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Gamble v. Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio

June 19, 2017

MICHAEL R. GAMBLE, Plaintiff,
v.
GREATER CLEVELAND REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER [RESOLVING DOC. 11]

          JAMES S. GWIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pro se Plaintiff Michael R. Gamble brings an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) retaliation claim against Defendant Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA).[1]Defendant GCRTA moves to dismiss for failure to state a claim.[2] Alternatively, GCRTA moves to dismiss Gamble's request for compensatory and punitive damages and his jury trial demand. For the reasons below, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART the motion to dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Gamble alleges that Defendant GCRTA retaliated against him for previously filing disability discrimination actions against GCRTA when GCRTA declined to rehire Gamble in 2016 as a bus operator.[3] In addition to injunctive relief, Gamble seeks compensatory and punitive damages.[4]

         Gamble previously worked for GCRTA as a bus operator. GCRTA terminated Gamble in May 2012. In March 2013, Gamble filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charge alleging disability discrimination.[5] GCRTA states that Gamble then reapplied for his former position in October 2013.[6] After GCRTA declined to rehire Gamble, Gamble filed an EEOC retaliation charge in March 2014 alleging retaliatory failure to hire.[7] On March 24, 2015, the EEOC issued Gamble right-to-sue letters on the 2013 and 2014 EEOC charges.[8]

         In June 2015, Gamble filed an ADA disability discrimination complaint against GCRTA in federal court.[9] On September 30, 2015, Judge Patricia Gaughan dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim.[10] Gamble's 2015 complaint failed to identify Gamble's disability and therefore failed as a matter of law.[11]

         After his 2012 termination and the subsequent lawsuit, Gamble again sought employment as a GCRTA bus operator. Gamble states that he attended GCRTA's public job fair on February 20, 2016.[12] A recruiter at the job fair allegedly told Gamble that he was qualified to be a bus operator, so Gamble completed an online application.[13] Gamble later called GCRTA's H.R. Director for an update, but the H.R. Director allegedly told Gamble that GCRTA was not hiring.[14]

         In April 2016, Plaintiff Gamble submitted a public records request for the names of applicants offered bus operator positions by Defendant GCRTA in February and March 2016.[15]GCRTA provided Gamble the list of names.

         Gamble again filed an EEOC charge for retaliatory failure to hire. The EEOC issued Gamble a right-to-sue letter on December 2, 2016.[16]

         On February 24, 2017, Plaintiff Gamble filed suit in this Court.[17] Gamble alleges that GCRTA's failure to rehire him was retaliation and discrimination in response to his previous EEOC charges and federal discrimination lawsuit.[18] Gamble claims that the people GCRTA hired as bus operators have “no job skills and [are] not qualified for the position . . . .”[19]

         On April 21, 2017, Defendant GCRTA moved to dismiss Gamble's Complaint for failure to state a claim.[20] GCRTA argues that Gamble's cause of action arose in 2013, when GCRTA first declined to rehire Gamble.[21] Accordingly, GCRTA argues that the claim is no longer actionable because Gamble failed to file suit within ninety days of the 2014 EEOC charge alleging retaliatory failure to hire.[22] Otherwise, GCRTA anticipates endless litigation. GCRTA expects Gamble to file an EEOC retaliation charge every time GCRTA declines to hire him.[23]

         Alternatively, Defendant GCRTA asks the Court to dismiss Plaintiff Gamble's request for compensatory and punitive damages and his jury trial demand.[24] GCRTA argues that only equitable relief is available for ADA retaliation claims.[25]

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'”[26] The plausibility requirement is not a “probability requirement.”[27] The Plaintiff need not try to prove his case in the complaint. But there must be “more than a sheer possibility that the defendant has acted unlawfully.”[28]

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 provides the general pleading standard and only requires that a complaint “contain . . . a short plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”[29] “Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era, but it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.”[30] In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “a court should assume the[] veracity” of “well-pleaded factual allegations, ” but need not accept a plaintiff's conclusory allegations as true.[31]

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Failure to State a Claim

         Defendant GCRTA argues that the Court should dismiss Plaintiff Gamble's claim because it relates to Gamble's 2014 EEOC charge for retaliatory failure to hire and is therefore time barred. GCRTA's argument loses.

         Gamble's claim before this Court relates to the 2016 EEOC charge for retaliatory failure to hire, not the 2014 EEOC charge. Gamble's 2014 EEOC retaliation charge arose out of GCRTA's 2013 failure to rehire him. Gamble attributed the retaliation to the 2013 EEOC disability discrimination charge. In contrast, Gamble's 2016 EEOC retaliation charge arises out of GCRTA's failure to rehire him when he applied in 2016 for a position. Gamble attributes this retaliation to the previous EEOC charges and his 2015 federal lawsuit.

         Indeed, Gamble's complaint states a claim for retaliation under the ADA. To establish a prima facie case of retaliation under the ADA, Plaintiff Gamble must show that “(1) [he] engaged in protected activity, (2) defendant took an adverse employment action, and (3) there was a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse employment action.”[32]

         Gamble sufficiently pleads retaliation in his complaint. Gamble engaged in a protected activity when he sued Defendant GCRTA in 2015 for disability discrimination. Furthermore, Gamble alleges that GCRTA refused to rehire him in 2016. Failure to rehire is an adverse employment action.[33] Finally, Gamble alleges that GCRTA refused to rehire him because of his 2015 federal lawsuit.[34]

         Defendant GCRTA expresses concern that “Gamble will continue to apply for his former job and each time GCRTA declines to hire him, Gamble will file another EEOC charge alleging retaliation.”[35] But Gamble has the right to make sequential ADA claims, so long as his retaliation allegations relate to new conduct by GCRTA. Filing a ...


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