Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Noel v. Wal-Mart Associates, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Vermont

March 20, 2018

WILLIAM D. NOEL Plaintiff,
v.
WAL-MART STORES EAST, L.P. Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          William K. Sessions, III District Court Judge.

         Defendant Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P. (“Defendant” or “Walmart”) moves to dismiss Plaintiff William D. Noel's (“Plaintiff” or “Noel”) Complaint and Amended Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), asserting that they fail to state claims upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff amended his original Complaint as a matter of course under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1). Thus, the original Complaint (ECF 6) is no longer before the court, and Defendant's motion to dismiss the original Complaint (ECF 11) is denied as moot. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (ECF 12) includes four counts: breach of contract, wrongful discharge, violation of public policy, and promissory estoppel. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint (ECF 15) is granted, and Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is dismissed without leave to amend.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Noel was employed by Defendant Walmart as a pharmacist manager in its St. Albans, Vermont location. On April 8, 2016, Walmart announced a new policy: new hires in Plaintiff's position would need to be certified to administer immunizations by April 16, 2016 and incumbents would need to be certified by October 16, 2016. See ECF 12, p. 2. Plaintiff suffers from trypanophobia, an extreme fear of needles. As a result, he is unable to administer immunizations.

         Plaintiff sought an exemption from this new policy, and he completed Walmart's seven step process for securing an accommodation. On June 12, 2016, Plaintiff completed a “Confidential-Request for Accommodation Form.” Along with this form, Plaintiff submitted a “Confidential-Accommodation Medical Questionnaire” form, in which Plaintiff's physician described Plaintiff's condition.

         On July 19, 2016, Walmart sent Plaintiff a letter stating that he was granted an accommodation and would not have to administer immunizations. On October 18, 2016, Plaintiff participated in a phone call with Defendant's Health and Wellness Director and its Accommodation Service Center Manager. Defendant's representatives told Plaintiff that he would have to be certified to administer immunizations to continue in his position. Plaintiff asserts that “[b]y letter dated October 19, 2016, Defendant, acting through the Accommodation Service Center that had earlier granted the accommodation Plaintiff requested, constructively terminated Plaintiff's employment by requiring that he become certified to administer immunizations as a condition of retaining his employment.” ECF 12, p. 3.

         PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINTS

         Plaintiff originally filed this case on June 28, 2017 in Vermont Superior Court, Chittenden Civil Division. Defendant removed the case to the United States District Court for the District of Vermont.[1] Plaintiff's Complaint was filed in this court on July 24, 2017. See ECF 6. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint on July 24, 2017. See ECF 11. Plaintiff responded to the motion on August 23, 2017. See ECF 14. Defendant replied to the response on September 6, 2017. See ECF 21. Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on August 14, 2017. See ECF 12. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint on August 28, 2017. See ECF 15. Plaintiff responded to the motion on September 15, 2017. See ECF 24. Defendant replied to the response on October 12, 2017. See ECF 26.

         The dates of the responses and replies to the Complaint and Amended Complaint overlap, leading to a slightly confusing situation. Plaintiff amended his Complaint as a matter of course under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1) because he filed his Amended Complaint within 21 days of Defendant's motion to dismiss the original Complaint. Thus, the Amended Complaint is controlling. Plaintiff's original Complaint is no longer before the court, and Defendant's motion to dismiss the original Complaint (ECF 11) is denied as moot.

         Plaintiff's Amended Complaint sets forth general allegations and four specific counts.

         Count I alleges breach of contract. Plaintiff contends that his contract of employment with Defendant included, as of July 19, 2016, an exemption from the requirement to be certified to administer immunizations. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant breached that contract when it constructively terminated Plaintiff's employment on October 19, 2016 by requiring that he become certified to administer immunizations.

         Count II alleges wrongful discharge. Plaintiff erroneously states that “Defendant is a qualified individual with a disability” when he clearly meant to say “Plaintiff is a qualified individual with a disability” (emphasis added). Plaintiff contends that Defendant recognized him as disabled, granted him an accommodation, and then willfully refused to honor that accommodation-thereby unlawfully failing to accommodate his disability and terminating his employment. In the alternative, Plaintiff contends that Defendant discriminated against him “on account of his inability to perform a non-essential function of his position, which inability Defendant knew to be caused by a physical or mental impairment within the meaning of 21 V.S.A. § 495d.” Plaintiff argues that Defendant's conduct constitutes constructive discharge, failure to accommodate Plaintiff's disability, unlawful discrimination, and wrongful discharge in violation of 21 V.S.A. § 495.

         Count III alleges violation of public policy. Plaintiff asserts that it is contrary to the public policy of Vermont for employers to grant accommodations and then refuse to honor such accommodations, resulting in constructive discharge.

         Count IV asserts promissory estoppel. Plaintiff states that he relied on Defendant's accommodation procedures when he completed all of the required forms and was granted an exemption. Plaintiff argues that Defendant is estopped from denying the accommodation it granted to Plaintiff. Plaintiff also argues that in denying the accommodation that had previously been granted, Defendant constructively discharged him.

         For all counts, Plaintiff alleges that he has suffered economic loss, emotional distress, and other damages as a direct and proximate consequence of Defendant's actions.

         DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

         Generally, if the court is to consider material presented to it that was not included in the complaint, the motion to dismiss “shall be treated as one for summary judgment” and “all parties shall be given reasonable opportunity to present all material made pertinent to such a motion.” Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 152 (2d Cir. 2002). However, “the complaint is deemed to include any written instrument attached to it as an exhibit or any statements or documents incorporated in it by reference.” Id. (citing Int'l Audiotext Network, Inc. v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 62 F.3d 69, 72 (2d Cir. 1995)). “[W]hen a plaintiff chooses not to attach to the complaint [] a [document] [] which is integral to the complaint, the defendant may produce the [document] when attacking the complaint for its failure to state a claim, because plaintiff should not so easily be allowed to escape the consequences of its own failure.” Cortec Indus., Inc. v. Sum Holding L.P., 949 F.2d 42, 47 (2d Cir. 1991).

         Plaintiff Noel relies heavily on three documents which he has failed to include with his Amended Complaint even though they are integral to assessing the plausibility of his allegations. The documents are: the April 8, 2016 announcement, the July 19, 2016 letter, and the pharmacy manager job description. Plaintiff relies on all three of these documents, and he is not prejudiced by the court's recognition and consideration of them. The Second Circuit has explained that

generally, the harm to the plaintiff when a court considers material extraneous to a complaint is the lack of notice that the material may be considered. Cortec, 949 F.2d at 48. Accordingly, “[w]here plaintiff has actual notice of all the information in the movant's papers and has relied upon these documents in framing the complaint the necessity of translating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion into one under Rule 56 is largely dissipated.” Id.

Chambers, 282 F.3d at 153.

         Plaintiff certainly has notice of all three of these documents. He personally received both the April 8, 2016 announcement and the July 19, 2016 letter. The court's consideration of the pharmacy job description is slightly more complicated, as it is dated November 17, 2016-nearly one month after Plaintiff asserts that he was constructively terminated. However, this was essentially just a codification of the immunization policy which was announced on April 8, 2016. Further, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint specifically refers to the “alteration of his job description.” ECF 12, p. 2. Plaintiff has not contended that the November 17, 2016 document is an inaccurate job description, nor does he voice any concerns in his opposition to the motion to dismiss about the court considering any of the three documents Defendant submitted. See ECF 24. To the contrary, Plaintiff acknowledges Defendant's exhibits and uses them in his arguments opposing the motion to dismiss.

         Thus, the court will consider these three documents in ruling on Defendant's motions to dismiss.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Motion to ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.