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POWERS v. POLYGRAM HOLDING

April 2, 1999

ANDREW J. POWERS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
POLYGRAM HOLDING, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William C. Conner, Senior District Judge.

  OPINION AND ORDER

This action for employment discrimination under the American with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101-12217, and the New York State Executive Law § 296 et seq., is before the Court on defendant's Rule 56 motion for summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. For the reasons stated hereinafter, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

The relevant facts are largely undisputed. Plaintiff; Andrew Powers, was employed by Defendant Polygram Holding, Inc. from December 5, 1994 until his termination on September 15, 1997. Plaintiff suffers from clinically diagnosed manic depressive disorder, and was under the care of a psychiatrist at all relevant times. During this time period, he was an Associate Tax Director in defendant's tax department. The tax department was budgeted to have twelve full-time employees. By all accounts, the period leading up to plaintiffs termination was an exceedingly busy time in the department because of a September deadline for filing a large number of tax returns and an ongoing Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") audit, with many of the employees, plaintiff included, typically working twelve-hour days.

On May 4, 1997, plaintiff, because of his mental illness, requested that defendant reduce his working hours and his responsibilities. On May 29, 1997, this request was granted. Plaintiffs hours were limited to 8:30 am to 4:30 pm each day, and it was agreed that plaintiff would no longer be responsible for reviewing foreign tax payments or matters related to the IRS audit. In view of the reduction in hours, plaintiffs salary was reduced by twenty percent.

On June 18, 1997, plaintiff could no longer continue working and requested a six-week leave of absence, which was granted. At the end of that period, plaintiff informed defendant that he was still unable to return to work and requested an additional one-month leave of absence. That request was also granted. When that period was about to expire, plaintiff asked defendant for approximately one more month of leave. That request was likewise granted. After a total of approximately thirteen weeks of leave, plaintiff made another request for one additional month of leave, estimating his return date to be October 13, 1997, which would have resulted in an overall leave of absence approximating seventeen weeks. This request. was denied and plaintiff was subsequently fired.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard on Summary Judgment

A district court may grant summary judgment only if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, presents no genuine issue of material fact, Samuels v. Mockry, 77 F.3d 34, 35 (2d Cir. 1996), and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. See Quaratino v. Tiffany & Co., 71 F.3d 58, 64 (2d Cir. 1995). "If, as to the issue on which summary judgment is sought, there is any evidence in the record from which a reasonable inference could be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, summary judgment is improper." Vann v. City of New York, 72 F.3d 1040, 1049 (2d Cir. 1995). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of showing that no genuine factual dispute exists. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970).

II. Plaintiff's Claim that Defendant Violated the ADA by Firing
    Him

According to defendant, the facts of this case are so strong that no reasonable jury could conclude that, with the benefit of "reasonable accommodation," plaintiff would have been a "qualified individual with a disability" under the ADA. The ADA prohibits employment discrimination based on an employee's disability. Specifically, the ADA mandates that:

  No covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified
  individual with a disability because of the disability of such
  individual in regard to job application procedures, the hiring,
  advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation,
  job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of
  employment.

42 U.S.C. § 12112 (a) (1994). To defeat an employer's motion for summary judgment dismissing an ADA claim, an employee must first make out a prima facie case of discrimination by establishing the following elements: (1) that he was disabled within the meaning of the Act; (2) that with or without reasonable accommodation he was a qualified individual able to perform the essential functions of the job; and (3) that the employer discriminated against him because of his disability. Criado v. IBM Corp., 145 F.3d 437, 441 (1st Cir. 1998); Jacques v. Clean-Up Group, Inc., 96 F.3d 506, 511 (1st Cir. 1996). The burden of going forward then shifts to the ...


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