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Perdick v. City of Allentown

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

February 26, 2014



TIMOTHY R. RICE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Douglas Perdick, a former Allentown police officer, alleges the City of Allentown violated: (a) the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA") by failing to provide him with a reasonable accommodation; and (b) his Fourteenth Amendment right to procedural due process, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] Allentown seeks summary judgment, arguing that Perdick was not a "qualified individual" under the ADA, Allentown did not fail to provide him with a reasonable accommodation, and his procedural due process claim fails as a matter of law.

I grant Allentown's motion for summary judgment, in part, as to his ADA and PHRA claim, because Perdick was not qualified as a police officer, and, alternatively, he failed to request an accommodation and engage in an interactive process with Allentown to determine a reasonable accommodation. Nevertheless, I deny the motion for summary judgment on Perdick's due process claim.

I. Undisputed Facts

In April 2006, Perdick was hired as an Allentown police officer. Allentown's Facts at ¶ 1; Perdick's Facts at 1. In April 2007, he injured his right knee. Allentown's Facts at ¶¶ 2-3; Perdick's Facts at 1. From April 2007 to September 2009, he received treatment, including surgeries, which required absences from work. Allentown's Facts at ¶¶ 4-18; Perdick's Facts at 2-4, 6-7.

In September 2009, Perdick was released to work with permanent physical restrictions. Allentown's Facts at ¶¶ 18-20; Perdick's Facts at 6-7. A doctor found that he had reached his maximum medical improvement.[2] Allentown's Facts at ¶¶ 18-20; Perdick's Facts at 6-7; Allentown's Ex. I, Doctor's Assessment. Perdick returned to work and was assigned to the records division. Allentown's Facts at ¶ 20; Perdick's Facts at 6-7. Perdick acknowledged that Allentown had a policy of allowing an injured officer six months of temporary, light-duty work. Allentown's Facts at ¶ 15; Perdick's Facts at 5. He also admitted that he was informed that Allentown did not have permanent, light-duty positions in the Police Department. Allentown's Facts at ¶ 16; Perdick's Facts at 6.

In an October 6, 2009 letter, Allentown informed Perdick of its "position that [he was] no longer temporarily incapacitated from performing [his] duties as an Allentown Police Officer." Allentown's Facts at ¶ 24; Perdick's Facts at 8-9. As of March 15, 2010, the date of his "Heart and Lung" hearing on the termination of his temporary disability benefits, Perdick recognized he was permanently injured and unable to perform police officer duties.[3] Allentown's Facts at ¶¶ 27-32; Perdick's Facts at 9-10

In an April 21, 2010 letter, Allentown informed Perdick that it received notification he had been released to perform light/medium work and no longer met the requirements of a police officer. Allentown's Facts at ¶ 34; Perdick's Facts at 11. It listed other available positions, including a recreational clerk, a 911 dispatcher, crossing guard, paramedic, IT department manager, and plant operator, and stated it would give Perdick preference over qualified applicants. Allentown's Facts at ¶¶ 35-36; Perdick's Facts at 10-11. Allentown requested Perdick respond by April 30 and arrange to "meet and discuss" the possibility of continued employment. Allentown's Facts at ¶ 37; Perdick's Facts at 12. Perdick received the letter, but failed to respond by April 30, 2010. Allentown's Facts at ¶¶ 38-39; Perdick's Facts at 12. On May 13, 2010, Perdick was terminated. Allentown's Facts at ¶ 41; Perdick's Facts at 12. Allentown informed Perdick that if he wanted to appeal its decision, he could request a hearing before City Council. Allentown's Facts at ¶ 43; Perdick's Facts at 12-13. Perdick failed to appeal. Allentown's Facts at ¶ 44; Perdick's Facts 12-13.

II. Legal Standard

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).

The ADA and PHRA prohibit a covered employee from discriminating against a qualified individual because of a disability. 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a); see also Kelly v. Drexel Univ. , 94 F.3d 102, 105 (3d Cir. 1996) (PHRA claims are analyzed in the same manner as ADA claims). To be a qualified individual, plaintiff must: (1) "demonstrate that s/he satisfies the requisite skill, experience, education and other job-related requirements of the employment position;" and (2) "establish that s/he, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the position held or sought." Turner v. Hershey Chocolate U.S. , 440 F.3d 604, 611 (3d Cir. 2006) (internal quotation and citation omitted). A plaintiff "is a qualified individual even if he is no longer able to perform the job of a patrol officer, as long as he is able to perform another job available in the police department[.]" Reilly v. Upper Darby Twp. , 809 F.Supp.2d 368, 380 (E.D. Pa. 2011). However, under such circumstances, a plaintiff must provide sufficient evidence from which the jury could reasonably conclude that he was able to perform the essential functions of that other job. See id.

Discrimination under the ADA includes an employer's failure to make reasonable accommodations for a plaintiff's disabilities. See § 12112(b)(5); Taylor v. Phoenixville Sch. Dist. , 184 F.3d 296, 306 (1999). "Reasonable accommodation, '... includes the employer's reasonable efforts to assist the employee and to communicate with the employee in good faith, ' under what has been termed a duty to engage in the interactive process.'" Williams v. Phila. Housing Auth. Police Dep't , 380 F.3d 751, 761 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Mengine v. Runyon , 114 F.3d 415, 416 (3d Cir. 1997)). An employer may be liable for failing to engage in an interactive process if a plaintiff shows: (1) the employer knew about the disability; (2) the employee requested an accommodation; (3) the employer failed to make a good faith effort to assist in finding an accommodation; and (4) the employee could have been reasonably accommodated but-for the employer's lack of good faith. Hohider v. United Parcel Serv., Inc. , 574 F.3d 169, ...

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