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Barneman v. International Longshoreman Association

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division

February 1, 2018




         This Matter comes before the Court on the Motions to Dismiss of Defendants APS Stevedoring, LLC ("APS"), Atlantic Ro-Ro Stevedoring, LLC ("Atlantic Ro-Ro"), Georgia Stevedoring Association ("GSA"), Marine Terminals Corporation-East ("Marine Terminals"), and SSA Cooper, LLC ("SSA Cooper"), pursuant to Rules 12(b)(4), 12(b)(5), and 12(b)(6). Dkt. Nos. 17, 31, 34, 37, 40. These Motions have been fully briefed and are now ripe for review. See Dkt. Nos. 24, 45, 46, 47, 48.


         At this stage of the case, the facts are taken from Plaintiff's complaint and assumed to be true, according to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Plaintiff Rayfield Barneman has peripheral neuropathy. Dkt. No. 1, 8 ¶ 2. For six years, he has used a seat cushion to alleviate pain and slow the degradation of his condition. Id. On March 15, 2016, non-party Richard Nixon issued a memo at Barneman's workplace[1] stating that no personal items were allowed inside the automobiles used as part of Barneman's job. Id.

         Plaintiff was terminated on April 9, 2016 for having a seat cushion in his vehicle. Id. at 8 ¶ 3. Following Plaintiff's termination, two attending physicians then submitted letters stating that his medical condition of peripheral neuropathy required the use of a seat cushion. Id. With the letters, Barneman then submitted a request for a written accommodation. Id. Norman Massey denied the request on May 18, 2016, prompting Barneman to file a grievance with the International Longshoreman Association Local 1423 ("ILA") Union that same day. Id. A grievance hearing was convened that included representatives from ILA, SSA Cooper, APS, and GSA. Dkt. No. 5 ¶ 7. The Complaint seems to indicate that Barneman was rehired, as it alleges that he was granted a reasonable accommodation on July 21, 2016. Dkt. No. 1 p. 5 ¶ E. One day, on August 16, 2016, Barneman was at work awaiting a van with his seat cushion to arrive. Dkt. No. 5 ¶ 10. The van never came. Id. Barneman was then terminated on October 17, 2017[2], because he would not get into a van without a seat cushion. Id. ¶ 12. Barneman also alleges that his colleague Oscar Brown, who is much younger than Barneman, was treated more favorably than Barneman: Barneman was not allowed to have his seat cushion into the vehicles; Brown was allowed to bring his backpack. Id. at ¶ 10.

         Following these events, Barneman filed a charge with the EEOC on October 28, 2016. Id. at ¶ IV. The EEOC issued a right to sue letter on February 6, 2017, which appears to indicate that the charge named ILA as the respondent. Dkt. No. 5-12. The EEOC issued a second dismissal and a right to sue letter on August 2, 2017, which appears to name GSA as the respondent. Dkt. No. 16 ¶23, 3.

         Barneman filed suit in this Court against ILA on May 3, 2017, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). Dkt. No. 1. On May 22, 2017, he added SSA Cooper, "Marine Terminals", Atlantic Ro-Ro, APS, and GSA as defendants. Dkt. No. 5.

         The Second Amended Complaint alleges that ILA is a collective bargaining unit for Plaintiff. Dkt. No. 16 ¶ 25. It has entered into collective bargaining agreements with GSA, SSA-Cooper, Marine Terminal, Atlantic Ro-Ro, and APS. Id.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a plaintiff's complaint contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). In order to state a claim for relief, a plaintiff's complaint must include "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic 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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The Court accepts the allegations in the complaint as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Ray v. Spirit Airlines, Inc., 836 F.3d 1340, 1347 (11th Cir. 2016). However, the Court does not accept as true threadbare recitations of the elements of the claim and disregards legal conclusions unsupported by factual allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79. At a minimum, a complaint should "contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory." Fin. Sec. Assurance, Inc. v. Stephens, Inc., 500 F.3d 1276, 1282-83 (11th Cir. 2007) (per curiam) (quoting Roe v. Aware Woman Ctr. for Choice, Inc., 253 F.3d 678, 683 (11th Cir. 2001)).

         "A document filed pro se is 'to be liberally construed, [and] a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(f) ("All pleadings shall be so construed as to do substantial justice.") .

         Exhaustion of administrative remedies is a matter that should be raised in a motion to dismiss. Basel v. Sec'y of Def., 507 Fed.Appx. 873, 874 (11th Cir. 2013) (per curiam). "[I]t is permissible for a district court to consider facts outside of the pleadings and resolve factual disputes so long as the factual disputes do not decide the merits and the parties are given sufficient opportunity to develop a record." Id. at 874-75.


         Defendants (except ILA) have raised several arguments for dismissal. First, SSA-Cooper, Marine Terminals, Atlantic Ro-Ro, and APS argue that the claims against them should be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies because they were not named in either of the charges Barneman filed with the EEOC. Second, GSA argues that the claims against it should be dismissed for failure to state a claim because the complaint does not directly tie the complained of actions to GSA. Third, GSA argues that the claims against it should be dismissed because it is not an employer under the ADA or the ADEA. Fourth, SSA Cooper argues that it should be dismissed because it was never summoned before this Court in this action. Fifth, SSA Cooper, Marine Terminals, ...

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