Courtesy of Fox lawyer Carl Neff, here is a summary of a recent decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, granting summary judgment in favor of an employer against a plaintiff that made claims based on the ADA and FMLA.
In Pagonakis v. Express, LLC a/k/a Limited Brands, Inc., No. 06-027, slip. op. (D. Del. Feb. 14, 2008), read opinion here, the United States District Court for the District of Delaware granted Defendant Express, LLC’s motion for summary judgment in connection with the complaint filed by Plaintiff Paula Pagonakis which alleged three counts: (i) discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”); (ii) retaliation under the ADA; and (iii) retaliation under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Plaintiff was involved in a car accident in 1995 which left her with several mental and physical impairments which impeded her processing of auditory and visual information, ultimately restricting her ability to work. Plaintiff alleged in her Complaint, among other things, that Defendant failed to reasonably accommodate for her disabilities and further that Defendant created a hostile work environment.
The Court held that Plaintiff failed to satisfy her burden of showing that there is any genuine issue of any material fact with respect to each of the three counts set forth in the Complaint. With regards to the first count alleged, discrimination under the ADA, the Court held that Plaintiff failed to establish two required elements of this claim: (i) that she is otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodations by the employer; and (ii) she has suffered an otherwise adverse employment decision as a result of discrimination. The Plaintiff’s inability to work forty-hour work weeks, her inability to work long enough hours to open or close the store, along with the lack of evidence suggesting that Plaintiff would be able to perform these essential functions with reasonable accommodations, all weighed heavily in the Court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of Defendant with respect to the first count Plaintiff alleged in her Complaint.
Further, the Court held that Plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of retaliation under the ADA and the FMLA. To establish such a claim under the ADA, a plaintiff must show: (i) protected employee activity; (ii) adverse action by the employer either after or contemporaneous with the employee’s protected activity; and (iii) a causal connection between the employee’s protected activity and the employer’s action. The Court found that Plaintiff failed to present questions of material fact on her adverse employment action claims, and the actions of Defendant towards Plaintiff, which may have included offhand comments, isolated incidents of chastisement of other employees for speaking with her, and the abdication of her authority, are not sufficient for a reasonable jury to find discrimination or harassment. Therefore, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant with respect to each count set forth in Plaintiff’s Complaint.