United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division
MARYN. DANTZLER, Plaintiff,
GEORGIA PORTS AUTHORITY, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
the Court is Defendant Georgia Ports Authority's
("GPA") Motion for Summary Judgment, doc. 32, to
which Plaintiff Mary N. Dantzler has filed a response, doc.
36. Dantzler brought this suit contending that GPA
discriminated against her when it failed to provide her with
a reasonable accommodation for her disability and then
terminated her employment. See doc. 11 at 12, ¶
65 (Amended Complaint); doc. 19 at 14, ¶ 65 (date of
plaintiffs termination). GPA contends first, that it has
presented an unrebutted, non-pretextual, nondiscriminatory
reason for Dantzler's termination, see doc. 32-1
at 12-14, second, that Dantzler has failed to state a
prima facie failure-to-accommodate claim, see
Id. at 14-21, and, finally, that GPA is entitled to
partial summary judgment based on its discovery, during
litigation, of Dantzler's misconduct, see Id. at
21-24. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion
should be GRANTED.
Dantzler was a GPA employee in the Trade Development Group.
Doc. 32-2 at 1, (GPA's Statement of Undisputed Material
Facts). She was initially hired as an Administrative
Specialist, and was later promoted to the position of
"Market Research Analyst" in 2012. Doc. 36 at 1-2.
While she admits that her annual performance ratings as an
Administrative Specialist ranged from the low to mid-30s out
of 50 available points, it was after her promotion that more
serious issues arose. Id. at 1. Dantzler's
performance was criticized and she acknowledged that she
frequently made mistakes. Doc. 32-3 at 25. She had a fraught
relationship with her supervisors, particularly Jennifer
Tatom and John Petrino. Doc. 36 at 7 (disputing GPA's
characterization that she felt "hostility" toward
Ms. Tatom and Petrino, but conceding she was afraid of them).
And on at least one occasion, she complained that she was
inadequately trained. Id. at 2. In 2015, Dantzler
became concerned that she might suffer from Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder ("ADHD"). Id.
Shortly thereafter, Dantzler informed GPA's EEOC officer
that Dantzler believed that she had a disability and that
this disability was responsible for her performance problems.
Id. at 3. A medical evaluation confirmed her
suspicions and she received an official diagnosis in July of
2015, although she did not immediately inform
GPA.Id. at 2.
July of 2015, Dantzler received another performance
evaluation rated in the 30s. Doc. 36 at 2-3. Because of the
low score, she was placed on a Performance Improvement Plan
("PIP") and warned that failure to complete this
plan could result in her termination. Id. at 3. She
was instructed to complete PIP paperwork which allowed her to
make certain requests to address the perceived deficiencies
in her work. Id. On July 22, 2015, Dantzler
requested a quiet place to work and further training as part
of her PIP. Id. After GPA reviewed that request for
a "quiet place to work," it informed Dantzler that
there were no available private offices and that she should
remove this request from her PIP. Id. Dantzler did
so. Id. On July 29, 2015, Dantzler informed Tatom of
her ADHD, after Dantzler had removed her request and after
the PIP had been approved. Id. at 4. Dantzler requested,
and received, some subsequent training, but was ultimately
terminated. Id. at 5.
parties do not dispute that Dantzler provided GPA with some
notice of her diagnosis, but they disagree on the extent and
circumstances of that notice. GPA concedes that Dantzler
discussed her suspicion that she suffered from ADHD with her
supervisor, Tatom, in June of 2015, but contends, at that
time, Dantzler "did not . . . claim to actually have
[ADHD], did not indicate that she had received a diagnosis of
[ADHD1, and did not ask for an accommodation concerning it at
that point." Doc. 32-1 at 6. Dantzler responds that,
although her discussions with Tatom were not formal, she had
reason to believe that GPA either was aware of the process
leading to her diagnosis, or should have been. Doc. 36 at
8-9. And she did file an affidavit with the court
establishing that she told Tatom about her diagnosis prior to
her termination. Doc. 36-1 at 4-7. Moreover, Dantzler
contends that GPA's lack of established disability policy
and procedure was (at least partly) to blame for Tatom's
failure to recognize the significance of Dantzler's
communications and act on them appropriately. Doc. 36 at 9
("That Tatom failed to communicate [Dantzler's
disclosure of her ADHD concerns] to anyone is evidence of the
GPA's disregard for the ADA in failing to train managers
and supervisors in those matters.").
Summary Judgment Standard
to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), "[a] party may move for summary
judgment, identifying each claim or defense-or the part of
each claim or defense-on which summary judgment is
sought." Such a motion must be granted "if the
movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law." Id. The "purpose of
summary judgment is to 'pierce the pleadings and to
assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine
need for trial."1 Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v.
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)
(quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 advisory committee
judgment is appropriate when the nonmovant "fails to
make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an
element essential to that party's case, and on which that
party will bear the burden of proof at trial."
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
The substantive law governing the action determines whether
an element is essential. DeLong Equip. Co. v. Wash. Mills
Abrasive Co., 887 F.2d 1499, 1505 (11th Cir. 1989).
Supreme Court explained:
[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis
for its motion, and identifying those portions of the
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,
which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue
of material fact.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323 (citations omitted). The
burden then shifts to the nonmovant to establish, by going
beyond the pleadings, that there is a genuine issue as to
facts material to the nonmovant's case. Clark v.
Coats & Clark, Inc., 92 9 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir.
Court must review the evidence and all reasonable factual
inferences arising from it in the light most favorable to the
nonmovant. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587-88. However,
the nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that
there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material
facts." Id. at 586. A mere
"scintilla" of evidence, or simply conclusory
allegations, will not suffice. See, e.g., Tidwell v.
Carter Prods., 135 F.3d 1422, 1425 (11th Cir. 1998).
Nevertheless, where a reasonable fact finder may "draw
more than one inference from the facts, and that inference
creates a genuine issue of material fact, then the court
should refuse to grant summary judgment." Barfield
v. Brierton, 883 F.2d 923, 933-34 (11th Cir. 1989).
a factual dispute is "material" if it concerns
"facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under
the governing law . . . ." Anderson, 477 U.S.
at 248. "The materiality inquiry is independent of and
separate from the question of the incorporation of the
evidentiary standard into the summary judgment determination.
That is, while the materiality determination rests on the
substantive law, it is the substantive law's
identification of which facts are critical and which facts
are irrelevant ...