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Zamora v. Gc Services, LP

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, El Paso Division

April 24, 2018

ALEX ZAMORA, Plaintiff,
v.
GC SERVICES, LP, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          ROBERT F. CASTANEDA, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendant GC Services, LP's (“GC”) Motion for Summary Judgment (“Motion”) filed on September 8, 2017. (ECF. 145). On January 19, 2018, Plaintiff Alex Zamora (“Mr. Zamora”), pro se, filed a Response to GC's Motion (ECF. 149), and on February 16, 2018, GC filed a Reply. (ECF No. 151). Finally, on March, 23, 2018, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Rule 1(d) of Appendix C to the Local Rules, GC's Motion was referred to this Court. (ECF. 152). For the reasons that follow, this Court RECOMMENDS that GC's Motion be GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         GC employed Mr. Zamora as a unit manager at its Reliant Energy office in El Paso, Texas. (D. Ex. 1G). Mr. Zamora's position required frequent interaction with employees and customers. Specifically, Mr. Zamora must manage and resolve high pressure situations involving customers and employees, participate in disciplinary actions, supervise team members, and train other employees. (D. Ex. 1B).

         On July 16, 2012, Mr. Zamora went to University Medical Center (“UMC”) and was thereafter transferred to El Paso Psychiatric Center on July 25, 2012. (P. Exs. 1, 1A). The exact details surrounding Mr. Zamora's hospitalization and subsequent commitment to El Paso Psychiatric Center are in dispute. (ECF. 145: 3, 149: 1, D. Ex. 7: 1-2, P. Ex. 1A). Following Mr. Zamora's trip to UMC, Mr. Zamora's father filed a request for personal leave of absence for Mr. Zamora on July 23, 2012. (D. Ex. 1C). The request form indicated that Mr. Zamora had a serious medical condition. (D. Ex. 1C). On July 27, 2012, Mr. Zamora's physician at El Paso Psychiatric Center sent GC a certification for his leave of absence. In this certification, Mr. Zamora was experiencing:

[A]nxiety and suicidal thoughts; thoughts of wanting to hurt others. He was experiencing auditory hallucinations, racing thoughts, sleeping 3-6 hrs/wk. Inability to focus/concentrate.

(D. Ex. 1D).

         On August 1, 2012, GC received Mr. Zamora's Fit for Duty Release form from El Paso Psychiatric Center signed by Nurse Soledad Flores. (D. Ex. 1F). The form only displayed a checked box, which indicated that Mr. Zamora was able to return to work without any restrictions on August 13, 2012. (D. Ex. 1F). Worried that this form was devoid of any substance, Meagan Conway, GC's general counsel, began a background check on Mr. Zamora. (D. Ex. 7: 2-4). Conway feared that Mr. Zamora may pose a safety risk for other employees. (D. Ex. 7: 2-4). In her research, Conway found that Mr. Zamora had been arrested and convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in July of 2011. (D. Exs. 1E, 2: 25-29, 3). Although the exact details surrounding Mr. Zamora's conviction are in dispute, the parties do not dispute the fact that Mr. Zamora was arrested and convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. (ECF. 149: 15, ECF. 145: 4. D. Ex. 2: 25-28).

         Following this discovery, Conway attempted to call Mr. Zamora's physician at El Paso Psychiatric Center, but was unable to reach the physician. (D. Ex. 7: 3). The call was answered by another El Paso Psychiatric Center employee, and what occurred during this conversation is in dispute. (D. Ex. 7: 3, P. Ex. 1C).

         On August 7, 2012, Conway and Kim Jackson, the former Assistant Vice President of Employee Relations for GC, made the decision to terminate Mr. Zamora's employment. (D. Exs. 7: 4, 8: 3). Conway and Jackson feared that Mr. Zamora may be a threat to fellow GC employees. (D. Exs. 7: 2-4, 8: 2-4). According to GC, three days later on August 10, 2012, in a meeting with Isabel Cigarroa and Paul Gazeley, Mr. Zamora was terminated pursuant to instructions from Jackson. (D. Exs. 4: 48-50, 8: 3). In this meeting, for the first time, Mr. Zamora informed GC of his bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia. (D. Ex. 4: 46-98). Cigarroa told Mr. Zamora that he was terminated because he posed a threat to other employees. (D. Exs. 7: 4, 8: 4).

         Mr. Zamora disputes GC's version of events. First, Mr. Zamora, in his Response, points to his State Court Petition and indicates that on August 8, 2012, he informed Zoraida Femat, GC's Human Resources Generalist, that he required a modified work schedule, because his medication made him drowsy in the evening. (D. Ex. 6: 3). Further, once again pointing to his State Court Petition, Mr. Zamora argues that he was fired on August 8, 2012, and was never told by Cigarroa and Gazeley that he posed a threat to other employees. (ECF. 149: 15-16). Importantly, however, the parties do not dispute the fact that Mr. Zamora suffered from bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia at the time of his termination.

         Subsequent to his termination, Mr. Zamora filed a charge with the EEOC, and filed suit in El Paso state court on November 21, 2014. (D. Exs.1H, 6). In Mr. Zamora's First Amended Petition, Mr. Zamora alleged disability discrimination, retaliation, and failure to provide reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Plaintiff's First Amended Petition and Request for Disclosure, Zamora v. GC Services LP, No. 2014-DCV-3721, ECF. 1, (210th Dist. Ct., El Paso County, Tex. Feb. 18, 2015). The case was removed to federal court on February 19, 2015. (ECF. 1). The district court granted GC's Motion to Dismiss on March, 28, 2015, holding that Mr. Zamora's suit was filed untimely. (ECF. 18). The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded. (ECF. 46). GC now files this Motion alleging that:

(1) Mr. Zamora cannot meet his prima facie case of discrimination under the ADA;
(2) GC had a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for firing Mr. Zamora;
(3) Mr. Zamora never requested a reasonable accommodation under the ADA; and
(4) No. reasonable accommodations can be made for Mr. Zamora because he posed a direct threat to others in the work place.

(ECF. 145).

         II. STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “A genuine dispute of fact exists when evidence is sufficient for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party, and a fact is material if it ‘might affect the outcome of the suit.'” Willis v. Cleco Corp., 749 F.3d 314, 317 (5th Cir. 2014) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). In deciding whether a genuine dispute as to material fact exists, a trial court considers all of the evidence in the record and “draw[s] all reasonable inferences in favor of ...


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