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Fowler v. Kohl's Department Stores

July 15, 2009

MADELINE FOWLER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KOHL'S DEPARTMENT STORES, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe U.S. District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Madeline Fowler brings this action against her prior employer Kohl's Department Stores, Inc. ("Kohl's"), asserting claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the New York Human Rights Law ("NYHRL"). Pending are Kohl's motion for summary judgment and Fowler's motion for partial summary judgment on liability. For the reasons that follow both motions are denied.

II. Facts

A. Factual Background

Fowler began working for Kohl's Colonie, New York store in March 16, 2004, as a customer service area supervisor ("CSA supervisor"). (See Pl. SMF ¶ 7; Dkt. No. 35:5.) While working on February 8, 2006, Fowler sustained an injury to her back and left the store early to seek medical attention. Id. at ¶¶ 12-13. Fowler's physician, Doctor Denise Letteriello, examined Fowler and indicated she could return to work, but provided Fowler with a doctor's note indicating she would be unable to "lift greater than 5 lbs, do repeated bending or work with arms above head (reaching) due to back pain." Id. at ¶¶ 14, 17. Fowler apparently returned to work the next day and provided the Kohl's store manager, Jean Spiegel, with Doctor Letteriello's note. Id. at ¶¶ 15-16. Upon Kohl's request, Doctor Letteriello then filled out a Kohl's health care provider certification form on February 20th which stated that Fowler had a "chronic condition requiring treatment" and that the duration of the condition was "indefinite." Id. at ¶¶ 19, 21.

Spiegel concedes the "indefinite" nature of Fowler's restrictions concerned her, as Fowler had a great deal of responsibility as a CSA supervisor. Id. at ¶ 23. Kohl's written description of the position's principle duties and responsibilities indicates that a CSA supervisor, among other things:

* Supervises and assists in the accurate and efficient processing of customer's transactions.

* Maintains a high level of presence of the floor to assist [point of sale ("POS")] associates.

* Authorizes voids and other transactions as needed, makes changes and performs cash pick-ups from registers, maintains register supplies ..., maintains cleanliness and organization of the register and service desk areas.

* Performs other duties as assigned which may include but are not limited to: housekeeping and stocking.

* Must have an excellent work attendance record.

* Must be able to operate a hand held scanner, key register transactions, lift and bag merchandise, bend, stoop, reach.

* Should be able to lift 35 pounds. (See Ex. A. to Fowler Aff.; Dkt. No. 35:2.)

Due to her work restrictions, Fowler requested that she be allowed to continue directing floor associates to assist at the front POS registers or, in the alternative, she be allowed to ring on the higher Customer Service POS registers. (See Pl. SMF ΒΆΒΆ 28-30; Dkt. No. 35:5.) Kohl's refused Fowler's requested accommodation, but did allegedly offer to have Fowler ring while seated. Fowler ...


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