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Brandon v. Klingensmith Healthcare

December 13, 2005


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Caiazza


Edith Brandon ("Brandon") alleges that she suffered discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA" or "the Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 12111, et seq., when her employer, Klingensmith Healthcare, Inc. ("KHI"), failed to accommodate her fibromyalgia and chronic headaches, and terminated her employment because she was disabled. She makes identical supplemental claims pursuant to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 955 et seq.*fn1 KHI's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 22) is pending. For the reasons explained below, the motion is granted.

I. Background

KHI, a corporation located in Ford City, Pennsylvania, rents and sells medical equipment. In early 2002, Edith Brandon applied for a job as a reimbursement specialist at KHI. She alleges that during the job interview, she explained that she suffered from fibromyalgia, which made it difficult for her to stand for long periods of time. Brandon was hired effective February 18, 2002. Her core duties involved fielding and completing clerical work related to telephone calls from third-party payors, doctors, insurance companies, and others with billing and reimbursement questions.

During her first weeks at KHI, Brandon's fibromyalgia symptoms were largely controlled, although the disorder, aggravated by the stress of the new job, caused some interference with her concentration, thinking, and memory. She also experienced some pain and fatigue, but these did not impede her ability to perform her duties.

In April 2002 Brandon suffered "a kind of seizure" which caused her mind to go blank for about thirty minutes. (Brandon Dep. 56). "Her head was burning and her tongue felt like it was swelling and going numb." (KHI Stmt. of Undisputed Facts ¶ 16). After Brandon told her supervisor about this incident, she was placed on probation for thirty days so that KHI could determine whether her condition would have a detrimental impact on its business. During the month of probation, Brandon's fibromyalgia was more symptomatic, but she was able to function. At the conclusion of the probationary period, Brandon was told that she had performed satisfactorily, and that she would be permitted to retain her job. She then asked that her supervisor be patient and allow time for her adjusted medications to work. She also requested additional training to compensate for times when her fibromyalgia symptoms interfered with her ability to understand and retain the information communicated during her orientation.*fn2

The record does not establish that Brandon's work was affected by any of her impairments over the next ten months. She admitted that during the first four months of 2003, her medication was effective, and she was in remission, - essentially symptom-free. She received a raise in January. In a self-evaluation completed in February, she acknowledged that although there had been some problems associated with her medication changes, her supervisors had been patient and helpful.

In March 2003, Brandon received a formal evaluation stating that the quality and accuracy of her work were unsatisfactory. Her work was monitored over the next month, and in the opinion of her supervisor, Brandon's work did not improve significantly. On April 28, 2003, the supervisor met with Brandon and again placed her on probation for thirty days, this time in order to allow identification of ongoing errors in Brandon's work. Brandon alleges that this probation was not motivated by her work performance, but was imposed instead because of her disabilities. Shortly before her probation was to expire, Brandon notified her supervisor that she needed to visit a doctor because she was experiencing heavy bleeding and swelling. She saw a physician and was diagnosed with endometriosis. She did not tell her supervisors about this diagnosis.

On May 16, Brandon was told that there were continuing problems with her work accuracy and output. She continued to work until May 21, when she underwent outpatient surgery for removal of an ovarian cyst. She does not remember telling her supervisors what necessitated the surgery. Some time before May 28, the day on which she planned to return to work, Brandon called her supervisor to say that although she would return to work as scheduled, she would thereafter need to take additional time off for medical reasons. Her supervisor requested verification from Brandon's doctor.

When Brandon did return to work on May 28th, the day that her probationary period expired, she was told that continuing problems with the quality of her work necessitated her termination.

II. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate only where the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions on file and affidavits demonstrate that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 (c). The mere existence of some evidence favoring the non-moving party will not defeat the motion. There must be enough evidence with respect to a particular issue to enable a reasonable jury to find in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A motion for summary judgment will be granted where the materials in the record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to satisfy the non-moving party's burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

A. Elements of a Prima Facie Case Under the ADA

The ADA was enacted to prohibit an employer from discriminating "against a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability . . . with regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment." 42 U.S.C. ยง 12112 (a). In order to establish a prima facie claim of discrimination under the Act, a plaintiff must demonstrate that: 1) she is disabled within the meaning of the ADA ; 2) she is otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodation by the ...

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