United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Columbus Division
D. LAND CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
Kassa was terminated from his job at Synovus Bank after he
told a female bank teller that he hates working with women.
Kassa claims that he had a disability that Synovus refused to
accommodate and that he made the statement when his
disability flared up. Kassa brought discrimination claims
under the Americans with Disabilities Act
(“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et
seq. Synovus seeks summary judgment on all of
Kassa's claims. As discussed below, the Court grants
Synovus's summary judgment motion (ECF No. 14).
judgment may be granted only “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.”
56(a). In determining whether a genuine dispute of
material fact exists to defeat a motion for summary
judgment, the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable
to the party opposing summary judgment, drawing all
justifiable inferences in the opposing party's favor.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255
(1986). A fact is material if it is relevant or
necessary to the outcome of the suit. Id. at 248. A
factual dispute is genuine if the evidence would
allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving
in the light most favorable to Kassa, the present record
reveals the following facts.
began working for Synovus in 2015. Before he joined Synovus,
Kassa served in the U.S. Army for more than a decade; worked
in various information technology roles for employers in
Columbus, Georgia; received a Bachelor of Arts in
communication information systems maintenance; worked in the
economic development department at Columbus Technical
College; and was a Cisco/Network Instructor at Virginia
the years, Kassa has received treatment for depression,
anxiety, intermittent explosive disorder, bipolar disorder,
alcohol addiction, paranoid personality disorder, and impulse
control disorder. In 2013, Kassa's psychiatrist, Kashmira
Parekh, wrote a “To Whom it May Concern” letter
explaining that Kassa was under Parekh's care for
“Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Paranoid Personality
Disorder, and Alcohol Abuse.” Def.'s Mot. for Summ.
J. Ex. F, Parekh Letter (Oct. 23, 2013), ECF No. 14-8. The
same year, Kassa's primary care physician, Jatin
Pithadia, wrote a “To Whom it May Concern” letter
explaining that Kassa was under Pithadia's care for
“Alcohol related illnesses, Depression, Anger issues,
and Bipolar issues.” Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex.
G, Pithadia Letter (Nov. 11, 2013), ECF No. 14-9.
hired Kassa as a Network Support Analyst, Lead in November
2015. His job was to manage the Network Operations Center,
and his team monitored Synovus's websites, automated
teller machines (“ATMs”), server performance, and
transaction servers to make sure they worked properly. If
there was a problem, the Network Operations team determined
its root cause and contacted the appropriate people to fix
Kassa began working at Synovus, he worked the night shift
Friday through Monday, and his supervisor was Diana Young.
During his training, Kassa told Young “that he had
issues . . . sometimes he would get angry or upset;”
Young believed Kassa had post traumatic stress disorder.
Young Dep. 39:7-10, 43:5-6, ECF No. 36-10. Kassa asked Young
if it would be a problem “if he needed to get up and .
. . take a break” when that happened. Id. at
39:12-13. Young told Kassa that there was no problem with him
getting up to walk around as long as his area was covered,
people knew where he was, and he could be reached if needed.
Id. at 39:12-20, 42:16-24. According to Young, this
arrangement worked. Kassa also told his coworkers that
“they had nothing to worry about because [he]
wasn't violent and [he] just speak[s] the truth.”
Kassa Dep. 109:9-12, ECF No. 22. And, Kassa stated that his
disorders were under control when he took his medicine and
took a short break. Id. at 108:17-19, 109:7-9.
2016, Synovus decided to outsource the Network Operations
Center functions to an Indian company called Happiest Minds.
The transition began in July 2016. Many of Kassa's
coworkers were laid off as part of the transition, but
Kassa's supervisors wanted to keep him because he was a
hard worker, very knowledgeable, and very smart. Kassa's
supervisors wanted a network engineer expert like Kassa to
support the ATM team, which handled customer service calls
for issues with Synovus ATMs. So, Kassa was moved to the ATM
team day shift, although he remained in the Network
Operations Center until the transition to Happiest Minds was
complete in February 2017 and officially transitioned to the
ATM team February 27, 2017. The new position involved
answering customer service calls, and Kassa told Young that
he was concerned about having to answer the phones on the day
shift. Young believed that the position was not a good fit
for Kassa, but it “was like the last resort of choices
[Young and senior director Antonio Sampson] had for . . .
Kassa.” Young Dep. 48:6-21. Kassa also expressed his
concerns to his senior director, Antonio Sampson, and to
human resources manager Charles Burks. He told them that the
ATM team was “not a good place for [him] to go”
because he was “going to end up losing [his] temper
talking to somebody on the phone.” Kassa Dep.
168:17-19. It was Sampson's intention for Kassa to be a
technical resource who would assist ATM technicians in
resolving technical issues, not directly answering telephone
calls. Sampson Dep. 33:14-34:17, ECF No. 18. But Sampson was
reassigned during the transition, and he was no longer
responsible for Kassa's department.
August 2016, Kassa updated his team member profile to state
that he is disabled; the profile does not contain any
specific information regarding his disability. Wes Mason
became Kassa's supervisor in October 2016. Kassa told Mason,
“I have a condition that sometimes I can't control
what I say. Moving me to the phones is not going to be a good
idea and I'm probably going to get
fired[.]” Kassa Dep. 111:22-112:1. At the time,
Kassa did not provide Mason with any documentation regarding
his condition, and Mason did not ask for any. Kassa later
asked Mason if he was supposed to answer the phones. Mason
said, “yeah, that's kind of your job.”
Id. at 117:2-5. Kassa asked if he could “just
talk to the technicians.” Id. at 117:7-9.
Mason replied that he did not have enough people for that.
Kassa also applied for positions outside the ATM team, but he
was not selected. He asked for permission to work nights or
from home, but those requests were denied; the ATM support
position could not be performed from home “because the
Synovus telephone system does not enable calls to be routed
to off-site employees, ” and the network support duties
Kassa had previously performed at night had been outsourced
to Happiest Minds. Mason Aff. ¶ 13, ECF No 14-12.
Finally, Kassa told Mason that he may need “to get up
and take a break.” Kassa Dep. 117:17-19. Kassa did not
point to evidence that Mason told him he could not
take a break as Young had permitted him to do.
November 2016, Kassa was written up for failure to report a
server outage properly, which resulted in a lengthy outage
that had “a major impact on business operations.”
Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. N, Team Member Counseling
Form 2 (Nov. 8, 2016), ECF No. 14-16. The counseling form
states that Synovus typically uses a progressive disciplinary
process, beginning with documented verbal counseling.
Id. at 1. But the form also states that Synovus
“reserves the right to escalate disciplinary procedures
. . . at any time based upon the specific situation and
business conditions.” Id. And, it says that a
first written warning like the one Kassa received may be used
“when the severity of an issue warrants.”
Id. Kassa does not dispute that the incident
happened, but he believes that he should have received verbal
counseling instead of a written warning. He did not point to
any evidence to suggest that Synovus skipped the verbal
warning because of Kassa's disorders.
first performance review with Mason was in January 2017.
Mason rated Kassa as “Exceeds Expectations” in
technical resource but “Below Expectations” in
team performance. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. O,
Performance Review Report 2-3, ECF No. 14-17. Mason noted
that if the review were based solely on “the technical
side of things, ” Kassa would “be reflected as a
rockstar.” Id. at 3. He further noted that
valuable skills for support team roles like Kassa's
include being “open to working with other teams”
and “engaging others.” Id. Mason also
stated that although Kassa's night shift peers were
“deeply loyal to him, ” there was “a
definite disconnect” between Kassa and the rest of the
team, “and there have been some issues because of
this.” Id. at 2. Mason stated that he would
like to see Kassa “be less confrontational . . ., more
open to suggestions, and more able to work with his peers,
without requiring management intervention or
assistance.” Id. Mason concluded by stating
that Kassa had “a ton of potential” and would do
“great things” with Synovus if he could
“get past some of the attitude/perception issues and
start fresh with his peers.” Id. at 4. Kassa
agreed that his potential was “great” and that he
just needed “to work on [his] communication
issues.” Id. The performance review report
does not mention any disability or request for
accommodations, but Kassa asserts that he and Mason discussed
his anger disorder during the performance review meeting and
that he asked to be taken off the phones. Kassa Dep.
January 2017, Kassa sent emails to Mason and others regarding
the Happiest Minds transition. In one email, which he sent to
the entire team, including the Happiest Minds personnel (he
asserts that he accidentally included them), Kassa asked when
Synovus team members would “stop showing and telling
[the Happiest Minds resources] the same things over and over
again[.]” Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. Q, Email
from T. Kassa to W. Mason, et al., (Jan. 28, 2017),
ECF No. 14-19. In a separate email, Kassa attached several
instant message chat logs between himself and Happiest Minds
personnel, including the following:
Ashe, Perron 10:33 PM what is the problem with the atm list
Gunti, Rajesh 10:34 PM give you in 2 min perron
Kassa, Tony 10:37 PM Why Has No One done anything with the
SQL Alert that is over 30 mins old?
Narsale, Chandrakant 10:37 PM we are checking.
Kassa, Tony 10:38 PM nothing to check handle the Alert. How
often do you check our screens?
Narsale, Chandrakant 10:40 PM Sorry Tony, we areworking on
Kassa, Tony 10:41 PM You did not answer my question.. How
Often do You Check Our Screens compared to ...