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Jockel v. Luzerne County

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 2, 2015

SUSAN JOCKEL, Plaintiff,


A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge

Presently before me is the Partial Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint (Doc. 7) filed by Defendants Luzerne County, Luzerne County Correctional Facility, and Joseph Piazza (“Piazza”) (collectively, “Defendants”). For the reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

The facts as set forth in the Complaint are as follows:

Plaintiff Susan Jockel (“Jockel”) worked at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility (“LCCF”) from 1996 until August 2014. (Compl., ¶ 10.) During her employment at LCCF, Jockel suffered from gastrointestinal issues and related symptoms requiring her to have immediate access to a lavatory. (Id. at ¶¶ 8-9.)

In June 2011, Jockel experienced additional symptoms associated with her disability, which posed problems and challenges regarding particular work assignments at LCCF. (Id. at ¶¶ 14-15.) After consulting with a physician, Jockel sent Piazza a letter requesting an accommodation for her disability, such as assignment to the minimal offender’s unit where she believed she would have immediate lavatory access. (Id. at ¶¶ 16-21.) In response, Piazza requested additional information from Jockel about her disability. (Id. at ¶ 22.)

Shortly thereafter but before Jockel could respond to his request, Piazza issued a memorandum to staff members stating that light duty posts would “only be used to accommodate those employees who are separated from duty due to a work related or inmate related injury.” (Id. at Ex. D.) That memorandum also provided that employees holding light duty posts for injuries that were not work related at the time would be required to submit documentation every thirty (30) days updating their condition, progress, and expected date of return. (Id.)

By letter dated August 3, 2011, Jockel provided Piazza with additional documentation and information pertaining to her disability. (Id. at Ex. E.) Jockel also submitted a form prepared by her physician which explained her disability and recommended that she be placed in the minimal offender’s unit until further notice. (Id. at ¶¶ 27-29.)

In his response dated August 15, 2011, Piazza acknowledged that Jockel “may have a problem,” but that she had failed to provide the necessary information to allow for an evaluation of her request for a reasonable accommodation. (Id. at Ex. F.) Nevertheless, Piazza informed Jockel that she would be assigned to the Floor Control Centers because the control booth had easily accessible restrooms. (Id.)

Assignment to the control booth did not accommodate Jockel and was inapposite to the recommendation of her physician because she was unable to procure a temporary replacement as required by her condition. (Id. at ¶ 35.) Thus, both Jockel and her physician explained to Piazza in writing that although the control booth had an easily accessible restroom, that position did not sufficiently accommodate her because she was unable to obtain immediate staff relief when she needed to use the lavatory. (Id. at Exs. H, I.)

Piazza responded to Jockel and her physician by letter dated August 18, 2011. (Id. at Ex. J.) In his letter, Piazza informed Jockel that the minimal offender’s unit was not an option due to safety and security concerns, and that the control booth presented the best accommodation for her needs. (Id.)

The parties were ultimately able to reach an agreement, and Jockel was provided a reasonable accommodation for three months. (Id. at ¶ 41.)

Thereafter, in early September 2011, Jockel called off work due to a flood at her home. (Id. at ¶ 42.) Although other officers took off work due to the flood, Jockel was the only employee that was disciplined. (Id. at ¶¶ 43-44.)

On October 3, 2011, Jockel received an update from her physician indicating that her condition had yet to improve and that she continued to require a job accommodation. (Id. at Ex. O.) Later that month, Piazza convened a meeting to discuss Jockel missing work when her home was flooded. (Id. at ¶ 48.) At that meeting, Piazza berated Jockel, denied her representation by the union steward, and made threats against her employment. (Id. at ¶ 49.) Jockel, however, continued in her employment and provided updates to Piazza about her disability and need for continuing accommodations. (Id. at ΒΆ 51.) Around this time, ...

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