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Trahan v. Wayfair Maine, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maine

September 6, 2019




         Kirstie Trahan alleges her former employer, Wayfair Maine, LLC, engaged in disability discrimination in violation of the Maine Human Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, when it failed to accommodate her disability and subsequently terminated her. Compl. ¶ 16 (ECF No. 1). The matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14).

         For the reasons discussed herein, Defendant's motion is granted.


         Kirstie Trahan began working for Wayfair Maine, LLC, on August 7, 2017, and served as a sales and service consultant in Wayfair's Bangor call center. The call center has an open floor plan and consultants sit close to one another. Consultants frequently interact in the work place and rely on each other for best practices, tips, and information. Consultants are also organized into teams for group coaching and training.

         Trahan is a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder. When “triggered, ” Trahan experiences flashbacks that return her to a traumatic experience and shift her perception of what is happening around her. Her flashbacks produce emotional dysregulation and make her feel that people are out to get her. When she started work with Wayfair, Trahan did not disclose to Wayfair that she has PTSD or how it might affect her employment.

         During her employment with Wayfair, Trahan was part of a training team and three members of the team were “tight” with each other but excluded Trahan from their social activities. On one occasion, Trahan observed a chat session and recognized her name. She believed the others were making fun of her. She reported to her nesting coach, Thoma Noddin, that she felt the three trainees were a clique and stated that “they were affecting certain things to come out in my life that I really didn't want to come out.” Trahan Dep. 54:23-25. She inquired when the trainee nesting period would end so she could part ways with them and join a different team.

         After approximately a month at work, Trahan sought assistance from a trainer named Matt. Trahan perceived Matt's tone as overbearing and felt uncomfortable when he touched her arm. Trahan expressed her frustration with Matt and left for the bathroom, where she processed a flashback triggered by her interaction with Matt. When Noddin entered the bathroom to check on her, Trahan explained that she had a PTSD flashback and needed time to process through it. The record does not indicate what, if anything, Noddin may have done with this information.

         On a later date, Trahan had an unpleasant exchange with a coworker named Brianna, one of the three clique members, who chimed in to answer an inquiry Trahan directed at a different coworker named Ashley, another member of the clique. Although Brianna supplied useful information to Trahan, Brianna used a tone Trahan regarded as demeaning. This annoyed Trahan and Trahan's reaction (“I was not talking to you, mind your own business”) drew a further response (“I was only trying to help”). This interaction ended with Trahan calling her coworkers bitches, throwing her headset, and slamming down her cell phone before walking off.[1] Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 29. (Plaintiff denies pounding her fists on her desk and storming off, but admits throwing the headset, slamming down her phone, and walking off. Pl.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 29, 108.) After this episode of emotional dysregulation, [2]Trahan reached out via Skype to Joselin Belanger, her manager, to inquire when she would move to a different desk and team because she would prefer to move away from certain coworkers.

         Meanwhile, when managers learned of a conduct issue on the floor, site manager Peter Boudreaux instructed Kristie Foster, another manager, to investigate. The investigation included a sit-down talk with Trahan, attended by Foster and Belanger. Trahan acknowledged that she called her coworkers bitches, but stated that one of them had snapped at her. Trahan stated that she was sick of the clique the others had, that they were always talking about her, and that they were a “bunch of bitches.” Trahan asked to be moved to a different location through a team change and told Foster and Belanger she had previously reported to Noddin that she had trouble with these coworkers. During the meeting, Trahan sat with her arms crossed and rolled her eyes repeatedly, which Foster considered very rude and unprofessional. Trahan maintains her conduct was the product of a panic attack triggered by the confrontational meeting. Trahan did not suggest to either Foster or Belanger that she was experiencing a psychiatric event at the time.

         After speaking with the other workers involved in the incident, and with Matt about his interaction with Trahan, Foster brought the matter to Jonie Dunivan, Wayfair's local talent (HR) manager. Dunivan conferred with site manager Peter Boudreaux. Dunivan and Boudreaux agreed that Trahan should be sent home for the day and Dunivan, Belanger, and Foster met with Trahan to send her home. When she retrieved Trahan, Foster placed a hand on her shoulder, “a huge trigger for Ms. Trahan.” Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 121. Also, this meeting was stressful for Trahan because it was a “three-on-one.” Id. ¶ 122. Like Foster, Dunivan was not impressed with Trahan's comportment, as Trahan rolled her eyes, once more referred to her coworkers as bitches, and did not offer any words of personal accountability. After the meeting, Foster took Trahan's badge, packed up Trahan's possessions at Trahan's request, and escorted Trahan to the exit. Later that afternoon, Boudreaux and Dunivan conferred and agreed that Trahan would be terminated for violating Wayfair's rules of conduct, which require that employees interact with respect, integrity, courtesy and a cooperative attitude. They also agreed that Dunivan would inform Trahan of their decision in the morning.

         Later that evening, Trahan called and left Dunivan the following voicemail:

Hi Jonie, this is Kirstie Trahan and my extension was 1141199. And I forgot to tell you today that the reason I did ask for that transfer of pod and out of that situation is because I am a veteran with severe PTSD and how those girls were treating me was causing triggers to come out in me. Umm, and I do have documentation of that and I can provide any further documentation you need like a DD-214 or records from my therapist at Acadia. So if you could call me back that would be great. My number is [555-5555].

         Dunivan listened to the voicemail the following morning. That was the first time Dunivan was aware that Trahan attributed ...

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