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Case Document

Andrews v. City of Hartford Court of Appeals Decision

Document Type
Court Opinions




No. 16-15576

Non-Argument Calendar

D.C. Docket No. 1:15-cv-00684-BJR-SRW




Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama

(June 30, 2017)

Before HULL, MARCUS and WILSON, Circuit Judges.


Timothy Andrews appeals the dismissal of his complaint for failure to state a claim in his lawsuit
alleging, inter alia, employment discrimination1 by his former

employer, the City of Hartford, Alabama (“the City”). He argues that the district court applied an
outdated definition of disabled under the “regarded as” prong of the Americans with Disabilities
Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12102. The City responds that, even if the district court applied an
incorrect definition, dismissal was proper because Andrews failed to plead any factual allegations
to show that  his disability was the reason for his termination.2  After careful review, we affirm.


We review de novo a dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief

may be granted, “accepting the allegations in the complaint as true and construing them in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff.”   Leib v. Hillsborough Cnty.  Pub.

Transp.  Comm’n,  558  F.3d 1301, 1305 (11th  Cir. 2009).      We  may affirm  the

district court’s decision “on any ground supported by the record, regardless of whether that 
ground was  relied on  or  considered  below.”     Evans  v.  Ga. Reg’l

1 Before the district court, Andrews also raised claims for failure to accommodate, retaliation,
and intentional infliction of emotional distress, which the district court disposed of, and he does
not challenge that on appeal. On appeal, he also does not argue that the court erred when it found
that he did not allege actual disability or a record of disability, or that the court should have
allowed him to amend his complaint to cure the alleged defects. Thus, these issues are abandoned. 
See Sapuppo v. Allstate Floridian Ins. Co., 739 F.3d 678, 680 (11th Cir. 2014).

2 We have considered, and rejected, the City’s alternative argument that Andrews waived his
“regarded as” argument before the district court or otherwise invited the error he now complains of
on appeal.



Hosp.,  850  F.3d  1248,  1253  (11th  Cir.  2017).   An  appellant  must  clearly and

specifically identify in his brief any issue he wants the appellate court to address, however,
otherwise it will be deemed abandoned.  Sapuppo, 739 F.3d at 680.

In a complaint, a plaintiff is required to provide a short and plain statement  of the claim
showing entitlement to relief. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). While the complaint need not make detailed
factual allegations, it must provide more than labels, conclusions, and formulaic recitations of
the elements of the cause  of action.  Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). 
The factual allegations must be sufficient to raise the right to relief above the speculative level. Id.  To
meet this requirement, the plaintiff’s factual allegations cannot simply be

consistent with the defendant’s liability; rather they must be sufficient to allow the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct.   Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).   Conclusory allegations

do not “unlock the doors of discovery” for plaintiffs.  Id. at 678-79.  “Nor does a

complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]’ devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.’” Id.
at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

In the context of Title VII and Age Discrimination and Employment Act cases, the Supreme Court has
held that a complaint asserting employment discrimination need not contain specific facts
establishing a prima facie case under the burden-shifting framework set forth in McDonnell Douglas
Corp. v. Green,



411 U.S. 792 (1973).  Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 510-11 (2002)

(quotation omitted). Rather, the complaint need only “give the defendant fair  notice of what the
plaintiff’s claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.”  Id. at

512 (quotation omitted).   This is because McDonnell Douglas is an evidentiary

standard, not a pleading standard.   Id. at 510.   The Supreme Court’s later decision

in Twombly did not alter this distinction.  Twombly, 550 U.S. at 569-70.

Nonetheless, a complaint must allege sufficient facts to allow the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the employer engaged in discrimination.   See

Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; see also Edwards v. Prime, Inc., 602 F.3d 1276, 1300  (11th

Cir. 2010) (requiring an employee making a hostile-work-environment claim post- Iqbal  to  allege
all  five prima facie elements). In  a different  context, we’ve asked

whether a complaint adequately stated the statutory elements necessary to recover, rather than the
prima facie elements.  See Hunt v. Aimco Properties, L.P., 814 F.3d

1213, 1221 (11th Cir. 2016) (Fair Housing Act discrimination claim); see also

Wilchombe v. TeeVee Toons, Inc., 555 F.3d 949, 959 (11th Cir. 2009) (noting that

our review on a motion to dismiss is limited to the four corners of the complaint).

The ADA prohibits discrimination by an employer against “a qualified individual on the basis of
disability.” 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). The ADA defines “disability” as “(A) a physical or mental
impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of [an] individual; . . . or
(C) being regarded as having



such an impairment.” 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1). To state a “regarded as” disability claim under the ADA,
a plaintiff must allege, among other things, that he was “regarded as” disabled, he was a qualified
individual, and that a “covered entity” discriminated  against  him  “on  account  of”  his 
disability.    See  id.;  Surtain  v. Hamlin Terrace Foundation, 789 F.3d 1239, 1246 (11th Cir. 2015). 

The plaintiff is not required to establish that his disability was the sole basis for his discrimination,

but  need only  show  that  his  disability  was  a  determinative  factor.    Farley  v.

Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co., 197 F.3d 1322, 1334 (11th Cir. 1999).

Previously, the Supreme Court held that to be “regarded as” disabled under the ADA with respect to
one’s ability to work, an employer must perceive a person as being “unable to work in a broad class
of jobs . . . . [O]ne must be precluded from more than one type of job, a specialized job, or a
particular job of choice.” Sutton v. United Air Lines, Inc., 527 U.S. 471, 491–92 (1999); see also
Carruthers v.  BSA  Adver.,  Inc.,  357  F.3d  1213,  1216  (11th  Cir.  2004).    Congress  later

amended the ADA, however, to abrogate Sutton and provide that a person would

meet the “regarded as having such an impairment” prong of the definition if he shows that he has
been subjected to an action prohibited by the ADA on the basis  of an actual or perceived physical
impairment, “whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity.” 
42 U.S.C. § 12102(3)(A).



The statutory definition of the “regarded as” prong set forth above became effective January 1,
2009, when Congress passed the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (“ADAAA”), Pub. L. No. 110–325, § 3, 122
Stat. 3553 (2008).  When the “critical events” in a case occurred after the ADAAA went into effect, the court

should apply post-ADAAA version of the ADA.   Mazzeo v. Color Resolutions

Intern., LLC, 746 F.3d 1264, 1267 (11th Cir. 2014).

Here, even if we assume that the district court should have concluded that Andrews was “regarded
as” disabled under the ADAAA and that he was qualified for the position he was fired from, Andrews
did not allege facts showing that the City engaged in discrimination, or that his disability was a
determinative factor in the City’s decision to terminate his employment.  See Farley, 197 F.3d at

Andrews’s complaint alleged that his coworkers harassed him because of his diabetes, that the City
failed to make accommodations to address the harassment, and that it then fired him in spite of his
excellent job performance. However, neither the complaint, nor his original EEOC charge, alleged
any plausible facts:
(1) concerning the City official(s) who decided to fire him and why the(se) person(s) believed his
diabetes significantly restricted him from one or more major life activities, including working;
(2) showing how his diabetes, his use of a diabetic pump, or being “regarded as” having a
disability was a “determinative factor” in the termination decision; or (3) otherwise giving rise
to an inference of


disability discrimination. He made only the conclusory statement that he was fired because of his
disability, which was not sufficient to state a discrimination claim. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555;
see Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.  Thus, notwithstanding any legal error the district court may have committed

concerning the definition of “regarded as,” the district court did not err in concluding that Andrews’s

complaint did not sufficiently claim that he was fired on the basis of his disability. We affirm the

dismissal of Andrews’s complaint.



Updated April 18, 2023