United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
F. KELLY, SR. J.
Susan Weikel ("Weikel") brings this action against
Defendant Pyramid Healthcare, Inc. ("Pyramid")
alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act
("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§12101 et seq and the
Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C.
§§, et seq.
before the Court is Pyramid's Motion for Summary
Judgment. Weikel filed a Response in Opposition and Pyramid
filed a Reply Brief in Further Support. For the reasons noted
below, Pyramid's Motion is granted.
began working at Pyramid in or around October 2012. (Compl.
¶ 11.) Sometime in or around February 2014, Weikel
reported to work under the influence of alcohol and was found
to be in possession of alcohol on Pyramid's premises.
(Def.'s Br. in Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 1.) This incident
alerted Pyramid that Weikel suffered from alcoholism.
(Pl.'s Mem. Law in Opp'n 3.) Shortly after the 2014
incident, Weikel entered into a Last Chance Agreement with
Pyramid, which required her to seek treatment for her
alcoholism and provided her with notice that any further
violation of the drug and alcohol policy would result in her
Weikel's employment was relatively uneventful for the
next few years. (Def.'s Br. in Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 1.)
However, in November 2016, Weikel suffered a relapse.
(Pl.'s Mem. Law in Opp'n 3.) Specifically, on Friday,
November 11, 2016, Weikel called her immediate supervisor,
Brenda Noel ("Noel"), to report that she would not
be at work that day due to a stomach virus. (Def.'s Br.
in Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 1.) Then, the following Monday,
November 14, 2016, Weikel sent multiple text messages to Noel
stating that she would not be at work because she had been in
a car accident. (Id. at 2.) Pyramid then learned, on
Tuesday, November 15, 2016, through Weikel's ex-boyfriend
and family members, that Weikel had relapsed and was being
transported to the hospital as she had been on a several-day
drinking binge. (Id.; Pl.'s Mem. Law in
her discharge from the hospital, Weikel informed Pyramid in a
statement that she would be checking into an in-patient
treatment facility to begin rehabilitation. (Pl.'s Mem.
Law in Opp'n 5.) Weikel also admitted that her absences
on November 11 and 14, 2016 were due to alcohol use and that
she had lied to Noel. (Id.; Def.'s Br. in Supp.
Mot. Summ. J. 2.) Pyramid decided to terminate Weikel due to
her breach of Pyramid's Disciplinary Review Process
Policy for lying to her supervisor, as well as her violation
of the 2014 Last Chance Agreement. (Def.'s Br. in Supp.
Mot. Summ. J. 2.)
exhausted her administrative remedies and received a Notice
of Right to Sue from the KEOC on July 24, 2018. (Compl.
¶¶ 4-5.) She then filed suit in this Court on
October 18, 2018, alleging ADA and FMLA violations in Counts
I and II, respectively. Pyramid now moves for summary
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) states that summary judgment is
proper "if the movant shows that 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). The
Court asks "whether the evidence presents a sufficient
disagreement to require submission to the jury or whether ...
one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc , 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). The
moving party has the initial burden of informing the court of
the basis for the motion and identifying those portions of
the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute
of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 323 (1986). "A fact is material if it could affect
the outcome of the suit after applying the substantive law.
Further, a dispute over a material fact must be
'genuine,' i.e., the evidence must be such 'that
a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the
non-moving party.'" Compton v
Nat'l League of Prof'l Baseball
Clubs, 995 F.Supp. 554, 561 n.14 (E.D. Pa. 1998)
(quoting Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255).
judgment must be granted "against a party who fails to
make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an
element essential to that party's case, and on which that
party will bear the burden of proof at trial."
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Once the moving party has
produced evidence in support of summary judgment, the
non-moving party must go beyond the allegations set forth in
its pleadings and counter with evidence that presents
"specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial." See Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW
of N Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1362-63 (3d Cir.
1992). "More than a mere scintilla of evidence in its
favor" must be presented by the non-moving party in
order to overcome a summary judgment motion. Tziatzios v.
United States, 164 F.R.D. 410, 411-12 (E.D. Pa. 1996).
If the court determines there are no genuine disputes of
material fact, then summary judgment will be granted.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.
Weikel's ADA Claims in Count I Fail
brings three violations of the ADA. First, she alleges that
Pyramid discriminated against her because of her alcoholism,
which is a recognized disability. Second, she argues that
Pyramid failed to provide available, reasonable
accommodations for her disability. Third, she claims that
Pyramid retaliated against her because she engaged in
protected activity under the ADA. We address these assertions
in this order.
Weikel's Disability Discrimination Claim
discrimination cases are analyzed under the well-known,
burden-shifting framework detailed in McDonnel Douglas
Corp. v Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). "In order to
make out a prima facie case of disability discrimination
under the ADA, [the plaintiff] must establish that she (1)
has a 'disability,' (2) is a 'qualified
individual,' and (3) has suffered an adverse employment
action because of that disability." Turner v.
Hershey Chocolate US., 440 F.3d 604, 611 (3d Cir. 2006);
see also Gaul v. Lucent Techs., Inc., 134 F.3d 576,
580 (3d Cir. 1998). If successful, the burden shifts to the
employer to articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory
reason for its decision. See McDonnell Douglas, 411
U.S. at 802. The burden then shifts back to the plaintiff to
show that the employer's stated reason for termination
was merely a pretext for unlawful discrimination. See
does not dispute that Weikel's alcoholism is a protected
disability under the ADA and that Weikel was otherwise
qualified for her position. (Def.'s Br. in Supp. Mot.
Summ. J. 5.) However, Pyramid argues that while Weikel's
status as an alcoholic is protected, the ADA does not shield
her from the current use of alcohol and any related
consequences. See Salley v. Circuit City Stores,
Inc.,160 F.3d 977, 980 n.2 (3d Cir. 1998)
(''[T]he ADA ensures that current use, even if it is
a natural consequence of an addiction disability, may be
grounds for termination under the ADA."); Mararri v.
WCI Steel, Inc.,130 F.3d 1180, 1182 (6th Cir. 1997)
(citing Maddox v. Univ of Tenn., ...