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Lee v. Accenture LLP

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

September 25, 2019

Robert Lee, Plaintiff,
Accenture LLP, Defendant.


          Gray H. Miller, United States District Judge.

         Pending before the court is defendant Accenture LLP’s (“Accenture”) motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 30), plaintiff Robert Lee’s response (Dkt. 31), and Accenture’s reply (Dkt. 32). Having considered the pleadings, evidentiary record, and applicable law, the court finds that Accenture’s motion (Dkt. 30) should be GRANTED.

         I. Background

         At the outset the court notes that Lee has withdrawn both his retaliation and breach of contract claims. Dkt. 31 at 1 n.1. Accordingly, this case solely concerns whether or not Accenture discriminated against Lee on the basis of his HIV-positive status when it failed to rehire him following his termination from the company. Dkt. 31 at 2.

         Lee worked for Accenture as an accountant from September 23, 2015 until October 11, 2016. Dkt. 30 at 4; Dkt. 31 at 2, 4. In June of 2016, Lee disclosed to Peggy Krendl, Managing Director of Accenture’s resource group, that he was HIV-positive and requested an accommodation for a “fulltime, regular work schedule (normal and predictable hours).” Dkt. 30 at 16; see also Dkt. 31 at 3.[1] On February 7, 2017, approximately four months after his employment with Accenture was terminated, Lee applied for the position of Capability Network Direct Tax Manager within Accenture. Dkt. 30 at 12; Dkt. 31 at 4. During the hiring process, Tom Browne, a Principal Director in Accenture’s Capability Network, removed Lee from consideration for the position. Dkt. 30 at 12–13; Dkt. 31 at 5. Accenture subsequently hired Katherine Jackson for the position. Dkt. 30 at 13; Dkt. 31 at 5. Lee alleges that Accenture “failed to hire him-or even consider him-for the Tax Manager position due to Lee’s disability.” Dkt. 31 at 6.

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party can show that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “A fact is material if it could affect the outcome of the lawsuit, and a dispute about a material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.” McInnis v. Alamo Cmty. Coll. Dist., 207 F.3d 276, 279 (5th Cir. 2000) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)). The court “views ‘all facts and evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.’” Moss v. Harris Cty. Constable Precinct One, 851 F.3d 413, 417 (5th Cir. 2017) (quoting Juino v. Livingston Par. Fire Dist. No. 5, 717 F.3d 431, 433 (5th Cir. 2013)). “However, where the non-movant is the party who would have the burden of proof at trial, that party must point to evidence supporting its claim that raises a genuine issue of material fact.” Id. (citing Tran Enters., LLC v. DHL Exp. (USA), Inc., 627 F.3d 1004, 1010 (5th Cir. 2010)).

         III. Analysis

         To establish a prima facie case of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), a plaintiff must show that: “(1) He is disabled or is regarded as disabled; (2) he is qualified for the job; (3) he was subjected to an adverse employment action on account of his disability; and (4) he was replaced by or treated less favorably than non-disabled employees.” McInnis, 207 F.3d at 279–80.[2]

         Accenture argues that Lee cannot establish a prima facie case of disability discrimination because “there is no evidence that Tom Browne-the decisionmaker who rejected Lee’s application for rehire-knew that Lee was HIV-positive.” Dkt. 30 at 15; see also Dkt. 32 at 3. Lee does not dispute that Tom Browne was the one responsible for making the adverse employment decision against Lee. Nor does Lee point to any evidence suggesting that Browne was aware of Lee’s accommodation request and/or HIV status. Although Lee disclosed his HIV status on his employment application (Dkt. 30-3 at 36–37), the evidence shows that Browne never saw the form on which Lee made this disclosure. Dkt. 30-7 at 10. Indeed, Lee admits that his belief that Tom Browne knew about his accommodation request is just that-his belief. Dkt. 30-3 at 36–37. Lee points to no evidence to refute Browne’s lack of knowledge of his HIV status. “We do not . . . in the absence of any proof, assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts.Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (emphasis in original) (citing Lujan v. Nat’l Wildlife Fed’n, 497 U.S. 871, 888, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 111 L.Ed.2d 695 (1990)). Accordingly, Lee cannot show that “he was subjected to an adverse employment action on account of his disability” McInnis, 207 F.3d at 279-80 (emphasis added).

         Lee does not dispute this fact in his response, instead focusing his arguments on why Browne’s decision was pretextual, arguing as if he had already established a prima facie case and shifted the burden to Accenture. Dkt. 31 at 7-10. But whether Browne knew of Lee’s HIV status is a material fact required to establish the third prong of a disability discrimination claim. See, e.g., Adeleke v. Dallas Area Rapid Transit, 487 F. App’x 901, 903 (5th Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (finding that the plaintiff “did not satisfy his burden of demonstrating that there was a genuine dispute as to a material fact regarding whether [his employer] discriminated against him in its hiring decisions” where the employer “offered summary judgment evidence that none of the decisionmakers knew or believed that [plaintiff] suffered from a disability, and [plaintiff] failed to present competent summary judgment evidence that [the decisionmakers] knew [of his disability]”). Because Lee does not point to evidence showing that Browne’s ignorance of Lee’s disability at the time of the adverse employment decision is in dispute, Accenture is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Moss, 851 F.3d at 417.

         IV. Conclusion

         For the reasons stated above, Accenture’s motion for summary ...

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