United States District Court, D. Maine
BARBARA D. COLEMAN, Plaintiff
BIO-MEDICAL APPLICATIONS OF MAINE, INC., Defendant.
ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
GEORGE Z. SINGAL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Before the Court is the motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant Bio-Medical Applications of Maine, Inc. (“BMA”) (ECF No. 18) (the “Motion for Summary Judgment”). For the reasons explained herein, the Court DENIES the Motion for Summary Judgment.
I. LEGAL STANDARD
Generally, a party is entitled to summary judgment if, on the record before the Court, it appears “that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2). “[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). An issue is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. at 248. A “material fact” is one that has “the potential to affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law.” Nereida-Gonzalez v. Tirado-Delgado, 990 F.2d 701, 703 (1st Cir. 1993) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248) (additional citation omitted).
The party moving for summary judgment must demonstrate an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party’s case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). In determining whether this burden is met, the Court must view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and give that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences in its favor. Santoni v. Potter, 369 F.3d 594, 598 (1st Cir. 2004).
Once the moving party has made this preliminary showing, the nonmoving party must “produce specific facts, in suitable evidentiary form, to establish the presence of a trialworthy issue.” Triangle Trading Co. v. Robroy Indus., Inc., 200 F.3d 1, 2 (1st Cir. 1999) (citation and internal punctuation omitted); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). “Mere allegations, or conjecture unsupported in the record, are insufficient.” Barros-Villahermosa v. United States, 642 F.3d 56, 58 (1st Cir. 2011) (quoting Rivera-Marcano v. Normeat Royal Dane Quality A/S, 998 F.2d 34, 37 (1st Cir. 1993)); see also Wilson v. Moulison N. Corp., 639 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir. 2011) (“A properly supported summary judgment motion cannot be defeated by conclusory allegations, improbable inferences, periphrastic circumlocutions, or rank speculation.” (citations omitted)). “As to any essential factual element of its claim on which the nonmovant would bear the burden of proof at trial, its failure to come forward with sufficient evidence to generate a trialworthy issue warrants summary judgment to the moving party.” In re Spigel, 260 F.3d 27, 31 (1st Cir. 2001) (quoting In re Ralar Distribs., Inc., 4 F.3d 62, 67 (1st Cir. 1993)).
II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
For the purposes of this Order, the Court briefly summarizes the facts as set forth in the statement of material facts provided by Defendant Bio-Medical Applications of Maine, Inc. (“BMA” or “Defendant”) (ECF No. 18-1) (“DSMF”) and the statement of material facts provided by Plaintiff Barbara Coleman (“Coleman” or “Plaintiff”) (ECF No. 21) (“PSMF”). The Court notes that each party has filed objections and qualifications to the other party’s statement of material facts. (Def.’s Reply to Pl.’s Statement of Material Facts (ECF No. 24); Pl.’s Opp. to Def.’s Statement of Material Facts (ECF No. 22).) Where appropriate, certain disputed issues of material fact are identified below.
A. Coleman’s Employment at BMA and Medical Leave
Coleman, then a nurse employed by BMA at BMA’s dialysis clinic in Portland, Maine, commenced a medical leave of absence on September 13, 2013. (DSMF ¶ 1.) On October 31, 2013, Coleman provided BMA with a certification of ability to return to work, signed by her physician, stating that Coleman would be able to return to work as of November 7, 2013 (the “First RTW Note”). (DSMF ¶ 3.) The First RTW Note contained four work restrictions, which were described in the note as having “no end date”: (1) a maximum of 30-32 hours of work per week; (2) work shifts of no more than 8 hours; (3) no lifting greater than 75 pounds; and (4) appropriate meal and restroom breaks. (DSMF ¶¶ 4 & 5; PSMF ¶ 17.)
Coleman asserts that on November 1, 2013, she was notified by BMA’s leave management office that her return to work with restrictions had been denied by Lisa Drouin (“Drouin”), the clinic manager of the BMA facility at which Coleman was employed and Coleman’s supervisor at the time she began her leave of absence. (PSMF ¶ 20.) Drouin stated in an e-mail message to colleagues on November 1, 2013, “[W]e felt in the best interest of the employee and our clinic deny [Coleman’s] return to work with the restrictions.” (PSMF ¶ 19.) The same day, Martha D’Sanchez (“D’Sanchez”), employee relations manager for BMA, stated in an e-mail reply to Drouin, “The Americans with Disabilities Act is [sic] amended (Federal Law) requires that we engage in an interactive dialogue with individuals protected by the same, before we simply decline to make accommodations.” (PSMF ¶ 21.)
B. The Return-to-Work Interactive Process
BMA’s leave management office requested that Coleman obtain additional paperwork from her physician clarifying certain of Coleman’s work restrictions. (PSMF ¶ 22.) Consequently, Coleman consulted her physician, who provided another return to work letter (the “Second RTW Note”). (PSMF ¶ 33.) The Second RTW Note repeated the restrictions included in the First RTW Note, stated that Coleman’s restrictions were permanent, and clarified that the break requirements consist of a 30-minute meal break within the first four hours of a shift, a 15-minute rest break in the latter four hours of a shift, and a restroom break once every two hours. (DSMF ¶ 20.) BMA received the Second RTW Note on November 21, 2013. (DSMF ¶ 19.)
During the time that Coleman’s return-to-work process was ongoing, BMA transferred the management of its employee leave matters to a third-party service provider, AON Hewitt. (PSMF ¶ 32.) On November 22, 2013, Coleman twice called AON Hewitt to discuss the status of her leave and return to work. (PSMF ¶¶ 35 & 36.) In the case of each call, Coleman was not able to speak with her case manager at AON Hewitt. (Id.) On November 25, 2013, D’Sanchez spoke with Drouin ...