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Haddad v. 21st Mortgage Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville

April 21, 2017

RITA HADDAD, Plaintiff,
v.
21st MORTGAGE CORPORATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         Rita Haddad has multiple sclerosis. In 2007, she began work as a phone auditor for 21st Mortgage Corporation. She was made a loan processor in 2010. In July 2011, Haddad's doctor faxed a letter to Haddad's supervisor, Michael Howard. The letter explained that, because of Haddad's MS, she would sometimes have to miss work and “may need some consideration from time to time.” When Haddad followed up with Howard, she asked that she be able to work extra hours and deal with only one client. Howard said that would be impossible.

         In October 2011, Haddad received her first performance review as a loan processor; it rated her a top performer. But she soon started having problems. When 21st Mortgage changed its performance-review process to include peer review, Haddad's 2012 review was much worse. She also struggled to complete her work and build client relationships. So in March 2013, Howard and Haddad's assistant manager met with Haddad and gave her a written warning. Haddad disagreed with their take on the situation and asked to meet with the human-resources director, Wayne Williams.

         Williams sat down with Haddad the next day. He suggested that she struggled to build client relationships because she was bad at small talk. Haddad responded that she suffered from “tip of the tongue” syndrome, a side effect of MS. Although Haddad was apparently requesting an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Williams replied by giving Haddad pa- perwork for taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. He did so because 21st Mortgage also uses the FMLA forms for ADA requests. Williams followed up with Haddad, but Haddad never completed the forms.

         Haddad's work struggles continued. On April 30, 2013, Haddad left work early. 21st Mortgage fired her the next day. The reasons were her leaving early and her poor work performance.

         This suit followed on June 29, 2015. Haddad alleges that 21st Mortgage violated the ADA, the Tennessee Disability Act, and the Tennessee Human Rights Act.[1] Now before the Court is 21st Mortgage's motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, this motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I

         Summary judgment is proper only if there is no genuine dispute on any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is material if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Id.; Stiles ex rel. D.S. v. Grainger Cty., 819 F.3d 834, 847 (6th Cir. 2016).

         The moving party bears the initial burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact on any element of the other party's claim or defense. Stiles, 819 F.3d at 847. In determining whether this burden is satisfied, the Court views all evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draws all inferences in her favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. If the movant satisfies this burden, then the nomoving party must identify facts in the record that raise a genuine issue of material fact on each challenged element of her claim or defense. Stiles, 819 F.3d at 847. If this is not done, summary judgment is granted. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The Court does not weigh evidence, judge witnesses' credibility, or decide the truth of the matter. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.

         II

         Haddad alleges that 21st Mortgage fired her because she is disabled, in violation of the ADA, the Tennessee Disability Act, and the Tennessee Human Rights Act. Her state-law claims, however, are barred by the statute of limitations. Haddad had to file suit within one year of when she was fired. Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 8-50-103(c)(2), 4-21-311(d). Haddad was fired on May 1, 2013. She filed this suit in June 2015. On the Court's own motion, her state claims are dismissed. See, e.g., Alston v. Tenn. Dep't of Corr., 28 F. App'x 475, 476 (6th Cir. 2002).

         That leaves the ADA claims. A plaintiff may prove her ADA claims through direct or indirect evidence. Haddad offers only indirect evidence. Her claims are therefore governed by the three-step McDonnell Douglas test.[2] Talley v. Family Dollar Stores of Ohio, 542 F.3d 1099, 1105 (6th Cir. 2008).

         The first step falls on Haddad. Id. She must make a prima facie showing of all the elements of her claims. Id. 21st Mortgage contends that Haddad cannot meet this task. But if she does, then the Court proceeds to the second step. Id. The burden shifts to 21st Mortgage to show that it had a legitimate reason for firing Haddad. Id. Finally, if it meets this demand, then the burden shifts back to Haddad to show that this reason is pretextual. Id. 21st Mortgage has offered reasons for firing Haddad. It argues that these reasons are legitimate and that Haddad cannot show them to be pre-textual.

         A

         Although Haddad has brought three claims against 21st Mortgage, 21st Mortgage offers the same reasons for firing her, and Haddad levels one set of arguments against these reasons. The first issue, then, is whether Haddad has made a prima facie showing on her claims.

         1

         Haddad first alleges disability discrimination. To make out a prima facie case, she must show that

• she is disabled;
• she was otherwise qualified for her job with 21st Mortgage;
• 21st Mortgage took an adverse employment action against her;
• 21st Mortgage knew or had reason to know of her disability; and
• she was replaced, or her position stayed open while 21st Mortgage looked ...

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