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Napoli v. Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

November 25, 2019

MICHAEL NAPOLI, Plaintiff,
v.
GREENWOOD GAMING AND ENTERTAINMENT, INC. d/b/a PARX CASINO, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          TUCKER, J.

         Before the Court is Defendant Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgement (ECF Nos. 15, 18) and Plaintiff Michael Napoli's Response in Opposition (ECF No. 16). Defendant argues that Plaintiff's request for an indefinite leave of absence did not constitute a reasonable accommodation defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Thus, Defendant's denial of Plaintiff's request and subsequent termination of employment, was not a violation of the ADA nor the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”). For the foregoing reasons, Defendant's Motion is DENIED.

         I. STATEMENT OF FACTS

         Plaintiff Michael Napoli worked as a part-time tables dealer for Defendant Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment, Inc., starting August 22, 2016. Pl.'s Resp. In Opp'n 1, ECF No. 16. In January 2017, Plaintiff was diagnosed with diastolic heart failure and underwent a left and right heart catheterization procedure. Pl.'s Resp. In Opp'n Mem. 2. The procedure was unsuccessful; within six hours of surgery Plaintiff lost feeling in his right arm. Plaintiff was subsequently diagnosed with Deep Vein Thrombosis. Pl.'s Resp. In Opp'n Mem. 2.

         During a January 25, 2017 appointment, Plaintiff alleges that his vascular doctor informed him that he needed seven (7) to eight (8) weeks off work. Pl.'s Resp. In Opp'n Mem. 2. Plaintiff further alleges that the doctor provided a doctor's note attesting to his need for time off; the doctor would reassess Plaintiff's condition at a follow-up appointment. Pl.'s Resp. In Opp'n Mem. 2. After his surgery, Plaintiff returned to work and attempted to meet with human resources. Pl.'s Resp. In Opp'n Mem. 2. An HR employee, Rebecca Carr, directed Plaintiff to his supervisor, Johanna Belanger. Pl.'s Resp. In Opp'n Mem. 2. When Plaintiff approached Belanger's office, she stated “I don't want to see it, ” referring to Plaintiff's doctor's note. Pl.'s Resp. In Opp'n Mem. 2. Plaintiff explained to Belanger that he needed time off work. Pl.'s Resp. In Opp'n Mem. 2. Belanger initially stated that she could not accommodate Plaintiff, but subsequently stated that she could. Pl.'s Resp. In Opp'n Mem. 2. Later that day, Plaintiff called Belanger to discuss his request. Pl.'s Resp. In Opp'n Mem. 2. Plaintiff did not speak to Belanger, but another employee told Plaintiff that his request could not be accommodated, and he needed to resign. Pl.'s Resp. In Opp'n Mem. 2.

         On January 30, 2017, Plaintiff followed up, via email, with Carr to check the status of his leave request. Pl.'s Resp. In Opp'n Mem. 4. Carr forwarded the email to Plaintiff's supervisor, director of human resources, Susan Eckert. Pl.'s Resp. In Opp'n Mem. 4. Carr stated that Plaintiff did not qualify for any type of leave because he had worked for Defendant for less than one year.[1] Defs.' Summ. J. Mem. 3, ECF No. 15. Carr acknowledged that Belanger allowed exceptions for employees in Plaintiff's situation when their requests did not exceed four weeks. Pl.'s Resp. In Opp'n Mem. 4. On February 8, 2017, Belanger emailed Eckert and Carr asking if Defendant could proceed with Plaintiff's termination because he needed more than six weeks off and did not qualify for FMLA leave. Pl.'s Resp. In Opp'n Mem. 5. Eckert explained that Plaintiff needed to resign and should inform Defendant when he was ready to return. Pl.'s Resp. In Opp'n Mem. 5. Belanger stated that she informed Plaintiff multiple times that he needed to resign, but he refused. Pl.'s Resp. In Opp'n Mem. 5.

         In a February 8, 2017 email to Plaintiff, Carr informed Plaintiff that he did not qualify for any type of leave and would be made inactive in Defendant's system. Pl.'s Resp. In Opp'n Mem. 7. Inactive status amounts to termination. Pl.'s Resp. In Opp'n Mem. 7. Plaintiff did not reapply to work for Defendant because “he believed that Defendant did not value him as a person.” Pl.'s Resp. In Opp'n Mem. 7.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, a party may motion for summary judgment if “there is no dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment and a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute over a material fact 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). To survive summary judgment, the opposing party “may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. (citing First National Bank of Arizona v. Cities Service Co., 391 U.S. 253 (1968)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff presents two claims: (1) discrimination and retaliation in violation of the ADA, and (2) discrimination and retaliation in violation of the PHRA. ADA and PHRA claims are analyzed under the same standard-Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964-as such, a joint analysis will follow. See Krouse v. American Sterilizer Co., 126 F.3d 494, 500 (3d Cir. 1997) (Analyzing ADA claims under the same analysis for claims arising under Title VII); Dici v. Pennsylvania, 91 F.3d 542, 552 (3d Cir. 1996) (“Generally, the PHRA is applied in accordance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964.”).

         A. ADA and PHRA Discrimination Claims

         The ADA prohibits an employer from discriminating against an individual with a disability regarding hiring, termination and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). To establish a prima facie ADA discrimination claim, an employee must demonstrate that (1) he is a disabled within the meaning of the ADA; (2) he is otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of the job; (3) and he suffered an adverse employment action. Turner v. Hershey Chocolate USA, 440 F.3d 604, 611 (3d Cir. 2006). If the plaintiff proves these elements, the burden shifts to the defendant to show a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its decision to terminate plaintiff. Id. at 614. If the defendant meets this burden, the burden again shifts to the plaintiff to show that defendant's proffered reasons are not true and were a pretext for discrimination. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-805 (1973). This is known as the McDonnell Douglas burden shifting framework. Id. The Parties agree that Plaintiff is disabled and that he suffered an adverse employment action. See Def.'s Summ. J. Mem, ECF No. 15; Pl.'s Resp. In Opp'n Mem. Accordingly, the Court's analysis will solely cover element two, whether Plaintiff was otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of his job.

         1. Plaintiff is a qualified individual as ...


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