Federal Judge Dismisses EEOC Cased Based on Lack of Details in Complaint

Recently, a federal judge in the District of Columbia dismissed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) lawsuit against Walmart on procedural grounds relating to the level of detail required in a complaint.  This case serves as a reminder of the the necessary elements for a reasonable accommodation claim.  In this case, two employees with hearing limitations alleged that the managers at the Walmart store where they worked failed to accommodate their disability.  The two employees had sought sign language interpretation services at work and note-taking services at certain meetings, and did not believe that their requests were reasonably accommodated.

The federal judge explained that procedural rules require that a complaint contain enough details to at least state a possible violation of law.  This means that specific facts must be alleged in the complaint relating to each element of the alleged violation.  There are three elements at play in a reasonable accommodation claim: (1) that the employees have a qualifying disability, (2) that the employer was aware of the disability, (3) and that the employees would be able to perform the essential function of the job in question had the employer made a reasonable accommodation.  In this case, the complaint did not mention the essential function of the employee’s jobs at all, nor did it explain how the employees would be able to perform that essential function with an accommodation.  Because of this failure to include necessary facts in the pleadings, the judge dismissed the claim.  It is possible that the agency can change its pleadings to include the necessary facts and re-file.

This case is a good reminder for employers to work with legal counsel to carefully scrutinize any complaint and determine if it contains sufficient detail to plead all necessary legal elements.  If the complaint arguably does not contain sufficient detail, a motion to dismiss may be appropriate.  The case is EEOC v. Wal Mart Stores, E., LP, 2018 BL 394303, D.D.C., No. 18-1314, 10/25/18.

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