Muhammad v. Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P.

732 F.3d 104 (2nd Cir. 2013)


Walmart (D) hired Muhammad (P) as an overnight deli stocker. P requested and obtained a leave of absence for a hand injury. P was granted leave. When P returned to work on that day, consistent with his doctor's orders, D reassigned him to the light-duty position of Greeter during his normal, overnight shift. P heard a rumor that he had been fired. Shortly thereafter, P saw a group of managers and approached them to inquire further. They denied any knowledge of the rumors. P then returned to his work, but almost immediately approached the managers again. Unprovoked, P yelled at them, threw his employee identification on the ground, and left. The incident was captured on video tape. P was fired. P, acting pro se, filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR), and cross-filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging that D terminated his employment because of his race and disability. P left the 'sex' discrimination portion of the complaint form blank. In the portion of the form asking for information about similarly situated persons, P described a domestic violence incident from the night he was fired and wrote, 'manual of D fighting [is] automatic termination[;] not her[,] I was fired.' EEOC issued a right-to-sue letter. On the district court's pro se discrimination complaint form, P checked the box for Title VII and ADA discrimination, indicating that he intended to sue pursuant to 'Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 . . . (race, color, gender, religion, national origin)' and the 'Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.' P checked the corresponding boxes for a. Failure to provide me with reasonable accommodations to the application process, c. Termination of my employment, e. Failure to provide me with reasonable accommodations so I can perform the essential functions of my job,  Retaliation because I complained about discrimination or harassment directed toward me. P did not check the boxes for 'a. Race b. Color. c. Sex.' Instead, he checked only the box for 'h. disability.' P discussed D's actions related to his alleged disability. He made no mention of race or gender discrimination. Agola filed notice of her appearance in the case. After five months, Agola never amended the complaint to include gender discrimination. During P's January 2011, deposition, P announced his belief that race, gender, and disability all played a part in his firing. D moved for summary judgment. Agola claimed that P 'clearly' pled gender discrimination. The district court sua sponte ordered Agola to show cause why she should not be sanctioned for raising an unpled gender discrimination claim at summary judgment and for characterizing it as clearly pled. The court imposed a reprimand and a $7,500 sanction. Agola appealed.