from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Georgia D.C. Docket No. 3:14-cv-00031-TCB
ROSENBAUM, JILL PRYOR and RIPPLE, [*] Circuit Judges.
PRYOR, Circuit Judge
Batson was an employee of The Salvation Army
("TSA") for more than a decade. She received
promotions and consistently positive performance reviews.
After Batson was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, she
requested leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29
U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. ("FMLA"), and
an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act,
42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. ("ADA").
TSA then eliminated her position and required her to apply
and interview for a position she had previously held. During
the interview, Batson was questioned repeatedly about her
appointments with doctors and ability to travel. TSA decided
against hiring Batson for her former position, citing her
conduct in the interview and poor job performance.
filed a complaint against TSA in federal district court,
alleging that the organization had discriminated against her
based on her disability when it denied her a reasonable
accommodation in violation of the ADA, retaliated against her
for statutorily protected activities in violation of the ADA
and the FMLA, and interfered with her rights under the FMLA.
The district court granted TSA's motion for summary
judgment on all of Batson's claims. The district court
ruled that she failed to come forward with evidence of the
following: on her accommodation claim, that TSA had denied
her request for a reasonable accommodation; on her
retaliation claim, that TSA's explanations for
eliminating her position and refusing to rehire her were
pretextual; and on her interference claim, that TSA had
interfered with her rights under the FMLA.
careful consideration, and with the benefit of oral argument,
we affirm in part and reverse in part the district
court's grant of summary judgment. We agree with the
district court that Batson failed to establish that TSA
discriminated against her by refusing to accommodate her
under the ADA. But we disagree that Batson failed to offer
evidence showing that TSA's explanations for terminating
her were pretextual and that TSA interfered with her rights
under the FMLA. Batson is thus entitled to a trial on her ADA
and FMLA retaliation claims and her FMLA interference claim.
Batson's claims rely upon who knew and did what when, a
chronology of relevant events is necessary. On review of
summary judgment, we set forth the facts in the light most
favorable to Batson, the non-moving party. See Kragor v.
Takeda Pharms. Am., Inc., 702 F.3d 1304, 1307 (11th Cir.
2012). In 2002, Batson began working for TSA at the
organization's territorial headquarters in Atlanta,
Georgia. She was transferred to the Audit Department in 2006
and promoted to Senior Auditor the following year. At that
time, Major Len Eugene Broome was the Audit Secretary and
head of the Audit Department. Frank Duracher, the Audit
Manager, was Batson's direct supervisor.
was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in January 2010. She
informed her supervisors and the rest of the Audit Department
of her diagnosis shortly thereafter. Around the same time
that Batson was diagnosed, Broome became ill and could not
fully discharge his duties, which led to a restructuring of
the Audit Department. To assist Broome, TSA promoted Duracher
to the position of Assistant Audit Secretary and Batson to
the position of Audit Manager.
passed away in September 2012 and was replaced as the Audit
Secretary by Major Everett Wilson. Following Broome's
death, Wilson and Duracher discussed whether Batson's
position as the Audit Manager remained necessary now that
Broome's former position had been filled. Wilson
reassigned some of Batson's duties to himself and
her tenure with TSA, Batson received "excellent
performance evaluations." Doc. 58 at 11. In her 2009
performance review, Duracher wrote that Batson was a
"wonderful employee" who "always ha[d] a
pleasant demeanor" and was "eager to learn new
auditing techniques." Id. In Batson's 2011
performance review, Duracher wrote that she was "a
pleasure to work with" and that she had "grown
nicely in her role as [A]udit [M]anager." Id.
at 12. According to Batson's 2012 performance review, the
last one before her termination, she "exceed[ed]
expectations" in every category. Id. Duracher
commented that Batson was "eager to help anyone in
need" and that "she strives for excellence and sets
an example for the entire department." Id.
November 2012, a couple of months after Wilson assumed the
position of Audit Secretary, Batson requested a meeting with
Duracher and Wilson to discuss her need for an accommodation
because of her Multiple Sclerosis. A meeting was scheduled
for December 4, 2012, but it had to be rescheduled. The
meeting was rescheduled a number of times between December
2012 and April 2013 but never took place.
January 2013, Batson requested and took her first FMLA leave,
which was approved for a two-week period. Later that month,
she requested intermittent FMLA leave, which was also
met with Dr. Murray Flagg, the head of the human resources
department for TSA's southern territory on February 22 to
discuss Batson's concerns related to her Multiple
Sclerosis. In particular, Batson told Flagg that Duracher had
disclosed her medical diagnosis to another employee. She
later complained about Duracher's disclosure in an
official grievance, which led TSA to reprimand him.
after her meeting with Flagg, in late February, Batson's
physician completed an ADA Interactive Process Questionnaire
on her behalf. Through that questionnaire, which was
submitted to TSA, Batson requested adjustments to her travel
schedule and asked to telecommute occasionally due to her
illness. Regina Davis, the Assistant Human Resources
Director, was aware of Batson's request.
Batson submitted the questionnaire, she met with Davis and
Rendrick Nash, another human resources employee, to discuss
her FMLA leave and her supervisors' failure since
November of 2012 to meet with her about her request for an
accommodation. Davis and Nash told Batson that Wilson and
Duracher had denied her accommodation request.
March 1, Flagg met with Wilson and Duracher to discuss the
grievance Batson had filed. The same day, Wilson requested to
eliminate Batson's position, explaining that following
Broome's death, three administrative leads were no longer
necessary "as [Duracher] and I can effectively lead the
department." Doc. 57-14 at 1. At the same time, Wilson
requested permission to post a vacant Senior Auditor
position, the position Batson had held before her promotion
to Audit Manager, so that "upon notification that her
position . . . is being eliminated, [she] c[ould] apply for
consideration as Senior Auditor." Id.
the same time, TSA's Territorial Finance Council
("TFC") approved the elimination of Batson's
Audit Manager position. It also determined that she could be
transferred directly to the Senior Auditor position. Captain
Phil Swyers, who led the TFC, emailed Davis that there was
"no need to post the Senior Auditor position unless Ms.
Ebonie Batson does not accept the opportunity to transfer . .
. from her present . . . position." Doc. 58-10 at 3.
Davis responded, however, that the position had to be posted
internally to comply with equal opportunity laws and the
organization's affirmative action policy. Swyers replied
by reiterating that Davis should follow the TFC's
instruction: "I am writing to confirm that the original
email below . . . is the procedure TFC would like Major
Wilson to follow." Id. at 1. Davis again
insisted that "TFC [was] instructing us to violate the
[affirmative action plan], which is a violation of federal
law." Id. The record is unclear as to whether
such a plan or policy actually existed at TSA and, if so,
whether permitting Batson to fill a Senior Auditor position
that she had held previously without posting the position
would violate that policy.
end of March, Batson took approved FMLA leave for several
weeks. Before she left, she overheard Wilson say, "[w]e
don't allow sick people in our department, everyone has
to work." Doc. 64-1 at 15. When she returned from her
leave, Wilson and Davis informed her that her Audit Manager
position had been eliminated and that she could apply for the
Senior Auditor position. Batson was told that the application
process was just a formality and that she would be
transferred to her previous role; she merely had to apply.
The position was posted internally, and Batson was the only
person to apply by the deadline.
Batson's application was pending, Wilson retired from his
position as Audit Secretary and was replaced by Major
Beatrice Boalt, who was tasked with filling the Senior
Auditor position. Before Wilson's departure, he emailed
Boalt, telling her that TSA was "obligated" to hire
Batson because "[s]he never receive[d] poor ratings and
she did the [Senior Auditor] job prior to the position she
held." Doc. 60 at 19. Wilson expressed his belief that
Batson could be transferred directly to the Senior Auditor
position. He testified in his deposition that she was
qualified and that he perceived her to be "bright"
and "capable of what she was doing." Id.
nonetheless required Batson to interview for the Senior
Auditor position. Before the interview, Boalt emailed Colonel
Samuel Henry, the head of the Audit and Financial Department,
expressing concern about hiring Batson. Given that Batson was
"the only one who applied" by the deadline, Boalt
wrote, "[i]t appears that we have painted ourselves into
a corner . . . [s]o we have to hire her?" Doc. 54-2 at
1. Boalt revealed that she "had hoped . . . [to] find
out if we could appoint [another candidate] as the Senior
Auditor." Id. at 2. She also worried about the
questions she could ask Batson in the interview, telling
Henry, "I guess for the interview, I need to be coached
as to what I can and can't say." Id. at 1.
Later she emailed a human resources employee to ask whether
"there are any questions I cannot ask." Doc. 54-3
at 2. She added, "I assume that if this candidate is
applying then the candidate . . . is well enough to travel at
least 75% of the time." Id.
Boalt and Duracher interviewed Batson for the Senior Auditor
position. During the interview, Boalt asked Batson a number
of questions related ...