link between his alleged disability and the adverse employment action he suffered, or that he engaged in statutorily protected conduct that would form the basis for a claim of retaliation. Cook responded that an ADA-qualifying disability "need not [be] identified by name, its effects need not be identified specifically, the accommodation need not be identified specifically, and the harassment need not be identified specifically, nor must the facts underlying intent be named specifically." (Doc. 20, p. 5). And as for the retaliation claim, Cook responded:

On this, Plaintiff had to complete the forms in order to be interviewed. Those forms would have revealed his health issues and need for accommodation because they request that information. If he is not hired because he filled out a form indicating a need for retaliation, that is class retaliation.

Id. at 9.[1]

         On September 28, 2018, apparently in reaction to George's Motion to Dismiss, Cook filed a Motion for Leave to Amend the Complaint (Doc. 27). The proposed amended complaint (Doc. 27-1) is identical to the original except for the addition of a few new facts and one new legal argument. The new facts appear in paragraph 6 of the proposed amended complaint, in which Cook explains in some detail how he came to suffer the alleged mental and physical disabilities he now claims. The new legal argument appears at the tail end of paragraph 17. He contends that because George's performed an "illegal medical inquiry" in the course of the job application process, Cook will not be required to establish that he has an actual or perceived disability in order to state a valid legal claim for disability discrimination under the ADA. (Doc. 27-1, pp. 4-5). For its part, George's opposes Cook's Motion for Leave to Amend and contends that the proposed amended pleading fails to cure the deficiencies in the original Complaint. Below, the Court will consider, first, the Motion to Dismiss the original Complaint, and second, the Motion for Leave to Amend.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a pleading must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The purpose of this requirement is to "give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Bell AH. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The Court must accept all of a complaint's factual allegations as true, and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See Ashley Cnty., Ark. v. Pfizer, Inc., 552 F.3d 659, 665 (8th Cir. 2009).

         However, the 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 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "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." Id. "A pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.' Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancement.'" Id. In other words, while "the pleading standard that Rule 8 announces does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' ... it demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Id.

         III. ...


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