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Mesi v. Hoskin & Muir, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

April 7, 2017

KESIO JIMMY MESI, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
HOSKIN & MUIR, INC. dba CARDINAL SHOWER ENCLOSURES, JOHN DOES 1-5, JANE DOES 1-5, DOE CORPORATIONS 1-5, DOE LLC 1-5, DOE PARTNERSHIPS 1-5, DOE NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS 1-5, and DOE GOVERNMENTAL AGENCIES 1-5, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          Barry M. Kurren United States Magistrate Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION.

         On December 27, 2016, Plaintiff Kesio Mesi, Jr., filed a First Amended Complaint, [1] alleging one count of disability discrimination under Haw. Rev. Stat. § 378-2(1)(A), misidentified as § 378-2(a)(1)(A), and under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq. First Amended Complaint, ECF No. 13, PageID # 120. Mesi alleges that he was “discharged from his employment based on his disability, and refused a short term accommodation to his lifting restrictions until he was released to work full duty.”[2] Id., PageID # 119.

         On June 19, 2014, Mesi alleges he suffered injuries while working for Hoskin & Muir, “which restricted his ability to lift more than 10 pounds.” Id., PageID #s 118-19. He allegedly filed a workers' compensation claim and reportedly submitted medical documents relating to his injury to Hoskin & Muir's insurance carrier. Id., PageID # 119. Mesi says that he was “denied light duty work and remained off work and under the care of his treating physician.” Id. On September 26, 2014, Joe Eglin, a manager at Hoskin & Muir, allegedly called Mesi at home to tell him that “he was terminated because he could not work without restrictions.” Id. On October 6, 2014, Mesi alleges he “was released to full duty” work without any restrictions but did not go back to work as had already been fired. Id. Mesi alleges that he “had no prior warnings and was performing his job satisfactorily” before he was injured on the job. Id.

         Mesi filed a disability discrimination charge with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Id., PageID # 118. On February 9, 2016, the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission issued a notice of dismissal and right-to-sue letter. Id. On March 4, 2016, the EEOC issued a dismissal and notice of rights letter. Id.

         On January 9, 2017, Hoskin & Muir filed a motion to dismiss the First Amended Complaint. See ECF No. 16-1. That motion is denied.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW.

         Under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court's review is generally limited to the contents of the complaint. Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001); Campanelli v. Bockrath, 100 F.3d 1476, 1479 (9th Cir. 1996). All allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. WMX Techs., Inc. v. Miller, 197 F.3d 367, 372 (9th Cir. 1999). However, conclusory allegations of law, unwarranted deductions of fact, and unreasonable inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss. Sprewell, 266 F.3d at 988; In re Syntex Corp. Sec. Litig., 95 F.3d 922, 926 (9th Cir. 1996). Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) may be based on either: (1) lack of a cognizable legal theory, or (2) insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988) (citing Robertson v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 749 F.2d 530, 533-34 (9th Cir. 1984)).

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted); accord Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.”). “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545 (internal citations omitted). The complaint must provide “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. 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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         III. ANALYSIS.

         Mesi alleges that Hoskin & Muir discriminated against him by failing to provide reasonable accommodations and by unlawfully terminating him because of his disability. See ECF No. 13, PageID #s 118-121. Hoskin & Muir asserts that Mesi fails to state any prima facie disability discrimination claim. See ECF No. 16-1, PageID #s 134-39; ECF No. 22, PageID # 174.

         The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against “a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard to . . . the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees.” 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). Similarly, under Hawaii law, it is an unlawful discriminatory practice “[f]or any employer to refuse to hire or employ or to bar or discharge from employment, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual in compensation or in the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment” because of a person's disability. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 378-2(a)(1)(A). A plaintiff has the initial burden of establishing a prima facie disability discrimination claim by showing that “(1) he is a disabled person within the meaning of the statute; (2) he is a qualified individual with a disability; and (3) he suffered an adverse employment action because of his disability.” Hutton v. Elf Atochem N. Am., Inc., 273 F.3d 884, 891 (9th Cir. 2001). The Hawaii Supreme Court has adopted this analysis for establishing a prima facie case of disability discrimination because of the similarities between the ADA and Hawaii law. See French v. Haw. Pizza Hut, 105 Haw. 462, 467, 99 P.3d 1046, 1051 (2004).

         With respect to the first prong, the ADA defines disability with respect to an individual, in relevant part, as “(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities.” 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1). Haw. Rev. Stat. § 378-1 similarly defines disability, in pertinent part, as “the state of having a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Haw. Rev. Stat. § 378-1; see also Haw. Admin. R. § 12-46-182. “An impairment covered under the ADA includes any physiological disorder, ” Coons v. Sec'y of U.S. Dep't of Treasury, 383 F.3d 879, 884 (9th Cir. 2004), and “major life activities” include “lifting” and “working, ” 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(i)(1)(i); see also Haw. Admin. R. § 12-46-182.

         Hoskin & Muir contends that the First Amended Complaint fails to sufficiently allege that Mesi was “disabled.” See Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 16-1, PageID #s 135-36. Hoskin & Muir apparently does not question that Mesi's inability to lift more than ten pounds constitutes a physical impairment, given that “lifting” is identified as a major life activity under the illustrative lists of the ADA and relevant Hawaii Administrative Rules. See 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2)(A); Haw. Admin. R. § 12-46-182; see also 29 C.F.R. ยง 1630.2(i)(1)(i). However, Hoskin & Muir argues ...


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