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Julie Diaz v. Saucon Valley Manor

March 5, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Timothy R. Rice U.S. Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff Julie Diaz alleges Defendants Saucon Valley Manor, Inc. ("Saucon") and Nimita Kapooratiyeh, a/k/a Nemita Atiyeh, a/k/a Nemo Aiyah ("Atiyeh") fired her because she suffers from an alcohol-related disability and requested a reasonable accommodation to attend an inpatient treatment program.*fn1 Saucon and Atiyeh (collectively, "Defendants") seek summary judgment on all counts, except Diaz' FMLA claim against Saucon. They argue that Diaz' claims under the ADA, PHRA, and Rehabilitation Act must be dismissed as a matter of law because Diaz has failed to present a prima facie case of discrimination, or show that Saucon's legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for terminating her employment were a pretext. Defendants additionally argue that Diaz' FMLA claim against Atiyeh must be dismissed because Atiyeh cannot be subject to individual liability under the FMLA.

I deny Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment, but will enter judgment against Diaz on her retaliation claims unless she shows that judgment is not proper within twenty-one days of this decision.


Summary judgment is appropriate where "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). An issue is "genuine" if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is "material" if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Id.

Where there is only one reasonable conclusion from the record regarding the potential verdict under the governing law, summary judgment must be awarded to the moving party. See id. at 250. "If reasonable minds could differ as to the import of the evidence, however, a verdict should not be directed." Id. at 250-51. I must view the facts and any inferences from those facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Ray v. Warren, 626 F.3d 170, 173 (3d Cir. 2010).


A.Diaz' ADA and PHRA Discrimination Claims (Counts I and II)

1.Prima Facie Case

To establish a prima facie case of discrimination under the ADA and PHRA, Diaz must show: (1) she is disabled under the meanings of the acts; (2) she is qualified to perform the essential functions of the pertinent job, with or without reasonable accommodations by the employer; and (3) Saucon took an adverse employment action against her because of the discrimination. See 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a); 43 P.S. § 955(a); see also Taylor v. Phoenixville Sch. Dist., 184 F.3d 296, 306 (3d Cir. 1999); Kelly v. Drexel Univ., 94 F.3d 102, 105 (3d Cir. 1996) (PHRA claims are analyzed in same manner as ADA claims). This is not an onerous burden. See Decker v. Alliant Techs., LLC, 871 F. Supp. 2d 413, 425 (E.D. Pa. 2012).

Defendants seem to contend that Diaz cannot satisfy the third element of her prima facie case of discrimination because there is no evidence showing that Saucon treated "similarly situated" employees differently. Defs.' Bf. (doc. 19), at 11. Such evidence, however, is not required. Matczak v. Frankford Candy & Choc. Co., 136 F.3d 933, 939 (3d Cir. 1997) ("evidence of favorable treatment outside the protected class is not an element of a prima facie case"). Diaz needs to show only "that adverse employment actions occurred under circumstances that give rise to an inference of unlawful discrimination." Young v. St. James Mgmt., LLC, 749 F. Supp. 2d 281, 291 (E.D. Pa. 2010); see also Texas Dep't of Comm. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 253-54 (1981). This may be established by any evidence tending to show that Diaz' disability was a determinative factor in Saucon's decision to terminate her. See Decker, 871 F. Supp. 2d at 428; see also Watson v. Se. Penn. Transp. Auth., 207 F.3d 207, 214-15 (3d Cir. 2000).

Viewed in the light most favorable to Diaz, the evidence shows: (1) Diaz' supervisors knew of her alcoholism, Diaz Dep. at 101-02, 139; (2) Diaz was an "excellent" employee and received "excellent" scores on an evaluation six weeks before her discharge, Belcak Dep., at 93, Diaz Ex. G; (3) Diaz requested June 22, 2010 off for a court hearing, Diaz Dep., at 151;

(4) Diaz also requested medical leave for inpatient treatment in June 2010, id. at 130; Belcak Dep., at 23-24;

(5) Diaz' supervisor told Diaz that her medical leave would not be a problem and she did not need to fill out any paperwork until she received the exact ...

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