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Patrick v. Henry County

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

March 31, 2015

JOEY PATRICK, Plaintiff,
v.
HENRY COUNTY, GEORGIA, Defendant.

ORDER

RICHARD W. STORY, District Judge.

This case comes before the Court for consideration of the Final Report and Recommendation [71] of Magistrate Judge Walter E. Johnson recommending that Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [43] be denied as to Plaintiff's FMLA claims (Counts I and II) and ADA failure to accommodate claim (Count IV), and granted in part as to portions of his ADA discrimination claim (Count III) and ADA retaliation claim (Count V). After carefully considering the Report and Recommendation, the objections thereto, and the Record, the Court enters the following Order, accepting in part and rejecting in part the Report and Recommendation.

Background

Defendant objects to the R&R's finding that summary judgment should be denied as to Plaintiff's claims for interference with his leave rights and retaliation under the FMLA, as well as to Plaintiff's claims of discrimination, failure to accommodate, and retaliation under the ADA. Before analyzing these intertwined claims, the Court notes that it must construe all facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. See Patton v. Triad Guar. Ins. Corp., 277 F.3d 1294, 1296 (11th Cir. 2002) (noting that on a motion for summary judgment, the court "view[s] the record and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party"). Applying this standard, and for the purposes of considering Defendant's objections, the Court has reviewed the record and finds that there is sufficient evidence from which a jury could find the following:

Plaintiff was exposed to meningitis while on duty and treating a patient in August 2010. He never fully recovered, and by August 2011, he was diagnosed with adhesive arachnoiditis. Plaintiff was absent intermittently due to his symptoms.
In October 2011, Plaintiff took FMLA leave. On November 30, 2011, Plaintiff's pain management physician released him to work for sixty days but limited him to light-duty work. In December 2011, Chief Lacy assigned Plaintiff to a temporary light-duty position at the Fire Department headquarters. Plaintiff signed an agreement acknowledging that the County was offering him a "temporary light-duty job" not to exceed six months. But if Plaintiff's doctor released him to regular-duty status before the end of six months, he would return to his regular job duties.
Then, in January 2012, the Fire Department changed its light-duty policy such that light-duty assignments would only be available to employees injured on the job.
On February 10, 2012, Chief Lacy wrote Plaintiff a letter stating that his sixty-day light-duty assignment would end on February 15, and requiring Plaintiff to present a medical clearance form signed by his physician releasing him to full duty without restrictions by that date. So, on February 13, 2012, Plaintiff's physician submitted a note stating that Plaintiff remained under his care but that his light-duty status needed to be extended another 30 days.
On February 13 or 14, Chief Lacy informed Plaintiff that there was no longer a light-duty position available. However, some light-duty positions were available, and Chief Lacy hired someone to fill a vacant receptionist position. Moreover, Plaintiff's injury appears to be related to the meningitis he contracted on the job, and the new department policy stated that light-duty positions would be available to those injured on the job. And even if he was not injured on the job, it appears that light duty positions were available, but Chief Lacy determined that Plaintiff would not be placed in one.
On February 14, 2012, Plaintiff submitted a request for FMLA leave beginning on February 16. Plaintiff's doctor submitted a certification in support of that request, stating that Plaintiff was on light-duty restrictions. Plaintiff reported for light duty on February 16, but he was told that there were no assignments for him. Unable to resume regular work, and denied a light-duty assignment, Plaintiff took FMLA leave.
Defendant mailed Plaintiff a notice confirming that his leave was approved effective February 16 through May 10. The notice stated that a fitness-for-duty certificate would be required before Plaintiff's employment would be restored.
On May 1, 2012, Plaintiff received a letter informing him that his FMLA leave period concluded on May 10. On May 10, Plaintiff's physician submitted a certification that Plaintiff could work but was still restricted to light-duty assignments. Plaintiff e-mailed Chief Lacy stating that he could work light duty. On May 14, 2012, Chief Lacy terminated Plaintiff.

The Court emphasizes that these are only possible findings a jury could make based on the evidence. The Court does not suggest that it would find these facts, only that evidence would support these findings. Therefore, the Court will ...


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