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Chesnut v. Country Financial Insurance

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

September 12, 2019

CYNTHIA FLEMING CHESNUT, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTRY FINANCIAL INSURANCE, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          MARC T. TREADWELL, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Plaintiff Cynthia Chesnut filed suit against Defendant CC Services, Inc.[1] (“CCS”) alleging violations of the American with Disabilities Act and Fair Labor Standards Act. Doc. 24. CCS moved to dismiss her failure-to-accommodate claim because she did not exhaust her administrative remedies. Doc. 28. For the following reasons, that motion (Doc. 28) is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND[2]

         Beginning in 2013, Chesnut was employed by CCS as an Employee Financial Representative and reported to CCS Manager Michael Sehringer. Doc. 24 ¶¶ 5, 12, 13. In September 2015, Chesnut “was a witness to, and was within a close proximity of, her husband when he took his own life by gunfire (hereinafter, ‘traumatic event').” Id. ¶ 18. Until that time, Chesnut's job performance was “exemplary.” Id. ¶¶ 16, 41. “Within approximately two months of the traumatic event, Ms. Chesnut remained grief-stricken and emotionally raw, and it became clear to her that her performance was suffering as a result.” Id. ¶ 23.

         In November 2015, Chesnut met with Sehringer to discuss her job performance and request an accommodation. Id. ¶ 26. Sehringer refused to grant Chesnut an accommodation. Id. ¶ 27. Chesnut then told Sehringer that she was going to meet with his supervisor, Tim Richardson, regarding possible accommodations and asked Sehringer to attend. Id. ¶¶ 28, 30. Sehringer “became angry” when Chesnut told him she contacted Richardson, but he ultimately met with them. Id. ¶¶ 29, 30. After Richardson denied Chesnut's request for an accommodation, Chesnut contacted CCS Leave of Absence Administrator Janine Schiebel and requested short-term disability leave. Docs. 24 ¶¶ 32, 33; 24-1 at 3. Chesnut was granted this request. Doc. 24 ¶¶ 33, 34.

         In Fall 2016, Chesnut was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, which caused her to have “distressing” flashbacks and nightmares; emotional numbness; avoidance of places, people, activities, and situations that remind her of the traumatic event; and difficulty sleeping and concentrating. Id. ¶¶ 37, 38. Chesnut's coworkers, including Sehringer, witnessed Chesnut experience emotional breakdowns “on several occasions.” Id. ¶¶ 39, 40. New policies, procedures, and job requirements that were implemented after the traumatic event “exacerbated Ms. Chesnut's PTSD[, ]” causing Chesnut to struggle to meet her job benchmarks Id. ¶¶ 42, 43. Chesnut asked Sehringer “on a number of occasions” to transfer her to another office that was smaller and had a less stressful environment as an accommodation for her PTSD, but Sehringer denied these requests. Id. ¶¶ 44, 45. Throughout this time, Chesnut's pay was docked for failing to meet certain benchmarks, and she spent time working at home or after hours and was not paid overtime compensation. Id. ¶¶ 49, 50.

         In November 2017, Chesnut was told that she would be terminated due to her poor job performance, but she was not given an exact date. Id. ¶¶ 47, 48. On November 20, Chesnut could not access her computer, “and she sent a text message inquiring as to the date of termination.” Id. ¶ 48. Chesnut continued working until she received a response two days later stating that she had been terminated on November 20. Id.

         In January 2018, Chesnut filed a charge of disability discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Doc. 30-1. In the body of her charge, she alleged:

I began my employment with the above-named employer as an Insurance Financial Representative on October 15, 2013. Management and Human Resources was informed of disabilities in December of 2015 and January of 2016. On November 15, 2017, I was informed of my discharge by my supervisor, Mike Sehringer.
The reason given for my discharge was not meeting performance standards.
I believe that I have been discriminated against because of my disabilities, in violation of Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended.

Id. After concluding its investigation, the EEOC provided Chesnut with a Notice of Rights on July 31. Doc. 24 ¶ 53.

         On October 29, Chesnut, proceeding pro se, filed her complaint in this Court alleging failure to accommodate, hostile work environment, and disability discrimination. Doc. 1. After retaining counsel, Chesnut amended her complaint, alleging (1) failure to accommodate; (2) disability discrimination; (3) failure to pay minimum wage; and (4) failure to pay overtime. Doc. 24 ¶¶ 54-89. Specifically, Chesnut alleges that her “performance would have greatly improved if she had been provided with an accommodation” and that her pay would not have been docked for failing to meet certain benchmarks. Id. ¶¶ 47, 49. CCS has moved to partially dismiss Chesnut's complaint-specifically, her failure-to-accommodate claim-for failing to exhaust her administrative remedies. Doc. 28.

         II. FAILURE TO ...


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