United States District Court, D. Maine
LEO S. PARASKEVOPOULOS, Plaintiff,
CENTRAL MAINE MEDICAL CENTER, Defendant.
ORDER AFFIRMING THE RECOMMENDED DECISION OF THE
A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, and
retaliation case, an employer has made a limited objection to
the Magistrate Judge’s recommended decision,
recommending the denial of its partial motion for summary
judgment. Specifically, the employer objects to the
Magistrate Judge’s conclusion regarding the proper
legal standard to apply to the employee’s disability
discrimination claim under the Rehabilitation Act. The
employer says that the proper legal standard is “solely
by reason of, ” requiring the employee to prove that
the alleged discrimination was the sole cause of his harm,
and that the Magistrate Judge applied a lesser standard- that
the employee only need show that the discrimination was based
“in whole or in part” on his disability.
Court views the Magistrate Judge’s recommended decision
as to all elements of the employer’s partial summary
judgment motion as thorough and correct, and the Court
affirms its decision without repeating its logic. See
Talbott v. C.R. Bard, Inc., 63 F.3d 25, 31 (1st Cir.
1995). Nevertheless, the Court writes briefly to expand on
the Magistrate Judge’s discussion of the causation
standard under the Rehabilitation Act for disability
discrimination claims in light of the employer’s
objection and the employee’s response. However, the
Court declines to issue a ruling on which legal standard
should be applied to the Rehabilitation Act claim because it
views such a ruling as a constitutionally impermissible
CMMC’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment
Maine Medical Center (CMMC) moved for summary judgment on the
claims that comprise Count One of Leo S.
Paraskevopoulos’ complaint: “disability
discrimination, failure to accommodate and retaliation under
the Maine Human Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities
Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act; interference
and retaliation under the Family Medical Leave Act and the
Maine Family Medical Leave Requirements; and punitive
damages.” Def.’s Partial Mot. for Summ.
J. at 2 (ECF No. 69) (Def.’s Mot.).
relevant part, CMMC argued that Dr. Paraskevopoulos
“cannot establish a prima facie case of disability
discrimination and, even if he could, the evidence shows that
his employment was terminated because of his performance
deficiencies.” Id. at 5. CMMC applied the
“sole cause” causation standard under section 504
of the Rehabilitation Act. Id. at 6. Thus, according
to CMMC, the disability discrimination claim fails under
“the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting
Leo S. Paraskevopoulos’ Objection to CMMC’s
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment
Paraskevopoulos responded that there are genuine issues of
material fact as to whether CMMC discriminated against him
because of his disability, stating that a reasonable jury
could find that (1) he was disabled, (2) he was capable of
performing the essential functions of his job as a family
practice resident, (3) he was terminated because of his
disability, and (4) CMMC’s stated reason for firing
him-“performance deficiencies” -was pretextual.
Id. at 23-28.
making this argument, Dr. Paraskevopoulos rejected the
“sole cause” standard that CMMC applied, pointing
out that “the only case cited by CMMC does not hold
that sole causation is the standard in a discrimination claim
under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, but instead
specifically states, to the contrary, that the causation
standard under Section 504 is an ‘open
question’” not reached in the case. Id.
at 23-24 (quoting Leary v. Dalton, 58 F.3d 748, 752
(1st Cir. 1995)). Dr. Paraskevopoulos asserted that instead
“this Court should effectuate Congress’s intent
by applying the ADA’s motivating-factor causation
standard for substantive discrimination under both
statutes.” Id. at 24. However, even if the
Court applied the “sole cause” standard, Dr.
Paraskevopoulos stated, “the evidence is more than
sufficient for a reasonable jury to conclude that [Dr.
Paraskevopoulos] was terminated ‘solely because
of’ his disability.” Id.
CMMC’s Reply to Leo S. Paraskevopoulos’ Objection
to CMMC’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment
reply, CMMC asserted that the “sole cause”
standard, not the “motivating-factor causation
standard, ” applies to the claims under section 504 of
the Rehabilitation Act based on the “plain language of
the statutes and the applicable case law.” Id.
at 3-5 (citing, among other cases, Soledad v. U.S.
Dep’t of Treasury, 304 F.3d 500, 505 (5th Cir.
2002)). CMMC rejected Dr. Paraskevopoulos’ statement
that the standard is an open question in the First Circuit by
citing case law applying the sole causation standard to
non-employment discrimination. Id. at 5 (citing
Lesley v. Hee Man Chie, 250 F.3d 47, 53 (1st Cir.
2001), and Maine Human Rights Comm’n v. Sunbury
Primary Care, P.A., 770 F.Supp.2d 370, 408 (D. Me.
2011)). CMMC added that Dr. Paraskevopoulos failed to meet
the “sole cause” standard because his arguments
only prove that he was terminated “because of
his disability.” Id. at 5 (emphasis in
original) (quoting Pl.’s Obj. at 26).
Magistrate Judge’s Recommended Decision
Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court deny CMMC’s
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment “except to the
limited extent that it is conceded by [Dr.
Specifically, [he] recommend[s] that the Court grant the
defendant’s motion for partial summary judgment with
respect to (i) the plaintiff’s MHRA and ADA claims
based on discrete adverse actions that occurred more than 300
days before his MHRC complaint was filed and (ii) any
requested punitive damages pursuant to his Rehabilitation
Act, FMLA, and MFMLR claims, and otherwise deny it.
Rec. Dec. on Def.’s Mot. for Partial Summ. J.
at 2 (ECF No. 107) (Rec. Dec.).
Magistrate Judge applied the McDonnell Douglas
burden-shifting approach to Dr. Paraskevopoulos’
disability discrimination claim. Id. at 14. The
Magistrate Judge determined that Dr. Paraskevopoulos met all
three elements of a prima facie case of discrimination.
Id. at 15-20. The Magistrate Judge concluded that
“a reasonable juror could find that [Dr.
Paraskevopoulos’] disability was the sole cause of his
termination, ” pointing out that CMMC “relies
heavily on statements of material facts that are either
qualified or denied, ” that Dr. Paraskevopoulos’
argument that his disability caused his performance issues
created a triable issue, and that Dr. Paraskevopoulos argued
that CMMC “expressed overt hostility toward his
disability.” Id. at 19-20. The Magistrate
Judge noted that, although the parties disagree as to what