Where a government contractor terminated the plaintiff’s employment because he lost authorization to access the Quantico worksite, and not because of his post-traumatic stress disorder/anxiety disorder or PTSD/AD, it prevailed on his disability discrimination claim.
Joseph Salmoiraghi sued Veritiss LLC, alleging that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 or ADA, by discriminating and retaliating against him after learning he suffers from PTSD/AD. Defendant moves for summary judgment.
Plaintiff argues there were eight “adverse employment actions.” Defendant responds that—at most—the only legally cognizable “adverse employment actions” are: (1) his loss of “team lead” title and (2) his termination. Defendant’s cited caselaw supports that conclusion. So, too, do the cases cited by plaintiff. The remaining actions did not constitute an “ultimate employment decision, such as hiring, granting leave, discharging, promoting, and compensating.”
Next, plaintiff argues he was satisfactorily performing in his position, pointing to the positive employee reviews he received in January and June 2013. Yet both reviews predated the August investigation into plaintiff. And plaintiff provides no evidence other than his own assertion that he was meeting defendant’s legitimate expectations for supervising other employees as a “team lead” at the time he was demoted.
Plaintiff’s only response to that conclusion is to challenge the August 2013 complaints as “fabricated” and paint the investigation into them as “biased.” Because plaintiff has introduced no such evidence in support of his position, he cannot meet his burden to show that he was meeting defendant’s legitimate expectations for a “team lead” at the time he lost that title. As such, plaintiff has failed to present a prima facie case with respect to his demotion.
With respect to plaintiff’s termination, the fourth McDonnell Douglas factor requires plaintiff to show the circumstances surrounding his termination raise a reasonable inference of unlawful discrimination. Plaintiff’s termination soon after defendant received his therapist’s letter raises a reasonable inference of unlawful discrimination based on plaintiff’s PTSD/AD diagnosis.
Plaintiff, however, cannot overcome defendant’s legitimate business reason for his termination. Defendant appropriately notes: (1) plaintiff’s employment was conditioned on his government authorization to access the Quantico worksite and (2) plaintiff lost that authorization on Oct. 9, 2013. Thus, it is not possible to conclude that the lone basis for plaintiff’s termination was his disability. The court will grant defendant’s motion for summary judgment as to plaintiff’s discrimination claim for these reasons.
To establish a claim of retaliation under the ADA, plaintiff must prove (1) he engaged in protected activity; (2) his employer took “adverse action” against him and (3) that there was a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse action. Plaintiff attempts to establish this causal connection by referencing the “temporal proximity” between his protected activity (i.e., his filing of internal complaints and related correspondence from his counsel) and the adverse actions he suffered.
But plaintiff did not engage in protected activity until after he (1) learned that he was the target of employee complaints specifically regarding plaintiff’s unwanted physical contact and inappropriate supervisory actions and (2) had engaged his own counsel. In such circumstances, the temporal proximity between plaintiff’s engagement in protected activity and a well-documented series of otherwise viable personnel actions will not suffice to show causation where there is “no evidence that [plaintiff]’s supervisors were conspiring [against plaintiff] by creating a paper trail of ‘trumped up’ disciplinary charges.” Accordingly, defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the retaliation claim also will be granted.
Plaintiff complains that defendant failed to engage in the interactive process and denied his requests for reasonable accommodations. The court finds both arguments fail as a matter of law. The record is clear that after plaintiff informed defendant’s HR department of his request for a reasonable accommodation, defendant promptly engaged plaintiff in discussions regarding the same. The interactive process only irrevocably broke down when plaintiff failed to provide defendant with the medical opinions it needed to determine the impact plaintiff’s disability had on his capacity to function in the workplace.
Second, plaintiff’s requests for a job transfer, where no vacant positions existed, were not reasonable under the ADA. Defendant did not violate the ADA by refusing to staff him at a different job site where no openings existed.
Defendant’s motion for summary judgment granted.
Salmoiraghi v. Veritiss LLC, Case No. 1:19-cv-01405, April 6, 2022. EDVA at Alexandria (Nachmanoff). VLW 022-3-158. 30 pp.