United States District Court, D. Maine
ORDER ON MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Torresen United States District Judge.
employment action, Plaintiff Jessica Mullen alleges that
Defendant New Balance Athletics, Inc. (“New
Balance”) discriminated against her because of
her disability and retaliated against her for requesting
reasonable accommodations for that disability in violation of
the Maine Human Rights Act
(“MHRA”) and the Americans with
Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Compl.
(ECF No. 1). Before me are the Defendant's motion for
summary judgment (ECF No. 34), and the Plaintiff's motion
for partial summary judgment on the Defendant's
affirmative defense of failure to mitigate damages. (ECF No.
40.) For the reasons that follow, both motions are
2004, Mullen underwent a tubal ligation—a medical
sterilization procedure. CSMF ¶ 26, 98. At the time,
Mullen did not want to have more children, but she had not
ruled out having another child at some point in the future.
CSMF ¶ 99. The doctor who performed the tubal ligation
informed Mullen that she could potentially have the procedure
reversed and become pregnant. CSMF ¶ 100.
later, Mullen began to experience episodes of extreme pain
caused by ovarian cysts. CSMF ¶¶ 75-76. In June of
2013, Mullen had her right ovary and fallopian tube
surgically removed (a procedure referred to as a right
salpingo-oophoretomy) in an effort to treat her cysts. CSMF
¶ 75. The cysts returned, and Mullen's pain became
incapacitating. CSMF ¶¶ 78-83. Eventually, on April
1, 2015, Mullen opted to undergo a total hysterectomy and
left salpingo-oophorectomy (the removal of her uterus and her
left ovary and fallopian tube) to eliminate the cysts. CSMF
¶¶ 88-89. Before her surgery, Mullen's surgeon
advised her that the procedure was permanent, Ex. 7 at 1 (ECF
No. 31-6), and that it would render her incapable of
conceiving or bearing children. Ex. G at 82:10-22 (ECF No.
39-7); see CSMF ¶ 96. The doctor also explained
that the procedure would impact Mullen's endocrine
system, because ovaries are responsible for generating
estrogen and other hormones. CSMF ¶ 91. The doctor told
Mullen that after her remaining ovary was removed she
“w[ould] be in menopause” and would experience
symptoms including hot flashes, becoming emotionally
overwhelmed, and crying. CSMF ¶ 91, 93; Ex. 7 at 1.
Mullen began to experience the symptoms her surgeon had
described not long thereafter. CSMF ¶ 94.
than two months after her surgery, Mullen's doctor
cleared her to work without any restrictions and, on May 18,
2015, Mullen applied for a position as a stitcher with New
Balance. CSMF ¶¶ 14, 22. She was hired.
See CSMF ¶ 37.
Balance manufactures athletic footwear at three facilities in
Maine, located in Skowhegan, Norridgewock, and Norway. CSMF
¶ 1. New Balance requires new employees like Mullen to
undergo a training program at its Norridgewock facility. CSMF
¶¶ 34, 36. Mullen began her training on June 23,
2015, under the instruction of trainer Julie Prentiss. CSMF
¶¶ 37-38. At some point during the beginning of
Mullen's training period, Mullen mentioned to Prentiss
that she had recently had a hysterectomy. CSMF ¶ 40.
had difficulty mastering one of the stitching machines. CSMF
¶ 50. On the morning of July 10, 2015, Mullen was
working with that machine when she had an abrupt exchange
with Prentiss. See CSMF ¶¶ 53, 103-104.
The parties dispute the exact nature of the exchange, but it
is undisputed that Mullen became very upset and began to
CSMF ¶ 54.
contacted Norridgewock human resources manager Frances Fisher
and brought Mullen to one of the facility's cafeterias to
wait. CSMF ¶ 55. Prentiss explained to Fisher what had
happened, informing Fisher that Mullen had an
“outburst.” CSMF ¶¶ 56, 109. Fisher
talked with Mullen briefly, and then, because Mullen had been
hired to work at New Balance's Skowhegan facility, Fisher
called in Skowhegan human resources manager Rachel Merry.
CSMF ¶¶ 57, 59. When Merry arrived, Fisher and
Prentiss filled her in about what had happened with Mullen,
and Prentiss told the human resources mangers that Mullen had
undergone a hysterectomy three months prior that affected her
emotions. CSMF ¶¶ 61, 128.
and Fisher then spoke with Mullen about her purported
outburst. CSMF ¶ 125. The parties' witnesses have
offered conflicting testimony about that conversation.
However, the following points are not in dispute:
• Mullen told Merry and Fisher that she had undergone a
hysterectomy, that she was having hot flashes, and that she
was working with her doctor on medications because her
emotions were “all over the place.” CSMF
¶¶ 126, 129; see CSMF ¶ 63.
• Merry told Mullen that “maybe this isn't the
right time for you at New Balance because what you explained
about the working environment and instructions from your
trainer should not have set you off as it did.” CSMF
• Mullen asked Merry: “What does this mean? Am I
being let go?” CSMF ¶ 135.
• Merry responded that “that is a decision that I
want us to reach together.” CSMF ¶ 136. She added
that “seeing you sitting here in the condition you are
in, I still feel that this is not the right time for you here
at New Balance.” CSMF ¶ 138.
• Mullen cried at times during the exchange. CSMF ¶
• The conversation ended with Mullen filling out and
signing a resignation form. CSMF ¶ 64. On the form,
Mullen indicated that the reason for her resignation was
“emotional reasons.” CSMF ¶ 156.
Mullen has testified to the following additional facts, all
of which the Defendant denies:
• Mullen told Merry and Fisher that her doctor told her
that her hysterectomy would cause her to go into early
menopause over the next years. CSMF ¶ 126.
• After informing Merry and Fisher about her
hysterectomy and its impact on her mood, Mullen told Merry
and Fisher that all she had to do was “just wipe my
face and go back to work.” CSMF ...