United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the defendants' motion for
summary judgment. (Doc. 49). Ms. Maddox alleges that Alabama
Department of Transportation (ALDOT) violated Section 504 of
the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, by
failing to provide reasonable accommodations to her and
forcing her to retire. (Doc. 17, ¶¶
27-37). ALDOT asks the Court to grant summary
judgment in its favor on Ms. Maddox's claim. (Doc. 49, p.
1). It argues that Ms. Maddox cannot establish a prima facie
case of discrimination because ALDOT did not refuse to
provide her a reasonable accommodation or force her to
retire. (Doc. 51, p. 22). On October 4, 2017, the Court heard
oral arguments on ALDOT's motion for summary
judgment. For the reasons discussed on the record at
that hearing, and for the reasons stated below, the Court
will grant the defendants' motion for summary judgment.
court shall grant summary judgment 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.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). To demonstrate that there is a genuine
dispute as to a material fact that precludes summary
judgment, a party opposing a motion for summary judgment must
cite “to particular parts of materials in the record,
including depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations
(including those made for purposes of the motion only),
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). When considering a summary judgment
motion, the Court must view the evidence in the record and
draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. White v. Beltram Edge Tool Supply,
Inc., 789 F.3d 1188, 1191 (11th Cir. 2015). “The
court need consider only the cited materials, but it may
consider other materials in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
standards used to determine whether an employer has violated
the Rehabilitation Act are the same as the standards applied
under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42
U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq. Holbrook v. City of
Alpharetta, Ga., 112 F.3d 1522, 1526 n.2 (11th Cir.
1997) (quoting 29 U.S.C. § 794(d)) (“The
Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 791-796(1), provides, in
pertinent part, that ‘[t]he standards used to determine
whether this section has been violated in a complaint
alleging [nonaffirmative action] employment discrimination
under this section shall be the standards applied under
[T]itle I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42
U.S.C. § 12111 et seq.).'”). “Title I of
the ADA provides that no covered employer shall discriminate
against ‘a qualified individual with a disability
because of the disability of such individual' in any of
the ‘terms, conditions, [or] privileges of
employment.'” Holbrook, 112 F.3d at 1526
(quoting 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a)). To establish a prima
facie case of discrimination under the ADA, a plaintiff
“must prove that (1) [s]he has a disability; (2) [s]he
is a qualified individual; and (3) [s]he was subjected to
unlawful discrimination because of h[er] disability.”
Holbrook, 112 F.3d at 1526 (citing Morisky v.
Broward County, 80 F.3d 445, 447 (11th Cir. 1996)).
“An employer unlawfully discriminates against a
qualified individual with a disability when the employer
fails to provide ‘reasonable accommodations' for
the disability-unless doing so would impose undue hardship on
the employer. Lucas v. W.W. Grainger, Inc.,
257 F.3d 1249, 1255 (11th Cir. 2001) (quoting 42 U.S.C.
§ 12112(b)(5)(A)) (citing 29 C.F.R. § 1630.9(a)).
Under the ADA, the term “reasonable
accommodation” may include, inter alia,
“job restructuring, parttime or modified work
schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, acquisition or
modification of equipment or devices, appropriate adjustment
or modifications of examinations, training materials or
policies, the provision of qualified readers or interpreters,
and other similar accommodations for individuals with
disabilities.” 42 U.S.C. § 12111(9)(B). This list
notwithstanding, “[t]he use of the word
‘reasonable' as an adjective for the word
‘accommodate' connotes that an employer is not
required to accommodate an employee in any manner in which
that employee desires.” Lewis v. Zilog, Inc.,
908 F.Supp. 931, 947 (N.D.Ga. 1995). This is so because the
word “reasonable” would be rendered superfluous
in the ADA if employers were required in every instance to
provide employees “the maximum accommodation or every
conceivable accommodation possible.” Lewis,
908 F.Supp. at 947; see also Vande Zande v. State of Wis.
Dept. of Admin., 851 F.Supp. 353, 360 (W.D. Wis. 1994)
(“an employee is entitled only to a reasonable
accommodation and not to [a] preferred accommodation”),
aff'd, 44 F.3d 538 (7th Cir. 1995). Stated
plainly, under the ADA a qualified individual with a
disability is “not entitled to the accommodation of her
choice, but only to a reasonable accommodation.”
Lewis, 908 F.Supp. at 948.
Moreover, the burden of identifying an accommodation that
would allow a qualified individual to perform the job rests
with that individual, as does the ultimate burden of
persuasion with respect to demonstrating that such an
accommodation is reasonable. Willis v. Conopco, 108
F.3d 282, 283 (11th Cir. 1997).
Stewart v. Happy Herman's Cheshire Bridge, Inc.,
117 F.3d 1278, 1285-86 (11th Cir. 1997).
does not dispute that Ms. Maddox suffers from asthma that is
exacerbated by her allergies to dust and asphalt.
(See Doc. 51, pp. 25, 27). For purposes of resolving
ALDOT's motion for summary judgment, the Court assumes,
without deciding, that Ms. Maddox can prove she has a
disability as defined under the ADA. ALDOT provided a number
of accommodations to Ms. Maddox to address her disability.
ALDOT allowed Ms. Maddox to leave work anytime the asphalt
fumes affected her breathing. (Doc. 52-1, p. 35, tpp.
138-39). It provided an air purifier for Ms. Maddox's
office. (Doc. 52-1, p. 47, tpp. 186- 87). ALDOT even
relocated its asphalt lab to the rear of the building in
which Ms. Maddox worked (Doc. 52-1, p. 64, tp. 256), and
replaced the air ventilation system in that building (Doc.
52-1, pp. 64-65, tpp. 256-58). ALDOT offered to transfer Ms.
Maddox to the District 5 office in Shelby County. (Doc. 52-1,
p. 47, tp. 188). Ms. Maddox declined this transfer and asked
instead for a transfer to the main office. (Doc. 52-1, pp.
47-48, 51, tpp. 188-89, 203). ALDOT offered to transfer Ms.
Maddox to the main office but, because the main office was
undergoing mold remediation, ALDOT conditioned its transfer
offer on Ms. Maddox obtaining a letter from her doctor
stating that the main office would provide a safe environment
for Ms. Maddox to work. (Doc. 52-1, pp. 51, 54, tpp. 203,
216). Ms. Maddox acknowledges that her doctor was not willing
to provide such a letter and that the mold in the main office
might have caused health problems for her. (Doc. 52-1, p. 59,
tpp. 234-35). Ms. Maddox argues that ALDOT should have
allowed her to take sick leave until a clean-air environment
could be created in which she could work. (Doc. 52-1, p. 65,
Court is sympathetic to Ms. Maddox's frustration, but the
Rehabilitation Act does not require an employer to create an
environment completely free of fumes, dust, mold, or other
allergens to accommodate an employee's health condition.
ALDOT was required to provide Ms. Maddox with reasonable
accommodations, not the maximum accommodation or the
accommodation of her choice. ALDOT offered several
accommodations to Ms. Maddox, including allowing her to leave
work any time the office conditions affected her breathing.
Under the circumstances presented, this accommodation was
tantamount to Ms. Maddox's request for sick leave. Thus,
ALDOT satisfied its legal obligation to accommodate Ms.
for the reasons explained above and stated on the record at
the hearing, the Court finds that Ms. Maddox cannot establish
a prima facie case of discrimination under the Rehabilitation
Act. The Court GRANTS the defendants' motion for ...