United States District Court, D. Minnesota
James R. Wells, Plaintiff,
BNSF Railway Company, Defendant.
N. ERICKSEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
James R. Wells (“Wells”) brings three claims
against Defendant BNSF Railway Company (“BNSF”):
(1) disability discrimination in violation of the Americans
with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), (2) improper use
of medical examination results in violation of the ADA, and
(3) disability discrimination in violation of the Minnesota
Human Rights Act (“MHRA”). Sec. Am. Compl.
¶¶ 32-55, ECF No. 52. To prevail on any of these
claims, Wells must demonstrate that he qualifies as
moves to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6), arguing that the Second Amended Complaint contains
insufficient facts to show that Wells is
“disabled” under either the ADA or MHRA. For that
reason, BNSF contends that Wells fails to state any claims to
relief and the Court should dismiss all three claims. BNSF
Br. 1, ECF No. 55. Wells opposes the motion to dismiss. Wells
Br. 1, ECF No. 64. For the reasons set forth below, the Court
grants the motion.
has spent over twenty years as a laborer in heavy
construction. Sec. Am. Compl. ¶ 9. In 2000, Wells had
neck surgery requiring a cervical discectomy and two-level
spinal fusion. Id. ¶ 10. Following the surgery,
Wells worked as a pile driver, performed “physically
demanding work in heavy construction for several years,
” and suffered no “aggravation or recurrence of
any neck or cervical spine condition.” Id.
February of 2008, Wells applied to and received a conditional
offer of employment from BNSF in Minnesota as a track
laborer. Id. ¶¶ 12-15. The track laborer
position involves “laying down railroad tracks and
performing repairs on railroad tracks, which is physically
demanding.” Id. ¶ 13. BNSF conditioned
the offer on Wells' successful completion of a medical
evaluation. Id. ¶ 15. In March of 2008,
Comprehensive Health Services, Inc. (“CHS”), a
medical contractor, conducted the medical examination of
Wells, consisting of a Commercial Driver Fitness
Determination, Occupational Assessment, and Vision
Evaluation. Id. ¶¶ 15-16. Wells disclosed
the above surgery, stated that the surgery was successful,
and confirmed that he had no work limitations. Id.
¶ 17. CHS acquired Wells' medical records and
ultimately concluded that Wells passed the medical
examination. Id. ¶ 18. Wells alleges that the
passing results “confirm that [he] could perform the
essential functions of the track laborer position without any
reasonable accommodation and that [he] did not pose a threat
to himself or anyone else.” Id. ¶ 19.
BNSF Medical Department received the results of the CHS
examination and concluded that Wells was “not medically
qualified for [the] safety sensitive Track Laborer position
due to significant risk of aggravation or recurrence of a
neck/cervical spine condition following 2-level spinal
fusion.” Id. ¶ 20. On April 11, 2008,
BNSF withdrew its employment offer. Id. ¶ 21.
BNSF did not try to eliminate the alleged “significant
risk” and it did not determine whether Wells could work
as a track laborer if given reasonable accommodations.
Id. ¶¶ 27-28. Wells then “applied
for other positions with” BNSF, but BNSF made him no
offers. Id. ¶ 29.
these events, Wells concludes that BNSF mistakenly regarded
him as disabled such that he was “substantially limited
[in] the major life activity of working.” Id.
¶¶ 3, 23, 24. In April of 2008, Wells filed a
discrimination charge with the Minnesota Department of Human
Rights and the EEOC. Id. ¶ 31. In July of 2012,
the EEOC “issued a determination that there is
reasonable cause to believe that [BNSF] committed an unfair
discriminatory practice.” Id. The EEOC issued
Wells a Notice of Right to Sue on December 19, 2016.
filed his first Complaint on March 17, 2017, asserting claims
under the ADA and MHRA. ECF No. 1. On April 11, 2017, BNSF
moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a
claim. ECF Nos. 9, 11. Among other arguments, BNSF argued, as
it does now, that Wells offered no facts to show that he
qualifies as “disabled” under either the ADA or
MHRA. ECF No. 11 at 6. On May 1, 2017, Wells voluntarily
filed his First Amended Complaint. ECF No. 24. On May 15,
2017, BNSF again moved to dismiss for failure to state a
claim, again arguing that Wells offered no facts to show that
he qualifies as “disabled.” ECF Nos. 25, 27.
Wells opposed this second motion to dismiss. ECF No. 37. On
July 7, 2017, the Court issued an order allowing Wells to
“serve and file either (1) a Second Amended Complaint,
if BNSF Railway consents in writing to the amendment, or (2)
a motion to amend. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2); D.
Minn. LR 15.1.” ECF No. 41 at 2.
the consent of BNSF, Wells filed a Second Amended Complaint.
ECF No. 52. The Second Amended Complaint brings three claims.
Count I alleges that BNSF violated 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a)
by failing to hire Wells based on a perceived disability.
Sec. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 32-39. Count II alleges that
BNSF violated 42 U.S.C. § 12112(d)(3)(C) by improperly
using the results of a medical examination to discriminate
against Wells based on a perceived disability. Id.
¶¶ 40-47. Count III alleges that BNSF violated
Minn. Stat. § 363A.08, subd. 2 by discriminating against
Wells with respect to hiring based on a perceived disability.
Id. ¶¶ 48-55.
August 15, 2017, BNSF filed its third motion to dismiss under
Rule 12(b)(6).ECF Nos. 53, 55. In its third motion, which
is presently before the court, BNSF once more argues that
Wells offers insufficient facts to show that he is
“disabled, ” “a necessary element of each
of his claims.” BNSF Br. 1, ECF No. 55. Wells opposes
this third motion to dismiss, maintaining that the Second
Amended Complaint contains sufficient facts to state claims
to relief. But Wells also insists that “the Court
should grant [him] leave to amend his complaint again if it
deems this necessary.” Wells Br. 14, ECF No. 64. BNSF
opposes any further amendments. BNSF Reply 7-9, ECF No. 68.
survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “a complaint must
contain 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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A complaint “does not need
detailed factual allegations, ” but it must contain
“more than labels and conclusions.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted).
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” Iqb ...