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Boggs v. Cedar Creek, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

December 19, 2017




         Now before the Court is Defendant Cedar Creek, LLC's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 24). Plaintiff has responded and the Motion is now at issue.

         I. Background

         Defendant employed Plaintiff as a human resources assistant when she suffered a panic attack at work on January 29, 2014. Plaintiff's supervisor, Michelle Lewis, witnessed the attack. Plaintiff's attacks were generally triggered by anxiety caused by driving, especially in unfavorable weather conditions.

         On February 7, 2014, Plaintiff emailed Lewis and requested to work the 9:00-6:00 shift to avoid traffic and asked to work remotely from home. The same day Lewis responded via email that she would consider the flex schedule request and explained working remotely was not an option as Plaintiff needed to report to the office location. Although Plaintiff had worked from home before, remote access equipment was for occasional use only. Lewis's affidavit explains, and Plaintiff does not object, this restriction was because human resource personnel must be physically present to access confidential personnel files and be accessible to Cedar Creek employees to address human resource issues.

         Defendant states Plaintiff worked a flex schedule following the February 7 email, which Plaintiff does not materially dispute. On April 30, 2014, Plaintiff submitted a Family Medical Leave Request for Leave Form to Defendant, requesting intermittent Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) leave beginning the same day. Defendant notified Plaintiff of its approval of her request for intermittent FMLA leave on May 2. On May 9, Plaintiff submitted an ADA Request for Reasonable Accommodation Form where she requested six accommodations: 1) work remotely from home; 2) allow a flexible work schedule for counseling and medication management; 3) allow flexible start and end times of the work day; 4) allow communication during work hours to receive support from doctor, family members, or others during times of anxiety; 5) allow breaks during the work shift when anxiety is starting to manifest; and 6) allow time to document the anxiety.

         On June 20, 2014, Defendant responded to Plaintiff's ADA Request for Reasonable Accommodation Form. The response stated Plaintiff would not be allowed to work from her residence because Plaintiff's “job functions require [her] daily presence at the Company.” (Cedar Creek Letter, Dkt. No. 24-15, p. 2.) Plaintiff was allowed a flexible work schedule “to avoid driving in high traffic and poor weather conditions” and Plaintiff could place calls for support during the work day and it would “be accounted for as intermittent FMLA leave.” Plaintiff was instructed to “feel free to take breaks or employ other stress management techniques during the work day” and to close the door of her office if she needed “privacy to place a call or take a stress management break.” (Cedar Creek Letter, Dkt. No. 24-15, p. 2.) Defendant states, and Plaintiff does not object, that Plaintiff had been allowed these accommodations since February. Plaintiff and two supervisors met to discuss the accommodations and Plaintiff indicated she thought they were adequate.

         Defendant describes a number of performance issues that took place in mid-2014 which were unrelated to Plaintiff's medical conditions. The issues include one circumstance of Plaintiff disregarding instructions given to her by Lewis, resulting in a written warning on April 29, 2014. Defendant describes three other incidents where Plaintiff made financial mistakes and one instance involving an incorrect wage garnishment with a court. Plaintiff does not deny the performance issues took place, but does deny they were serious infractions since no supervisor took disciplinary action at the time.

         In May 2014, Defendant created a new position within the human resources department and hired an additional employee. Defendant created the position due to company growth and while Plaintiff's job title and compensation did not change, she was given some new responsibilities and some prior responsibilities were allocated to the new employee. Plaintiff and the new employee were cross-trained on each other's duties.

         In August 2014, the human resource department, now composed of three employees, moved from private offices to one large workspace. Defendant states, and Plaintiff does not dispute, it relocated the department due to growth and reorganization of the company's corporate headquarters. Plaintiff complains this was an unreasonable unilateral revocation of her accommodations allowing her to have a private space to make calls and perform stress management techniques throughout the day. Defendant offered new private space accommodations in the conference room, gym, restroom, or Plaintiff's vehicle. Following another performance issue where Plaintiff unilaterally reassigned her tasks to the new human resource employee, Lewis made the decision to terminate Plaintiff's employment effective September 15, 2014.

         II. Standard

         The standard for summary judgment is well established. Summary judgment may only be granted if the evidence of record shows “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 movant bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of material fact requiring judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A fact is material if it is essential to the proper disposition of the claim. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). If the movant carries this initial burden, the nonmovant must then set forth specific facts outside the pleadings and admissible into evidence which would convince a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmovant. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). All facts and reasonable inferences therefrom are construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

         III. Discrimination in Violation of ADA/ADAAA

Federal law[1] requires “[n]o covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, ...

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