(*Amended per the Clerk's 9/29/97 order)
On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (D.C. No. 94-cv-05263)
BEFORE: COWEN, McKEE and WEIS, Circuit Judges
This is an appeal by plaintiff-appellant, Dennis Gaul, from the February 21, 1997, order of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey granting summary judgment in favor of defendant-appellee, AT & T, Inc. (AT & T), and dismissing plaintiff's complaint. Gaul v. AT & T, 955 F. Supp. 346 (D.N.J. 1997). The district court held that plaintiff was not disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. Section(s) 12101 et seq., because:
(1) his depression and anxiety-related disorders were not impairments that substantially limited his major life activity of working; (2) there was no record of such impairment; and (3) plaintiff was not regarded as having such impairment. The district court also held that plaintiff was neither "disabled" under the ADA nor "handicapped" under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq., because his proposed accommodation--transfer to a position where he would not be subjected to prolonged and inordinate stress by coworkers--was unreasonable as a matter of law. Finally, having concluded as a legal matter that plaintiff's proposed accommodation was unreasonable, the district court held that plaintiff's state law claims for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and constructive discharge must also fail. We affirm.
Gaul began working for AT & T in 1981 as a Technical Associate and was promoted to Senior Technical Associate in 1983. He was diagnosed as suffering from depression and anxiety-related disorders in March, 1984. Although his condition was successfully controlled for more than a year with anti-depressant drugs, Gaul suffered a nervous breakdown in 1986. He was hospitalized for several weeks and was absent from work for approximately three months during that year.
Gaul eventually returned to work in early 1987. Once again, he received drug treatment, and his condition appeared under control. Indeed, by late 1988 or early 1989, Gaul received a two-step promotion to Member of Technical Staff. In June, 1990, however, Gaul suffered a relapse after receiving an unfavorable performance review from his manager at that time, Joe Warren, and again went out on disability leave.
While out on disability leave, Gaul was contacted by Tang Jampathon, a supervisor from AT & T's Cordless Telephone Department. Jampathon expressed interest in having Gaul work on a project for which Gaul's skills were required. Gaul explained to Jampathon that he would be unable to work under conditions of prolonged and inordinate stress, and Jampathon assured him that the people in the department would be very supportive. After receiving this assurance, Gaul began seeing Dr. Morris Reby, a board certified psychiatrist, about his desire to return to work when medically able. Dr. Reby diagnosed Gaul as having adjustment disorder with depression, anxiety, and obsessive/compulsive personality. Gaul had several more visits with Dr. Reby and was soon authorized to return to work on a "limited basis."
Gaul returned to work on September 4, 1990, and was permitted to work short hours for one week. From September 4, 1990, until the time he started to work with Donovan Folkes, a coworker, Gaul had no problem with stress, except when a dispute arose in August, 1991, between two coworkers. However, this situation rapidly changed in December, 1991, when he was assigned to work with Folkes on Phase II of the "International Project," also known as the "Herring Project," the purpose of which was to design a cordless telephone for the international market. Gaul was responsible for physical design of the base unit of the telephone set, and Folkes was assigned the handset portion of the unit.
Gaul claims that almost from the outset, he and Folkes had difficulty working together, resulting in a constant source of stress for Gaul. Gaul accused Folkes of using information from "his" data base on the base unit and of not sharing information with him. Gaul also claims that Folkes "may have" taken credit for one of Gaul's ideas and that it "appeared" that Folkes would not acknowledge Gaul's contributions to the team. He also claims that Folkes failed to note ...