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Reynolds v. Barnhart

May 11, 2006

KENNETH REYNOLDS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOANNE BARNHART, DIRECTOR OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Kenneth Reynolds, ("Reynolds"), a former employee of the defendant Social Security Administration, ("SSA") brings this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), (codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e), et seq.) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973*fn1 (codified at 29 U.S.C. § 701, et seq.) claiming that the SSA discriminated against him on the basis of his gender and disability, and engaged in retaliatory conduct against him after he complained of discrimination. Specifically, Reynolds contends that the defendant failed to accommodate his disability by not allowing him to work from home, and discriminated against him on the basis of his gender because a female employee in his office was allowed to work from home.

Defendant denies plaintiff's claims and moves for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's claims on grounds that plaintiff has failed to state a prima facie case of disability or gender discrimination, or retaliation. Defendant contends that even if Reynolds has stated a prima facie case of discrimination, the SSA has set forth legitimate, non discriminatory reasons for not allowing Reynolds to work from home, and plaintiff has failed to rebut the defendant's proffered reasons for denying his request to work from home. Defendant also contends that plaintiff has failed to establish that the SSA retaliated against him for engaging in protected, anti-discriminatory activity.

Plaintiff has not Opposed Defendant's Motion

This action was scheduled for oral argument on May 11, 2006 at 9:00 a.m. The case was called in open court at approximately 9:08 a.m., at which time only a representative for the defendant appeared. Neither the plaintiff nor a representative for the plaintiff, however, appeared for argument. At the court's direction, the case was called in the courthouse corridor, no person appeared or answered on behalf of the plaintiff.

BACKGROUND

The following factual information is set forth in the defendant's statement of undisputed facts filed in conjunction with the defendant's motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff has not objected to the facts as set forth therein, and accordingly, this court will accept as true the factual statements set forth in defendant's statement.

From 1987 to 1997, plaintiff Kenneth Reynolds worked as a claims representative for the defendant Social Security Administration. The plaintiff was stationed in Queens, New York. In 1988, plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident. As a result of the injury, plaintiff suffered from dizziness and lightheadedness. In 1992, in an effort to alleviate his medical condition, Reynolds requested a transfer to the Corning, New York, office of the SSA. Upon moving to Corning, Reynolds purchased a home approximately 30 miles away from the Corning SSA office.

In March, 1996, Reynolds was diagnosed with vertigo. At that time, he informally requested accommodation for his condition, and Reynolds was given a special chair, was relieved of the duty of conducting certain interviews with claimants, and was given assistance with filing. On June 24, 1996, plaintiff made a formal written request for accommodations at the office, and requested a further accommodation--that he be allowed to work from home, and when in the office, that he not be required to do any bending or conduct interviews with clients known as "front-end interviews." In support of his request, Reynolds included a note from his doctor, Dr. Daniel Britton, indicating that it was "medically necessary" that plaintiff be allowed to work from home. Dr. Britton opined that Reynolds suffered from dizziness and lightheadness, and could have difficulty controlling his vehicle during the 30 mile trip to and from the office.

The SSA forwarded plaintiff's request to Dr. David Fouts, the SSA's Chief Medical Examiner. Dr. Fouts opined that Reynolds did not suffer from a disability that required accommodation in that there was insufficient medical evidence to support the finding of a disability.

On July 19, 1996, Mary Dana Mahoney, an Area Director with the SSA, informed plaintiff that his request to work from home had been denied, but also advised him that he could submit additional evidence to support his request.

Thereafter, plaintiff submitted a letter from Dr. Grayden C. Webster, a Chiropractor with whom Reynolds had treated twice. Dr. Webster opined that because of the distance that Reynolds had to drive to and from work, and because of his close proximity to others in the working environment, Reynolds should be allowed to work from home. This letter was forwarded to Dr. Fouts who again concluded that because there was no objective medical evidence that plaintiff suffered from a disabling condition, his request to work at home should be denied.

In August, 1996, While continuing to work for the SSA, plaintiff filed a complaint with the EEOC claiming that he had been discriminated against on the basis of his disability and gender. On December ...


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