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Laun v. Board of Regents of University System of Georgia

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division

September 25, 2019

BILLY B. LAUN II, D.D.S., Plaintiff,
v.
THE BOARD OF REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY SYSTEM OF GEORGIA d/b/a/ AUGUSTA UNIVERSITY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          J. RANDALL HALL, CHIEF JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia d/b/a Augusta University's[1]("Defendant") motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 21.) The Clerk of Court gave Plaintiff Billy B. Laun II, D.D.S. ("Plaintiff") timely notice of Defendant's motion, the summary judgment rules, the right to file affidavits or other materials in opposition, and the consequences of default. (Doc. 22.) Therefore, the notice requirements of Griffith v. Wainwright, 772 F.2d 822, 825 (11th Cir. 1985) (per curiam) have been satisfied. Plaintiff filed a response in opposition (Doc. 27), and Defendant filed a reply in support (Doc. 33) . The time for filing materials in opposition has expired, and the motion is ripe for consideration. Upon review of the evidence of record, relevant law, and the Parties' respective briefs, Defendant's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 21) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff's pending claims against Defendant are as follows: (1) disability discrimination claims under Titles I and II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. ("ADA") and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, et seq. and (2) a breach of contract claim.[2] The Court provides below the facts directly relevant to Plaintiff's disability discrimination and breach of contract claims.

         Beginning on July 1, 2012, Plaintiff was a resident in the Advanced Education Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery ("OMFS") Residency Program ("Residency Program") at the Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University ("Dental College"). (Pl.'s Resp. to St. Mat. Facts, [3] Doc. 28, ¶ 1.) On June 2, 2016, Plaintiff was terminated from the Residency Program. (Id.)

         As early as November of 2012, Dr. Henry Ferguson, D.M.D, professor and faculty member in the OMFS Department, and Dr. Mark Stevens, D.D.S., Chairman of the OMFS Department, began receiving complaints about Plaintiff from faculty members and employees. (Dr. Ferguson's Aff., Doc. 21-7, ¶¶ 2, 19; Dr. Stevens's Aff., Doc. 21-6, ¶¶ 2, 16.) Dr. Ferguson authenticated twenty-six communications from individuals complaining about Plaintiff's behavior spanning from November 1, 2012, to June 23, 2015. (Dr. Ferguson's Aff., ¶¶ 20-21; Doc. 21-7, Exs. 4-25.) The complaints concerned Plaintiff's "rude and insubordinate behavior" and "ability to safely care for and treat patients." (Dr. Ferguson's Aff., ¶¶ 20-21.) Dr. Ferguson also stated that "[i]n addition to the complaints I was informed of, I also had several personal encounters with [Plaintiff] where [he] acted in a rude, disobedient, or insubordinate manner." (Id. ¶ 22.)

         The complaints also included concerns about Plaintiff's clinical judgment. (See, e.g., Oct. 31, 2014 Email from Dr. Salgueiro, Doc. 21-7, Ex. 11, at 39[4] ("He is not aware of his limitations and lacks good clinical judgment. He is disrespectful, confrontational and unable to follow directions. He argues about every [] clinical decision and does not know when to stop. All th[ese] things make him unreliable and dangerous. I do not feel comfortable assuming the liability for the things he does in the clinic and I am very uncomfortable with him caring for hospital and major surgical cases.").)

         Lastly, Plaintiff appeared to have issues following the proper procedure when leaving the clinic. Specifically, Dr. Stevens reported to Dr. Ferguson that "[o]n September 10th[, ] [2014, ] [Plaintiff] left the clinic for a case at the hospital on another service without getting permission from the director of training program or chairman. This was a dereliction of duty." (Oct. 14, 2014 Email from Dr. Stevens, Doc. 21-6, Ex. 27, at 55.)

         It is unclear if the complaints and issues from 2012 through the end of 2014 prompted Dr. Ferguson or others to verbally counsel Plaintiff. (Compare Dr. Ferguson's Aff., ¶ 24, with Pl.'s Decl., Doc. 27-2, ¶ 96.) Beginning in March of 2015, however, Dr. Ferguson began reporting Plaintiff's alleged misconduct. On March 13, 2015, Dr. Ferguson found that similar to the September 14, 2014 incident, Plaintiff participated in a surgical case with another department "without clearance from either an OM[F]S Chief Resident or attending faculty." (Mar. 13, 2015 Code of Conduct Violation Memo., Doc. 21-7, Ex. 31, at 70.) Dr. Ferguson reported the March 13, 2015 incident to Dr. Philip J. Hanes, D.D.S., M.S., Associate Dean for Advanced Education at the Dental College, as a Code of Conduct violation. (Id.; Dr. Hanes's Aff., Doc. 21-5, ¶¶ 1-2.)

         On May 7, 2015, Plaintiff pled guilty to this charge as a first offense. (Mar. 16, 2016 Recommendation from Code of Conduct Hr'g, Doc. 21-4, Ex. 14, at 63.) In June of 2015, Plaintiff changed his plea to not guilty and, thereafter, a Code of Conduct Investigative Subcommittee was appointed to evaluate the evidence. (Id.) The Investigative Subcommittee found sufficient evidence that Plaintiff was guilty and recommended that a Code of Conduct hearing be convened. (Id.) A year after the incident, on March 14, 2016, a hearing was held. (Id. at 64.) Plaintiff failed to attend the hearing, was found guilty as charged, and was placed on Administrative Probation for the remainder of the Residency Program. (Id.)

         During the year between Plaintiff being charged with his first Code of Conduct violation and the hearing for that violation, important events took place. On June 4, 2015, Plaintiff's co- resident, Dr. Becky Paquin, complained to Dr. Stevens about an interaction she had with Plaintiff where she found Plaintiff to be aggressive. (Dr. Paquin's Letter to Dr. Stevens, Doc. 21-6, Ex. 28, at 56-58.) Dr. Paquin stated that Plaintiff repeatedly called her a "bitch, " and she quoted Plaintiff as stating, "If I find out anyone is backstabbing me again, I am not afraid to go to jail." (Id. at 56.) In response, Dr. Stevens and Dr. Ferguson informed Plaintiff that his behavior was "highly unprofessional" and they were placing him on administrative leave for two weeks as a result. (June 5, 2015 Letter to Pl., Doc. 21-7, Ex. 34, at 75-76.) Then, on June 7, 2015, Dr. Ferguson filed a second Code of Conduct violation against Plaintiff, which prompted another subcommittee to investigate the June 4, 2015 complaint. (June 7, 2015 Code of Conduct Violation Memo., Doc. 21-7, Ex. 35, at 77.)

         On July 2, 2015, the subcommittee reported that although there was "no reason to doubt Dr. Paquin's version of events, none of her specific allegations of unprofessional conduct between the two of them can be substantiated." (July 2, 2015 Subcommittee Report, Doc. 21-4, Ex. 6, at 39.) Therefore, the subcommittee found "insufficient grounds to further pursue these accusations of unprofessional conduct." (Id. at 40.) Despite this, the subcommittee noted concerns with Plaintiff, specifically the number of individuals who expressed apprehensions with Plaintiff's "recalcitran[t] [personality], unconventional perspectives, and unwillingness to comply with routine and reasonable requests in a non-confrontational manner." (Id.) Furthermore, the subcommittee noted that "more than one respondent . . . suggested that [Plaintiff] has unconventional practice philosophies and pushes the limits of what might be considered prudent, particularly with sedation." (Id.) Lastly, the subcommittee confidentially reported "[t]he speculative reports that several individuals were fearful that [Plaintiff] could experience a personal breakdown in rational thought and proceed to violence (firearms)." (Id. at 41.)

         On July 26, 2015, a meeting was held between Plaintiff and Dr. Carol Lefebvre, D.D.S., M.S., Dean of the Dental College; Dr. Ferguson; Dr. Hanes; Debra Arnold, Director of Employee Relations in the Human Resources Division at Augusta University; and James Rush, J.D., Chief Integrity Officer for Augusta University and other affiliated organizations. (Pl.'s Resp. to St. Mat. Facts, ¶ 53; Dr. Lefebvre's Aff., Doc. 21-4, ¶¶ 1-2; Ms. Arnold's Aff., Doc. 21-8, ¶¶ 2-3; Mr. Rush's Aff., Doc. 21-11, ¶¶ 2-3.) At the meeting, Plaintiff was informed he would be "placed on administrative leave until he completed a fitness for duty evaluation." (Pl.'s Resp. to St. Mat. Facts, ¶ 53.) "In August of 2015, Plaintiff underwent evaluations through Vanderbilt University's Comprehensive Assessment Program ('VCAP')." (Id. ¶ 55.) After evaluation, VCAP informed Mr. Rush - Plaintiff's sole point of contact during this time - that Plaintiff was unfit for duty and further treatment was recommended. (Id. ¶ 56.)

         Over the next few months, Plaintiff completed follow-up treatment at the Professional Renewal Center ("PRC") in Kansas. (Pl.'s Resp. to St. Mat. Facts, ¶ 57.) At the end of his time at the PRC, the PRC provided two reports: a "Fitness for Duty/Facility Summary'' (PRC Fitness for Duty Report, Doc. 27-2, Ex. 4, at 31-35) and a "Treatment Report" (PRC Treatment Report, Doc. 27-2, Ex. 5, at 39-51) (collectively, "PRC Reports"). The PRC Reports are discussed in further detail below relating to Plaintiff s failure to accommodate claim. In general, however, the PRC Reports found that as long as Plaintiff complied with certain recommendations, he was fit to return to duty. (PRC Fitness for Duty Report, at 32 ("With his aftercare plan fully in place, his full compliance with all elements of that plan, and his continued commitment to skill maintenance and development, we see no impediment to his return to residency.").)

         Prior to his return to the Residency Program, Dr. Lefebvre sent Plaintiff a letter explaining her expectations of Plaintiff upon his return and stating that if Plaintiff failed to meet those expectations, he would be immediately terminated. (Nov. 11, 2015 Letter from Dr. Lefebvre, Doc. 21-4, Ex. 11, at 54-55.) On December 14, 2015, Dr. Stevens and Mr. Rush met with Plaintiff to discuss their expectations of Plaintiff upon his return to the Residency Program. (Pl.'s Resp. to St. Mat. Facts, ¶ 66.) They informed Plaintiff he was being placed on a six-week assessment and probationary period. (Id.)

         Before returning to the Residency Program, Plaintiff filed an EEO complaint with Glenn Powell, Director of the Office of Employment Equity at Augusta University, alleging he was discriminated against for being "perceived as" having a disability. (Dec. 1, 2015 EEO Compl., Doc. 21-10, Ex. 2, at 18-20; Mr. Powell's Aff., Doc. 21-10, ¶¶ 1-2.) Mr. Powell's preliminary investigation found no evidence to support Plaintiff s allegations of disability discrimination because the reasons Plaintiff believed he was treated negatively were unrelated to Plaintiff being perceived as having a disability. (Pl.'s Resp. to St. Mat. Facts, ¶ 65; Mr. Powell's Preliminary Report, Doc. 21-10, Ex. 4, at 34-35.)

         Plaintiff then returned to the Residency Program. Following the conclusion of Plaintiff's assessment and probationary period, Dr. Stevens provided Plaintiff with the faculty's evaluation of Plaintiff, which also included recommendations for improvement. (Feb. 12, 2016 Faculty Evaluation, Doc. 21-6, Ex. 29, at 59-63.) On February 19, 2016, Dr. Stevens provided Plaintiff with a second memorandum concerning expectations for Plaintiff's improvement, which Plaintiff tore up in front of Dr. Stevens. (Pl.'s Resp. to St. Mat. Facts, ¶¶ 67-72; see Picture of Shredded Memo., Doc. 21- 6, Ex. 30, at 65.) Later, Plaintiff signed a copy of the February 19, 2016 memorandum with reservations. (Feb. 19, 2016 Memo, from Dr. Stevens, Doc. 21-6, Ex. 31, at 68.)

         Another incident occurred on March 1, 2016. Denise Webster, Legal Services Coordinator in Augusta University's Legal Affairs Office, reported to Chris Melcher, Executive Vice President for Legal Affairs at Augusta University, an incident involving Plaintiff that occurred on March 1, 2016. (Ms. Webster's Memo., Doc. 21-4, Ex. 13, at 61-62.) In sum, Ms. Webster stated that Plaintiff called the Legal Affairs Office to speak with an attorney because "[Mr.] Rush was not being responsive enough to him." (Id. at 61.) Ms. Webster informed Plaintiff that she was "instructed to tell [Plaintiff] that the only person on campus that he was allowed to speak with would be [Mr.] Rush." (Id.) Ms. Webster reported that Plaintiff then became aggressive towards her and threatened her with her job. (Id. at 61-62.) The interaction made Ms. Webster "uncomfortable about [Plaintiff] being on this campus" and fearful because she believed Plaintiff "unstable and [able to] do harm." (Id. at 62.) Mr. Melcher reported the incident to, among others, Dr. Lefebvre. (Mar. 2, 2016 Email from Mr. Melcher, Doc. 21-4, Ex. 13, at 59-62.)

         On March 3, 2016, Dr. Lefebvre placed Plaintiff on administrative leave. (Pl.'s Resp. to St. Mat. Facts., ¶ 76.) Ms. Arnold investigated the March 1, 2016 incident. (Id. ¶ 77.) Ms. Arnold found that Plaintiff "violated [W]ork [R]ule #18[:] Threatening, engaging in threatening behavior (physical/verbal), or fighting in the workplace towards a co-worker, supervisor, patient, or any individual within the institution or enterprise." (Apr. 11, 2016 Report by Ms. Arnold, Doc. 21-8, Ex. 5, at 44-45.)

         On April 20, 2016, Dawn Gantt, Dr. Lefebvre's assistant, reported another incident involving Plaintiff. (Apr. 20, 2016 Memo, from Ms. Gantt, Doc. 21-8, Ex. 6, at 47.) Plaintiff came to Dr. Lefebvre's office to complain that he was not "getting cases the way other Residents [were]." (Id.) Plaintiff became angry and Dr. Lefebvre asked Plaintiff to leave or she would call public safety. (Id. at 47-48.) After Ms. Gantt asked Plaintiff to leave around five times, he finally left to speak with Dr. Kevin B. Frazier. (Id. at 48.)

         On April 22, 2016, Dr. Stevens issued Plaintiff a final warning letter ("Final Warning") based on the March 1, 2016 violation of Work Rule #18 and Plaintiff's continued behavioral issues. (Final Warning, Doc. 21-6, Ex. 37, at 81-83, 85.) The Final Warning specified that "any further violations of [Augusta University] work rules, OM[F]S department guidelines, or your [i]mprovement plan will result in discharge from the OM[F]S residency program and Augusta University. Should another event occur, you will be immediately suspended, an investigation will be conducted and the final outcome will determine your status." (Id. at 85.)

         The final incident occurred on May 17, 2016, when Plaintiff was supposed to be at the clinic. (Pl.'s Resp. to St. Mat. Facts, ¶ 88.) Staff could not locate Plaintiff, so they paged him. (Id.) Instead of returning directly to the clinic after receiving the page, Plaintiff went to Dr. Ferguson's office and a verbal altercation ensued with Plaintiff raising past issues and Dr. Ferguson asking Plaintiff to leave his office multiple times. (Id. ¶¶ 89-91; May 27, 2016 Report by Ms. Arnold & Mr. Rush, Doc. 21-8, Ex. 8, at 54-56.) Plaintiff left Dr. Ferguson's office but returned after clinic and began another verbal exchange. (Pl.'s Resp. to St. Mat. Facts, ¶ 91.)

         Ms. Arnold and Mr. Rush investigated the May 17, 2016 events. (May 27, 2016 Report by Ms. Arnold & Mr. Rush, at 54-56.) Ms. Arnold and Mr. Rush reported that on May 17, 2016, Plaintiff "violated the expectations set forth in his [F]inal [W]arning and therefore the department [would] need to determine the action to be taken." (Id. at 56.)

         Dr. Lefebvre, Dr. Hanes, Dr. Stevens, and Dr. Ferguson, with input from Mr. Rush, Ms. Arnold, and Anthony Hightower, decided termination was the proper action. (Pl.'s Resp. to St. Mat. Facts, ¶ 95.) On June 2, 2016, Dr. Stevens presented Plaintiff with a letter notifying him of his termination ("Termination Notice"). (Id. ¶ 96; Termination Notice, Doc. 21-8, Ex. 9, at 57-58.) The Termination Notice stated that Plaintiff was terminated, effective immediately, for violating "Work Rule #4: Rude or discourteous behavior toward patients or other persons at Augusta University" and "Work Rule #13: Insubordination or willful disobedience." (Termination Notice, at 57.)

         After termination, Plaintiff's counsel sent Defendant a letter stating that Defendant made a promise in the Code of Conduct section of the Resident Handbook to "conduct an investigation and allow the accused resident to participate in a formal hearing to address allegations against him, " yet Defendant failed to follow those procedures. (June 13, 2016 Letter from Pl.'s Counsel, Doc. 27-2, Ex. 6, at 55.) Thereafter, Defendant provided Plaintiff with an investigation and a hearing held on July 26, 2016. (Pl.'s Resp. to St. Mat. Facts, ¶¶ 100, 105.) The hearing subcommittee determined that Plaintiff was guilty and recommended he receive "Administrative Probation with Restrictions." (July 27, 2016 Recommendation from Code of Conduct Hr'g, Doc. 21-4, Ex. 21, at 95.) Plaintiff's termination was ultimately upheld on August 1, 2016, by Dr. Lefebvre, and on August 12, 2016, by Brooks Keel, Augusta University's President. (Aug. 1, 2016 Letter Upholding Termination, Doc. 21-4, Ex. 22, at 98-99; Aug. 12, 2016 Letter Upholding Termination, Doc. 21-4, Ex. 23, at 100.)

         Post-termination, Plaintiff filed a new disability discrimination complaint where he claimed he was discriminated against and not provided the reasonable accommodation of mediation prior to termination. (Pl.'s Discrimination Compl. and Request for Mediation, Doc. 21-10, Ex. 5, at 36-38.) Mr. Powell reviewed Plaintiff's discrimination complaint and request for mediation and, by letter dated July 25, 2016, found that mediation was not a reasonable accommodation because "[m]ediation is [v]oluntary"; "[b]oth Parties must agree on the outcome"; and "[m]ediation is not the proper venue to address serious, formal employment actions." (July 25, 2016 Letter from Mr. Powell, Doc. 21-10, Ex. 6, at 58-59.)

         Plaintiff then filed a case in the Superior Court of Richmond County on May 18, 2016, and amended the complaint for the first time on September 19, 2016. (See Docs. 1-13, 1-18.) Plaintiff states he received his Notice of Right to Sue from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and on January 22, 2018, amended the complaint for the second time adding claims of employment discrimination. (See Second Am. Compl., Doc. 1-3, at 1.) On February 21, 2019, Defendant removed the case to the Augusta Division of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. (See Notice of Removal, Doc. 1.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         The Court should grant summary judgment only if "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) . The purpose of the summary judgment rule is to dispose of unsupported claims or defenses, which, as a matter of law, raise no genuine issues of material fact suitable for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-24 (1986). Facts are "material" if they could affect the outcome of the suit under the governing substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of those material facts "is 'genuine' . . . [only] if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [nonmovant's] position will be insufficient" for a jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id. at 252; accord Gilliard v. Ga. Dep't of Corrs., 500 F.App'x 860, 863 (11th Cir. 2012) (per curiam).

         As required, this Court will view the record evidence "in the light most favorable to the [nonmovant], " Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986), and will "draw all justifiable inferences in [Plaintiff's] favor." United States v. Four Parcels of Real Prop., 941 F.2d 1428, 1437 (11th Cir. 1991) (en banc) (internal quotation marks omitted). Additionally, the party opposing summary judgment "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials in its pleadings. Rather, its responses . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1576-77 (11th Cir. 1990).

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Court now addresses Defendant's arguments that summary judgment is appropriate for Plaintiff's (A) disability discrimination claims and (B) breach of contract claim.

         A. Disability Discrimination

         Plaintiff brings claims under the Rehabilitation Act and ADA. Both Acts prohibit employers from discriminating against an otherwise qualified individual with a disability. 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a); 29 U.S.C. § 794(a). "The standard for determining liability under the Rehabilitation Act is the same as that under the [ADA] . . .; thus, cases involving the ADA are precedent for those involving the Rehabilitation Act." Ellis v. England, 432 F.3d 1321, 1326 (11th Cir. 2005) (internal citation omitted). The Court analyzes Plaintiff's Rehabilitation Act and ADA claims in conjunction.

         For Plaintiff to establish a prima facie case of discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act, he must show: "(1) []he had a disability; (2) []he was otherwise qualified for the position; and (3) []he was subjected to unlawful discrimination as the result of h[is] disability." Garrett v. Univ. of Ala. at Birmingham Bd. of Trs., 507 F.3d 1306, 1310 (11th Cir. 2007). Although Defendant does not concede a challenge to prongs one and two - that Plaintiff had a disability and was otherwise qualified - Defendant only raises a challenge as to the third prong. (Br. Supp. Mot. for Summ. J., at 5.) To establish the third prong, Plaintiff argues Defendant discriminated against him under the theories of (1) failure to accommodate and (2) disparate treatment. (Second Am. Compl., ¶¶ 58-59, 67-68, 76-77.)

         1. Failure to Accommodate

         Unlawful discrimination can occur when an employer "fails to provide a reasonable accommodation" to an otherwise qualified person "unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer." Boyle v. City of Pell City, 866 F.3d 1280, 1289 (11th Cir. 2017). An accommodation is only reasonable if it enables an employee with a disability "to perform the essential functions" of a position or "to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment as are enjoyed by its other similarly situated employees without disabilities." 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(o) (1) (ii), (iii). The reasonableness of an accommodation depends upon the specific facts and circumstances of the case. See Stewart v. Happy Herman's Cheshire Bridge, Inc., 117 F.3d 1278, 1285 (11th Cir. 1997).

         An employer need not demonstrate undue hardship until an employee meets his "burden of identifying an accommodation and demonstrating that it is reasonable." Frazier-White v. Gee, 818 F.3d 1249, 1255 (11th Cir. 2016) (citing Lucas v. W.W. Grainger, Inc., 257 F.3d 1249, 1255-56 (11th Cir. 2001)). "Moreover, an employer's 'duty to provide a reasonable accommodation is not triggered unless a specific demand for an accommodation has been made.'" Id. at 1255-56 (quoting Gaston v. Bellingrath Gardens & Home, Inc., 167 F.3d 1361, 1363-64 (11th Cir. 1999)).

         If it is unclear what sort of reasonable accommodation is appropriate, "an informal, interactive process with the disabled individual may be necessary." Webb v. Donley, 347 F.App'x 443, 446 (11th Cir. 2009) (citing 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(o)(3)) (emphasis in original); accord Stewart, 117 F.3d at 1286-87. As provided in 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(o) (3), the interactive process "should identify the precise limitations resulting from the disability and potential reasonable accommodations that could overcome those limitations."

         If the employer engages in an interactive process, the employer will not be liable for failing to accommodate the employee if there is a breakdown in the interactive process not due to the employer or there is no reasonable way to accommodate the employee.[5] See Stewart, 117 F.3d at 1286-87.

         In the Eleventh Circuit, at the summary judgment stage, courts do not reach the question of whether the employer engaged in the interactive process unless and until the employee shows he requested a reasonable accommodation. Spears v. Creel, 607 F.App'x 943, 948 (11th Cir. 2015) (per curiam).

When a request is patently unreasonable, the employer has no duty to investigate it or begin the interactive process. [Willis v. Conopco, Inc., 108 F.3d 282, 285 (11th Cir. 1997)]; Spears . . ., 607 F.App'x [at] 948 .... The same is true if the request does not make a sufficiently specific demand. Gaston . . ., 167 F.3d [at] 1363.

Hargett v. Fla. Atl. Univ. Bd. of Trs., 219 F.Supp. 3d 1227, 1243 (S.D. Fla. 2016). Therefore, the initial burden is on Plaintiff to show he made a sufficient request for a reasonable accommodation. Only then will the burden shift to Defendant to show that it satisfied its requirements under the ADA by (1) providing a reasonable accommodation or (2) by engaging with Plaintiff in an interactive process to determine a reasonable accommodation but no accommodation was provided because either (a) there was a breakdown in the process not due to Defendant or (b) there was no reasonable way to accommodate Plaintiff.[6]

         Defendant argues that Plaintiff s claim for failure to accommodate fails as a matter of law because (a) Plaintiff failed to request a reasonable accommodation (Br. Supp. Mot. for Summ. J., at 7-9) and (b) even if Plaintiff requested an accommodation, Plaintiff was responsible for the breakdown in the interactive process (Reply Supp. Mot. for Summ. J., at 2-7). For the following reasons, the Court finds that there are genuine issues of material fact as to Plaintiff's failure to accommodate claim. Thus, the Court denies Defendant's motion for summary judgment as to this claim.

         a. Request for a ...


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