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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. West Meade Place, LLP

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

October 22, 2019





         I. Introduction

         Pending before the Court are Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 42), Plaintiff's Response (Doc. No. 47), and Defendant's Reply (Doc. No. 52). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 42) is GRANTED, and this action is DISMISSED.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brings this action alleging Defendant West Meade Place LLP d/b/a The Health Care Center at West Meade Place (“WMP”) violated the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq. (“ADA”) by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation to Carma Kean, a former employee of WMP, and by discharging her because of her disability. (Doc. No. 1). More specifically, Plaintiff alleges Ms. Kean, who worked as a laundry technician at WMP from February 2015 to November 2015, was terminated from her employment after requesting a reasonable accommodation for her anxiety disorder. (Id.)

         III. Analysis

         A. The Standards Governing Motions for Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment should be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Supreme Court has construed Rule 56 to “mandate[] the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, a court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. See, e.g., Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Shreve v. Franklin County, Ohio, 743 F.3d 126, 132 (6th Cir. 2014). The court does not, however, make credibility determinations, weigh the evidence, or determine the truth of the matter. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

         In order to defeat the motion, the nonmoving party must provide evidence, beyond the pleadings, upon which a reasonable jury could return a verdict in its favor. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324; Shreve, 743 F.3d at 132. Ultimately, the court is to determine “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.

         B. ADA Discrimination/Failure to Accommodate

         Plaintiff claims WMP violated the ADA by discharging Ms. Kean because of her disability. The ADA prohibits discrimination against “a qualified individual on the basis of disability” with regard to hiring, compensation, discharge, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). A “qualified individual” is “an individual who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position that such individual holds or desires.” 42 U.S.C. § 12111(8). In order to establish a prima facie case of discrimination under the ADA, a plaintiff must show: (1) she is disabled; (2) she is otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of a position, with or without accommodation; and (3) she suffered an adverse employment action because of her disability. Demyanovich v. Cadon Plating & Coatings, L.L.C., 747 F.3d 419, 433 (6th Cir. 2014); Perry v. American Red Cross Blood Services, 651 Fed.Appx. 317 (6th Cir. 2016).

         Plaintiff also claims WMP violated the ADA by failing to accommodate Ms. Kean's disability. To establish a prima facie failure-to-accommodate claim, a plaintiff must show: (1) she is disabled under the ADA; (2) she is otherwise qualified for the position, with or without a reasonable accommodation; (3) her employer knew or had reason to know of her disability; (4) she requested a reasonable accommodation; and (5) the employer failed to provide the reasonable accommodation. Cotuna v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2017 WL 5171247, at *2 (6th Cir. 2017). The employee bears the burden of requesting a reasonable accommodation. Aldini v. Kroger Co. of Michigan, 628 Fed.Appx. 347, 350 (6th Cir. 2015).

         Defendant argues Ms. Kean is not disabled, and therefore, Plaintiff cannot establish the first element under either claim. Under the ADA, a "disability" is defined in three ways: (A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual; (B) a record of such an impairment; or (C) being regarded as having such an impairment. 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1). For purposes of this definition, "major life activities" “include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2).[1] The definition of “disability” is to be construed in accordance with the following: “(A) The definition of disability in this chapter shall be construed in favor of broad coverage of individuals under this chapter, to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of this chapter; (B) The term ‘substantially limits' shall be interpreted consistently with the findings and purposes of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008; (C) An impairment that substantially limits one major life activity need not limit other major life activities in order to be considered a disability; and (D) An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.” 42 U.S.C. § 12102(4).

         To support the claim that Ms. Kean meets the first definition in Section 12102(1), Plaintiff relies on the testimony of Dr. Aisha Hashmat. According to Plaintiff, Dr. Hashmat opined that Ms. Kean “could not work during flare-ups of her anxiety and therefore could potentially be unable to work for one to three days per month.” (Doc. No. 47, at 7). This is, indeed, what Dr. Hashmat stated in a form Ms. Kean provided to her employer. When asked about that form during her deposition, Dr. Hashmat testified as follows:

Q. All right. Okay. Well, Dr. Hashmat, why did you - let's see - why did you sign this FMLA [Family Medical Leave Act] form for Ms. Kean?
A. Because she wanted me to sign it.
Q. Okay. Well - but did you make an assessment for Ms. Kean in order to sign this form? . . .
A. I don't know. I can't answer it.
Q. All right. Now - well, Dr. Hashmat, let's - let's maybe look at the form itself. Okay.
Dr. Hashmat, looking at - looking at the second page of the form, it says there under the paragraph number 4, ‘Patient is not able to work during flare-up/episodes.'
Was that your opinion at the time when you - when you signed this form?
A. The patient asked me that (sic) whenever she has a flare-up of anxiety attacks, she wants this time off. I'm like, ‘Okay.'
Q. I mean, did you -
A. Because I can't argue with my patients.
Q. Okay.
A. I mean, can I say ‘no' to her or my patients?
Q. Well, I guess - I mean, Dr. Hashmat -
A. If she is wanting that time off, I have to give it to her.
Q. Okay. But Dr. Hashmat, I mean -
A. That interferes with her job then.
Q. Yes.

A. So I have to give it to her.

         (Deposition of Dr. Aisha Hashmat, at 29-31 (Doc. No. 54-1, at 29-30)).

         Dr. Hashmat further testified about how she reached her diagnosis of Ms. Kean, who became her patient in April 2014:

Q. . . . Now, during your treatment of Ms. Kean, did you ever diagnose her with any mental health issue?
A. She was already diagnosed when I saw her.
Q. Okay. And what was your diagnosis at that time?
A. Anxiety.
Q. Okay. And can you explain that diagnosis for the record?
A. Nervousness. . . .
Q. Okay. Well, Dr. Hashmat, you have seen - you have seen Carma Kean as a patient, is that correct?
A. Yes.
Q. All right. And she had a prior diagnosis of anxiety, is that correct?
A. Yes.
Q. What was your own diagnosis of Ms. Kean with - as far as any mental ...

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