United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
BARBARA B. CRABB DISTRICT JUDGE
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed this
lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
§§ 42 U.S.C. 2000e(k) and 2000e-2(a)(1), alleging
that defendant Wal-Mart Stores East, LP discriminated against
Alyssa Gilliam and other pregnant employees by failing to
accommodate their pregnancy-related medical restrictions,
even though it accommodated the medical restrictions of
non-pregnant employees. Now before the court is
defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's class
claims. Dkt. #8. For the reasons explained below, I am
denying the motion to dismiss.
alleges the following facts in its complaint.
Gilliam was an employee of defendant's Distribution
Center #6025 in Menomonie, Wisconsin when she became pregnant
in approximately April 2015. Early in her pregnancy, Gilliam
asked defendant whether it would accommodate
pregnancy-related lifting restrictions, and defendant told
her that light duty work was available only to employees on
workers' compensation. Over the following months, Gilliam
requested a variety of accommodations, including light duty,
transfer to a less physically demanding position, shorter
work days, a chair and additional breaks. Defendant denied
all of her requests, forcing Gilliam to take intermittent
leave and then transfer to a part-time position that resulted
in a loss of her benefits and a reduction in pay. After
Gilliam submitted a doctor's note with a five-pound
lifting restriction on November 10, 2015, defendant placed
Gilliam on involuntary, unpaid leave under the Family Medical
Leave Act for the remaining two months of her pregnancy.
2014 to October 2017, defendant denied requests for
accommodations (including light duty) for pregnancy-related
medical restrictions from other pregnant employees at
Distribution Center #6025, even though it provided light duty
to similarly-situated, non-pregnant employees with
work-related injuries. Gilliam filed a charge of
discrimination with plaintiff. On May 8, 2018, plaintiff
found reasonable cause to believe that defendant had violated
Title VII when it did not accommodate the pregnancy-related
medical restrictions of Gilliam and a class of female
employees at Distribution Center #6025. Plaintiff invited
defendant to engage in informal conciliation efforts to
provide appropriate relief but no agreement was reached.
motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) tests the
complaint's legal sufficiency. A complaint survives a
motion to dismiss if it “contain[s] sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting 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.'” Id. “The
plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability
requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”
parties recognize, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh
Circuit has stated repeatedly that the pleading requirement
for employment-discrimination claims is minimal and that
plaintiffs are not required to include allegations that would
establish a prima facie case of discrimination. Tate v.
SCR Medical Transportation, 809 F.3d 343, 346 (7th Cir.
2015) (plaintiff need only “aver that the employer
instituted a (specified) adverse employment action against
the plaintiff on the basis of her sex”); Carlson v.
CSX Transportation, Inc., 758 F.3d 819, 827 (7th Cir.
2014) (criticizing district court for relying on
“summary judgment decisions that addressed not the
content of complaints but the evidence needed to take a claim
to a jury”); EEOC v. Concentra Health Services,
Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 781-82 (7th Cir. 2007) (stressing
simplicity of pleading Title VII discrimination claim);
Clark v. Law Office of Terrence Kennedy, Jr., 709
Fed.Appx. 826, 828-29 (7th Cir. 2017). Generally, it is
sufficient that the “complaint contain factual
allegations identifying (1) who discriminated against [the
plaintiff]; (2) the type of discrimination that occurred; and
(3) when the discrimination took place.” McCauley
v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611, 617 (7th Cir. 2011).
See also Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614
F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010) (“[P]laintiff must give
enough details about the subject-matter of the case to
present a story that holds together.”).
contends that plaintiff's complaint includes no
allegations that would suggest that other pregnant associates
experienced the same treatment as Gilliam, such as details
about whether defendant's decision was motivated by a
common policy, who else was denied pregnancy-related
accommodations, who received accommodations unrelated to
pregnancy and whether others receiving accommodations were
similar to Gilliam in their ability or inability to work.
Contrary to defendant's assertion, plaintiff has done
more than merely “recite the statutory elements”
of a class action claim without any factual support.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (“[A] plaintiff's
obligation to provide the grounds of [its] entitlement to
relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do.”).
alleges that from 2014 to October 2017, defendant denied
requests for accommodations for pregnancy-related medical
restrictions at the Menomonie store, even though it provided
light duty to similarly-situated, non-pregnant employees with
work-related injuries. It further alleges that defendant told
Gilliam that light duty work was available only to employees
on workers' compensation and not to pregnant employees.
In addition, plaintiff included its class allegations in the
charge of discrimination it issued in May 2018. These
allegations are sufficient to place defendant on notice of
the class claim that plaintiff seeks to pursue, identifying a
general policy with respect to pregnancy-related
accommodations applied by defendant at its Menomonie store
during a specific time period. At this early stage, it is not
necessary for plaintiff to identify the non-pregnant
employees who were treated differently or the nature of their
job functions or accommodations. Carlson, 758 F.3d
at 827 (plaintiff not required to plead “existence of
similarly situated comparator”); Concentra Health
Services, 496 F.3d at 780 (“[A] plaintiff might
sometimes have a right to relief without knowing every
factual detail supporting its right; requiring the plaintiff
to plead those unknown details before discovery would
improperly deny the plaintiff the opportunity to prove its
claim.”). Accordingly, defendant's motion to
dismiss will be denied.
ORDERED that defendant Wal-Mart Stores East, LP's motion