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Quidachay v. Kansas Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Kansas

March 9, 2017




         Margaret Quidachay filed suit against the Kansas Department of Corrections (“KDOC”) and the State of Kansas, alleging disability discrimination and retaliation under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Before the court is defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2), or alternatively, Rule 12(b)(6). Dkt. 6. For the reasons stated below, the court denies the motion.

         I. Factual Allegations

         The court summarizes the First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) as follows. Quidachay has a college degree and has substantial experience working in the corrections field. FAC at ¶ 2. From February 11, 2008 to August 1, 2012, she worked as a corrections officer at the El Dorado Correctional Facility (EDCF), which defendants own and operate. Id. at ¶ ¶ 5 and 12; Dkt. 1, Complaint, Ex. A. Defendants allegedly fired plaintiff in 2012 after she asked to be posted near a restroom to accommodate her Crohn's disease. FAC at ¶ 13. She appealed her termination to the civil service board of Kansas. During that process, she and the EDCF warden reached an agreement - withdrawal of her grievance for an upgrade in her performance evaluation to “Meets Expectations” and a change in her termination status to resigned. Pursuant to the agreement, Quidachay withdrew her grievance and resigned her employment in July 2012.

         Plaintiff then filed a lawsuit against the State of Kansas and various individuals in Butler County District Court for violations of the Americans with Disability Act (“ADA”). Id. at ¶ 17; Quidachay v. Dept. of Corrections, et al, 51 Kan. App.2d 278 (March 13, 2015). Although some of the claims have been dismissed, that case remains pending in Butler County District Court.

         From August 14, 2013, until November 18, 2015, plaintiff applied for 77 jobs: 72 were with the KDOC at various corrections facilities including EDCF; and 5 were with the Kansas State Department of Children and Families (KDCF). Dkt. 1, Complaint, Ex. A. According to plaintiff, she was denied all 77 jobs as a result of defendants' unlawful policy of “blackballing” her. FAC at ¶ 20. Defendants allegedly prevented plaintiff from obtaining subsequent employment with the State of Kansas by maintaining her personnel records in a computer system that falsely indicated “she was terminated on the basis of her disability and that she had been ‘Dismissed.'” Id. at ¶ 22. She avers that state agencies reviewed and relied on those records in refusing to hire her. Id. at ¶¶ 21-25.

         II. Discussion

         Defendants seek dismissal on two grounds: 1) this court lacks personal jurisdiction over them; and 2) plaintiff has failed to state a plausible claim for relief under the Rehabilitation Act. With respect to the latter, defendants contend that plaintiff has failed to allege that: a) she was disabled during the relevant time period; b) she was otherwise qualified for the positions sought; c) she was not hired solely because of her disability; and d) a causal relationship linking KDOC to the refusals to hire.

         A. Rule 12(b)(2) and KDOC's Capacity to be Sued

         Defendants argue that the KDOC lacks the capacity to be sued, thus this court lacks personal jurisdiction over it and the suit should be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(2). The court disagrees. Defendants' acceptance of federal funds acts as a waiver of sovereign immunity and renders any arguments against capacity ineffectual. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000d-7(a)(1) (“A State shall not be immune under the Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution of the United States from suit in Federal Court for a violation of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act ...”); Robinson v. Kansas, 295 F.3d 1183, 1190 (10th Cir. 2002) (joining sister circuits in holding that states and state entities waive sovereign immunity by accepting federal financial assistance as specified in 42 U.S.C. § 2000d-7); Arbogast v. Kansas, No. 13-CV-4007-JAR, 2014 WL 1308915, at *6-7 (D. Kan. Mar. 31, 2014), aff'd in part, dismissed in part sub nom. Arbogast v. Kansas, Dep't of Labor, 789 F.3d 1174 (10th Cir. 2015).

         B. Rule 12(b)(6) and Claims under the RA

         1. Disability Discrimination

         Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act states that “[n]o otherwise qualified individual with a disability ... shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” 29 U.S.C. § 794(a). To state a discrimination claim under the Rehabilitation Act, plaintiff must show that: 1) she is disabled under the Act; 2) she would otherwise be qualified for the job; 3) the program receives federal financial assistance; and 4) the program has discriminated against the plaintiff. Wilkerson v. Shinseki, 606 F.3d 1256, 1262 (10th Cir. 2010). The parties do not dispute that element 3 has been meet.

         Defendants first argue that plaintiff's claims based on the refusals to hire that occurred before July 11, 2014, are barred by the statute of limitations. Defendants urge dismissal of these claims and exclusion of the related allegations from the complaint (Complaint, Ex. A., ¶¶ A-BB). Dkt. 17 at 2. Because plaintiff clarified that she does not seek relief for refusals to hire that are outside the statute of limitations or that were genuinely available only to internal ...

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