United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RUSS WALKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Jacob Corbin brings this action against defendant Jackson
Hospital & Clinic, Inc. (“Jackson”), alleging
disability discrimination and retaliation pursuant to the
Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101
et seq. (the “ADA”), as amended by the
ADA Amendments Act (the “ADAAA”), and the
Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq.
(the “RA”). See Doc. 1. Jackson is a
healthcare provider and hospital located in Montgomery
County, Alabama. Corbin was hired by the defendant in 2002
and fired in November of 2013. During his employment, Corbin
reached the position of “team leader” within the
defendant's Information Technology (“IT”)
department. Plaintiff held the team leader job title until
his termination. This lawsuit concerns allegations of
discrimination related to plaintiff's purported
disability, as well as allegations that the defendant
retaliated against Corbin due to that disability.
cause is presently before the court on defendant's motion
for summary judgment. See Doc. 27. Plaintiff filed a
response in opposition to the motion, see Doc. 47,
and Jackson replied, see Doc. 48. Upon review of the
motion and the record, the court concludes that
defendant's motion for summary judgment is due to be
movant is entitled to summary judgment if he “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). For summary judgment purposes, an issue
of fact is “material” if, under the substantive
law governing the claim, its presence or absence might affect
the outcome of the suit. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). If the movant fails to
satisfy its initial burden, the motion for summary judgment
will be denied. Kernel Records Oy v. Mosley, 694
F.3d 1294, 1300 (11th Cir. 2012). If the movant adequately
supports its motion, the burden shifts to the opposing party
to establish - “by producing affidavits or other
relevant and admissible evidence beyond the pleadings”
- specific facts raising a genuine issue for trial.
Josendis v. Wall to Wall Residence Repairs, Inc.,
662 F.3d 1292, 1315 (11th Cir. 2011); Dietz v. Smithkline
Beecham Corp., 598 F.3d 812, 815 (11th Cir. 2010);
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). “All affidavits [and
declarations] must be based on personal knowledge and must
set forth facts that would be admissible under the Federal
Rules of Evidence[.]” Josendis, F.3d at 1315;
court views the evidence and all reasonable factual
inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmovant.
Miller's Ale House, Inc. v. Boynton Carolina Ale
House, LLC, 702 F.3d 1312, 1316 (11th Cir. 2012);
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). However, “[i]f no reasonable
jury could return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party,
there is no genuine issue of material fact and summary
judgment will be granted.” Morton v. Kirkwood,
707 F.3d 1276, 1284 (11th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
AND RELEVANT FACTS
Plaintiff's Employment at Jackson
IT department maintained the hospital's computer systems,
including its internet networks, telephone systems, and other
electronic and cyber resources. See Doc. 47-19 at 2.
The IT department was managed by a director, who was
responsible for three teams within the department: the
financial team, the clinical team, and the infrastructure
team. Id. The infrastructure team oversaw the
hospital's networks, telephones, and internet
connectivity. Id. Until early November of 2013, a
“team leader” supervised each of the three teams.
Corbin began working at Jackson in 2002, and ultimately
obtained the position of infrastructure team leader.
See Doc. 1 at 2. In this position, Corbin's
responsibilities included duties having to do with the
hospital's technological infrastructure. See
Doc. 47-19 at 2. During at least some of Corbin's time as
infrastructure team leader, Kris Carpenter was the director
of the IT department and Corbin's supervisor.
See Doc. 47-1 at 9. In September of 2013, the
defendant hired Michael James to be the new Vice President
(“VP”) and Chief Operating Officer
(“COO”). See Doc. 47-19 at 1. In this
role, James was responsible for the oversight and maintenance
of the Hospital's IT systems. Id. at 2.
2010,  Corbin was diagnosed with narcolepsy with
cataplexy by Dr. Rubin Richardson. See Doc. 47-1 at
16. Corbin avers that, shortly thereafter, he notified
Carpenter of this diagnosis. Id. at 16. Corbin
attests that the narcolepsy with cataplexy caused him
increased sleepiness and memory loss. Id. at 3-4.
this diagnosis, Corbin says that he felt pressured by
Carpenter to explain his condition publicly at a department
meeting. Id. at 22. Moreover, Carpenter notified a
vendor that Corbin would not be available in the early
morning or late at night due to his narcolepsy. Id.
at 23. Also, Samantha Ivery claimed to have once heard
someone at work make a joke about narcolepsy during her time
as a member of Jackson's IT department; Ivery, however,
could not recall any specifics regarding the joke, including
which employees may have been involved or who it may have
been about. See Doc. 47-4 at 2. Similarly, Andy
Johnson, a former member of Jackson's IT department,
claimed that Corbin's “narcolepsy was a joke in the
IT department, ” but did not elaborate with specific
details. See Doc. 47-17 at 3.
February 11, 2013, Corbin submitted his first internal
complaint alleging that Carpenter was discriminating against
him based on a disability. See Doc. 47-20. Corbin
says that Carpenter's hostility towards him, and
Carpenter's attempt to change his job description,
prompted him to file this initial complaint. See
Doc. 47-1 at 26. As part of his complaint, Corbin alleged,
among other things, that Carpenter “does not
communicate effective[ly], ” that Carpenter yells at
him, that Carpenter gives him a “hard time about
accommodating his disability, ” and that she
“criticizes his team in front of other
directors.” See Doc. 47-21. In order to
investigate and address this complaint, Gilbert Darrington,
Jackson's Director of Human Resources, met with Carpenter
and Corbin on February 18, 2013. Id. At this
meeting, Carpenter agreed to accommodate Corbin's
disability and to meet with the staff in order to address any
rumors involving Corbin. Id. Darrington also advised
Carpenter that she could not alter Corbin's job
description “after the fact” given that there was
no business reason for the change and “because [Corbin]
had a disability that prevented [him] from filling that
position.” See Doc. 47-1 at 21. Notably,
Corbin testified that he does not believe that he “ever
requested any type of accommodation” for his
narcolepsy. Doc. 27 at 15.
Plaintiff's Job Performance
the time, Carpenter designated Corbin a “role
model” employee. See Doc. 47-1 at 27. The
“role model” distinction was the highest category
that an employee could receive as part of an evaluation.
Id. at 25. Further, an employee's pay was
influenced by the evaluations; in other words, the higher the
evaluation, the higher the pay increase for the year.
characterizes the June 2013 evaluation-during which he was
assessed as “exceed[ing] standards, ” one level
below “role model” status-as retaliation on the
part of Carpenter due to Corbin's complaints.
Id. at 25. However, according to Carpenter,
Corbin's February 2013 complaint did not factor into her
evaluation of him. See Doc. 27 at 79. Also,
Carpenter avers that she was directed to adjust her
department's evaluations in order to decrease the amount
in raises its members would receive for the year.
Id. at 75.
Ritzus, Jackson's VP of outpatient services, had a number
of work-related interactions with Corbin. See Doc.
27 at 47. Ritzus describes Corbin's behavior as
unprofessional and his work as negligent, and he shared these
thoughts with Carpenter. Id. at 53. On July 29,
2013, Ritzus became so frustrated with the IT department, and
with Corbin, that he drafted a memorandum detailing the
issues. See Doc. 47-9 at 1. Corbin was also issued a
written warning setting out complaints made against him due
to his “[p]oor job performance.” Doc. 47-9 at
2-3. On September 19, 2013, after receiving this written
warning, Corbin responded with a lengthy complaint describing
his interactions with Carpenter, among others, and the
alleged discrimination that he suffered due to his
disability. See Doc. 47-8.
the situation did not improve, Ritzus took his complaint to
Joe Riley, Jackson's Chief Executive Officer
(“CEO”). See Doc. 27 at 54. Based on
conversations between Ritzus and Riley, it became clear to
Ritzus that Jackson's IT department was not performing
well, and its struggles were having an adverse effect on the
hospital's objectives. Id. at 54-56. Due to the
IT department's issues, Riley, Jackson's CEO, hired
Jackson Thornton Technologies (“JTT”), an
external IT consulting firm, to perform an audit of the
department and to make recommendations to improve its
performance. See Doc. 47-19 at 2.
JTT's Audit and the Microsoft Licenses
he became Jackson's new VP and COO, James was presented
with JTT's final report. See Doc. 47-19 at 3.
The JTT report underscored significant problems within the IT
department's infrastructure team, particularly with
Corbin's reported poor management. Id. In order
to address JTT's findings and recommendations, Riley and
James discussed restructuring the IT department and its
JTT conducted its review, Microsoft conducted a software
audit. Id. The IT department and its leadership
team, Carpenter and Corbin, were responsible for maintaining
software licensing. See Doc. 48 at 15-16. As part of
its report, JTT warned that Microsoft imposes significant
financial penalties on companies whose software licenses are
not in compliance. See Doc. 47-19 at 3. In October
of 2013, Microsoft determined that Jackson was not in
compliance and, as a result, asked for payment of over $300,
November 11, 2013, Darrington informed Corbin by letter that
Jackson had eliminated his position and that his employment
was terminated. See Doc. 47-12; see also
Doc. 47-13. Darrington avers that he was present at a
subsequent meeting where the issue with the Microsoft
licenses was cited, at least in part, as the reason for the
removal of both Carpenter and Corbin. See Doc. 47-2
at 3. Riley, the CEO, and James, the COO, decided to allow
Carpenter to resign and to eliminate Corbin's position.
See Doc. 47-19 at 3-4. Riley and James made this
decision in response to the JTT report and the Microsoft
software audit. Id. at 3-4. Corbin's position,
Infrastructure Team Leader, was never again opened or filled.
Id. at 4.