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McFadden v. Biomedical Systems Corp.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

January 9, 2014



TIMOTHY J. SAVAGE, District Judge.

In this discrimination and retaliation case brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 951 et seq., plaintiff John McFadden sues his former employer, Biomedical Systems Corporation ("BSC") for wrongful termination. McFadden claims that BSC discriminated against him because of his disability when it refused his request for leave to have back surgery and then retaliated against him for making that request. McFadden seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

Moving to dismiss McFadden's claims of discrimination and failure to accommodate, BSC argues that McFadden has not sufficiently alleged that he is disabled within the meaning of the ADA. BSC does not seek to dismiss McFadden's retaliation claim, but does seek dismissal of the claims for punitive and compensatory damages with respect to the ADA retaliation claim and punitive damages for the PHRA claim.

We must decide whether McFadden's allegation that he is limited in his ability to walk, stand and sit for long periods of time is sufficient to state a cause of action under the ADA, and whether he has stated a claim that he was regarded as disabled by BSC and that he had a record of disability.

Accepting, as we must, McFadden's well-pleaded facts as true and drawing all reasonable inferences from them in his favor, Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009), we conclude that he has stated causes of action under the ADA for discrimination, actual and regarded as disability and failure to accommodate. He has failed to state a claim based upon a record of disability. Therefore, we shall grant in part and deny in part the defendant's motion to dismiss.


As recited in the amended complaint, McFadden suffers from herniated discs in his back, which cause him pain and limit his ability to walk, stand and sit for extended periods of time. Am. Compl. ¶ 13. While these limitations only affect McFadden periodically, they are permanent. Id. ¶ 14. Although McFadden's condition did not prohibit him from doing his job as a director of business development, he "very infrequently" needed "a reasonable accommodation." Id. ¶ 16. During his three-month tenure with BSC, he apprised his supervisor, Judith Currier, of his health condition and limitations. Id. ¶ 15.

While employed by BSC, McFadden's health condition deteriorated. Id. ¶ 17. As a result, he scheduled an appointment to see his doctor. Id. ¶ 18. He informed Currier that he would be taking a day off to attend a doctor's appointment. Id. Currier and other BSC management expressed displeasure when McFadden advised them that he could not attend a meeting with a colleague because he had to keep the doctor's appointment as he was experiencing increasing pain in his back. Id. ¶ 19.

After his doctor's appointment, McFadden informed Currier that his doctor recommended that he undergo a spinal fusion and/or microdiscectomy surgery to treat his back problems. Id. ¶ 21. He requested a two-to-three week medical leave for the surgery. Id. ¶ 21. Currier expressed concern about the duration of the leave. Id. ¶ 22. Approximately one week after attending his doctor's appointment and shortly after requesting medical leave, McFadden was terminated from BSC. Id. ¶ 23.

McFadden claims that BSC discriminated and retaliated against him by terminating his employment. He alleges that his termination was in violation of the ADA and PHRA because it was based on his actual health problems, his record of health problems and his request for an accommodation. Id. ¶ 27. McFadden also claims that BSC failed to accommodate his disability in violation of the ADA and PHRA when it did not grant him leave to undergo surgery. Id. ¶ 28.

Procedural History

McFadden filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on August 31, 2012.[1] After receiving a right to sue letter on May 23, 2013, he timely filed a complaint on August 2, 2013. After BSC moved to dismiss the complaint, McFadden filed an amended complaint. BSC then moved to dismiss McFadden's amended complaint in part.

Standard of Review

When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint are accepted as true and viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Holk v. Snapple Beverage Corp., 575 F.3d 329, 334 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008)). A complaint 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), giving 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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)) (alteration in original). A "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" is not sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted). The complaint must put forward "direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to ...

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