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BONNER v. NEW YORK STATE ELECTRIC & GAS CORPORATION

March 28, 2002

MELVIN BONNER, PLAINTIFF,
V.
NEW YORK STATE ELECTRIC & GAS CORPORATION, DEFENDANT. LESLIE MAYNARD, PLAINTIFF, V. NEW YORK STATE ELECTRIC & GAS CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Larimer, Chief United States District Court Judge.

The plaintiffs, Leslie Maynard ("Maynard") and Melvin Bonner ("Bonner"), were both employed by New York State Electric & Gas ("NYSEG") as first-class gas fitters. Both suffered work-related injuries, which permanently partially disabled them. After their injuries, both men retained, for a time, their classification as first-class gas fitters, and worked full time, but they performed only light-duty assignments. When, according to NYSEG, such light work was no longer available, both men were placed on disability leave because they could not perform all their required functions as first-class gas fitters. Maynard retired, effective January 1, 2000, apparently because his disability benefits had been exhausted. Bonner, who has not worked since June 1999, is currently receiving disability benefits from NYSEG.

Because of NYSEG's refusal to carry both men as first-class gas fitters, they filed complaints alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, ("ADA" or "the Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. Presently pending before this Court are defendant's motions for summary judgment. Because I find that neither plaintiff is capable of performing the essential functions of the desired job — first-class gas fitter — their claims under the ADA fail, and summary judgment is, therefore, granted in favor of the defendant.

BACKGROUND

Leslie Maynard

Maynard was first employed by NYSEG in June 1975, and became a first-class gas fitter in 1987. He was injured on June 25, 1996, and ultimately suffered a 40 or 45 percent loss of the use of his right hand and a 25 percent loss in his right knee. Maynard was cleared by his doctors to return to work in February 1997, but on a very restricted basis.

For example, Dr. Frederick Kaempffe indicated that Maynard was to be on light-duty status, with "no lifting, pushing, or pulling with his right upper extremity." Ilacqua Aff., Ex. D. After an examination conducted at the request of NYSEG's workers compensation carrier, Dr. Martin Korn noted that Maynard should not "kneel, do stairs, squat, or do other than alternate standing and sitting as comfort requires." Id. at Ex. E, p. 3. He also noted that Maynard "should avoid lifting more than five pounds as well as avoiding heavy pushing and pulling, and should not use hand tools." Id.

On January 30, 1998, Maynard was examined by Dr. Robert Dickerson on behalf of NYSEG. Dr. Dickerson concluded that Maynard had a "moderate degree of partial disability with his right wrist and a mild degree of partial disability with his right knee." Ilacqua Aff., Ex. I, p. 3. He determined that Maynard had "reached maximum medical improvement with both his right wrist and right knee," and noted that his current work restrictions were still necessary. Id. After reviewing the first-class gas fitter job description, he found that Maynard was "not able to do that job without restrictions at the present time." Id. For the remainder of his tenure at NYSEG, Maynard's work duties were restricted. See Id. at Aff., Exs. J, K. M, N.

Melvin Bonner

Bonner began his employment with NYSEG in 1965, and he became a first-class gas fitter in 1976. On September 30, 1990, Bonner was injured on the job.

Bonner continued to experience problems with his knee, and in June of 1999, he underwent another arthroscopic procedure. Following this surgery, Bonner's doctor permitted him to return to work in September of 1999. Bonner was not permitted to kneel, stand for extended periods, climb stairs, or drive or sit without breaks. Ditzel Aff., Ex. P. Bonner is still subject to the same work restrictions. In addition, his current medication sometimes causes dizziness or drowsiness.

Defendant's Statement of Material Facts, ¶ 15 (undisputed by plaintiff).

DISCUSSION

A motion for summary judgment shall be granted if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). It is the moving party's burden to demonstrate "the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323(1986). "When the moving party has carried its burden," the non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). "[T]he non-moving party must come forward with `specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 587 (emphasis in original) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)).

The ADA provides that "[n]o 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). A "qualified individual with a disability" is one who "with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position that such individual holds or desires." Id. at 12111(8).

A reasonable accommodation may include: "job restructuring, part-time 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 ...


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