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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Accentcare Inc

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

June 14, 2017

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
v.
ACCENTCARE INC., Defendant.

         *This memorandum opinion and order was filed under seal on June 14, 2017. It is being filed unsealed because the parties agree that no part of it needs to remain under seal.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SIDNEY A. FITZWATER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is an action by plaintiff Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., alleging that defendant AccentCare Inc. (“AccentCare”) refused to reasonably accommodate Alisia Beasley's (“Beasley's”) disability (Bipolar Disorder) and discriminated against her by terminating her employment because of her disability. AccentCare moves for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the court grants the motion as to the EEOC's discrimination claim and denies the motion as to the EEOC's reasonable accommodation claim.

         I

         AccentCare provides home healthcare services, such as skilled home healthcare, personal care, hospice care, private duty nursing, and case management.[1] AccentCare hired Beasley to work as an IT Help Desk Analyst, which required her to provide technical advice to the users of company hardware and software and troubleshoot IT problems. It is undisputed that Beasley has Bipolar Disorder.

         AccentCare hired Beasley on April 24, 2013 as an at-will employee and informed her that her employment would begin with a 90-day probationary period. In June 2013 Beasley was absent from work for two full days, and left early three times, for reasons including illness and registering her daughter at school. On June 25, 2013 Beasley's supervisor, Dena Besh (“Besh”), orally counseled Beasley about her absences.

         On Monday, July 8, 2013 Beasley began to suffer increased panic attacks, a symptom of Bipolar Disorder. That morning, Beasley emailed Besh that she would be absent from work that day, and possibly the next, to see her psychiatrist.

Dena
I will be out of the office today, I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to come in tomorrow. I'm needing to get in with my psychiatrist asap, as I've been out of meds for my Bipolar and adult ADHD disorders now for almost 2 weeks. I missed my appointment on June 26th, out of fear of l[o]sing my job because it was scheduled during my work hours.
My doctor has very limited evening appointments which are booked months in advance, which is why I've been unable to see him after work. I've been trying to manage on my own, which has not worked.
I'm going to see if I can get in today or tomorrow to see him.
Alisia Beasley

D. App. 48. This email was AccentCare's first notice that Beasley had Bipolar Disorder. Beasley emailed Besh again that night.

I was able to see the doctor today, he has me off tomorrow so that I can have have some test done. As long as everything comes back normal I will be back on Wednesday.

Id. 52. According to notes taken that day by Beasley's psychiatrist, Shahzad S. Allawala, M.D. (“Dr. Allawala”), Beasley's symptoms included “irritability, ” “[m]otor restlessness associated with anxiety, ” and “difficulty in concentrating.” D. Sealed App. 9. Dr. Allawala's notes do not, however, reflect that Beasley was to take time off work. They also do not specify any future appointments, other than to say “Return 2 weeks, or earlier if needed.” Id. 10.

         The next morning, Tuesday, July 9, 2013, Beasley emailed Kimberly Nelson (“Nelson”), a Human Resources Operations Manager at AccentCare.

Kim,
Due to medical conditions I will be out of office for an extended amount of time. As of now my doctor has not provided me with a return to work date. I understand that I am not eligible for FMLA, however I am unsure if I'm eligible for another type of leave or short term disability. Will you please tell me what my options are?
Alisia Beasley

D. App. 53. Beasley also emailed Besh on July 9.

My doctor has taken me off work for an extended amount of time, he has not provided me with a return to work date.

Id. 56.

         Nelson emailed Beasley to request to speak by phone. Beasley telephoned Nelson and recorded the call. Nelson informed Beasley that AccentCare could not grant her a leave of absence, and intended to separate her from employment based on her not being able to return to work. The transcript of the conversation then reflects the following exchange:

Beasley: Okay so essentially because I have a medical condition and am not able to return to work you all are firing me.
Nelson: Well we can't, uh, we don't have, as I told you . . . since you're not covered under FMLA and there's not really a medical leave available for employees who've been here such a short time . . .
Beasley: Mmmhm Nelson: . . . the only other option was a personal leave, and . . . based on the needs of the position, um, and needing to have someone in that . . . role, we, we can't, you know, just leave it open indefinitely.
Beasley: Okay, I'm not asking you all to leave it open indefinitely. As far as . . . as far as I know, may be able to come back to work on Friday. I have a follow-up visit with my doctor on Friday, and so I don't know if I'm gonna to be able to come back to work on Friday or if it's going to be a month from now. But essentially it still falls back to that because I have a medical condition that's stopping me from coming to work today then you all are firing me.
Nelson: No . . . it-It's that within the first 90 days of your employment, you've indicated that you're-you need to be out indefinitely and we are not in a position to hold a position open indefinitely.
Beasley: I haven't said indefinitely, though. I haven't given you all a time frame. As I stated, I go back to the doctor on Friday . . .
Nelson: Okay, you're . . .
Beasley: . . . and so regardless of if I'm within my [talking over one another]
Nelson: . . . your email to me earlier, Alisia, was that you didn't know when you would be able to return to work.
Beasley: Correct, and I go back to the doctor on Friday.
Nelson: So I consider that to be indefinitely.
Beasley: Well no, I go back to the doctor on Friday, and when I go back to the doctor on Friday he can either release me or he can extend it. But one way or the other, regardless if I'm within 90 days or if I'm there a year, you all have the right to let me go whenever because we are . . . in an at-will state. But I'm not . . .
Nelson: Uh-huh Beasley: . . . but I'm not letting you all know that I'm-that I'm not going to come back at all. All I'm saying is, as of today, my doctor has me off, I go back to work on Monday. I'm sorry, I mean I go back to the doctor on Friday because he put me on ...

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