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Adams v. Anne Arundel County Public Schools

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 3, 2014

ANDREW S. ADAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: SUMMARY JUDGMENT

MARVIN J. GARBIS, District Judge.

The Court has before it Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Document 45] and the materials submitted relating thereto. The Court has held a hearing and has had the benefit of the arguments of counsel.

I. BACKGROUND

Since 1979, Defendant Anne Arundel County Public Schools ("AACPS") has employed Plaintiff Andrew S. Adams ("Adams") in various positions and at differing locations. From 2003-2010, Adams served as Assistant Principal at MacArthur Middle School ("MacArthur").

In the Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") [Document 25], Adams alleges that AACPS engaged in a discriminatory and retaliatory campaign against him. According to Adams, this campaign was based upon his disabilities (anxiety and stress related disorders), his taking of medical leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, and his gender, and culminated in his reassignment to J. Albert Adams Academy ("JAA Academy").

The SAC asserts claims against AACPS in six Counts:

Count I: Family Medical Leave Violation ("FMLA")
Count II: Title 20 - State and Government Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland
Count III: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress ("IIED")
Count IV: Disability Discrimination - Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA")
Count V: Title VII
Count VI: Maryland Declaration of Rights

AACPS filed a Motion to Dismiss [Document 26] seeking dismissal of all claims. On April 2, 2013, in the Memorandum and Order Re: Motion to Dismiss ("Dismissal Decision") [Document 29], this Court dismissed completely all claims in Counts III (IIED), V (Title VII), and VI (Maryland Declaration of Rights). As to Counts I (FMLA), II (Title 20), and IV (ADA), the Court held that:

all claims in the remaining Counts (Counts I, II, and IV) are dismissed except the following:
a. The FMLA Claims based on the: (1) Reopening the Investigation; (2) Pre-Disciplinary Conference; (3) Written Reprimand; and (4) Reassignment of Employment.
b. The Disability Discrimination Claims based on the: (1) Written Reprimand and (2) Reassignment of Employment.
c. The Disability Retaliation Claims based on the: (1) Pre-Disciplinary Conference; (2) Written Reprimand;... (3) Reassignment of Employment [and (4) Reopening the Investigation].

Id. at 64-65.[1]

By the instant Motion, AACPS seeks summary judgment as to all remaining counts and claims, [2] contending that "there is no genuine dispute of material fact as to any remaining count of the [Second Amended] Complaint." [Document 45] at 1.

II. SUMMARY OF UNDISPUTED FACTS

A. Incident with the Female Student

On January 19, 2010, [3] Adams had an interaction with a female student in the hallway of MacArthur regarding the student's cellphone. After the incident, the student filed a Student Incident Report claiming an improper physical interaction on school grounds. See [Document 45-3] at 17. There is no dispute that the incident involved physical contact between Adams and the student.[4]

B. Physical Child Abuse Investigation

At a Multi-Disciplinary Committee meeting held on February 4, the Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services ("DSS") advised AACPS that "the allegations of physical child abuse against Mr. Adams were ruled out" as a result of the Child Protective Services ("CPS") investigation. [Document 45-3] at 14.

The AACPS Office of Investigations interviewed Adams on February 24. Adams, his then-attorney, an AACPS Senior Investigator, and the AACPS Supervisor of Employee Investigations were present. [Document 56-1] at 1. At that meeting, "Adams was informed that the investigation of [CPS] had ruled out child abuse."[5] Id.

DSS formally notified Adams in writing of its finding in a letter dated March 19, which stated that DSS "ha[d] completed its [CPS] Intake Investigation" and that "the validity of the allegation of Child Physical Abuse... is Ruled Out." [Document 54-2] at 8.

C. Medical Leave

On February 25, Adams was diagnosed with extreme stress, elevated blood pressure, and anxiety. [Document 25-2] at 1-2. The physician who treated Adams deemed him unable to work and recommended that he take medical leave from February 26 to March 2. [Document 54-1] at 26.

Adams began seeing psychiatrist Dr. Lawrence Adler, MD in March. On March 22, Dr. Adler wrote in a physician's note that Adams has "Acute Stress Disorder" and that "[h]e is unable to work currently and requires temporary medical leave." [Document 25-6]. Dr. Adler filled out the Certification of Health Care Provider forms for Adams to take FMLA leave and estimated that the period of Adams' incapacity would last roughly six months, until August 22. See [Document 45-6] at 8-11. However, by July 21, Dr. Adler noted that "[Adams'] condition ha[d] improved" and that "[Adams was] able to return to employment." Id. at 22.

While Adams was on medical leave, AACPS required him to undergo three evaluations with psychologist Dr. Anthony B. Wolff, Ph.D. to assess his fitness to perform his duties at work. Id. at 19.

D. Pre-Discipline Conference and Written Reprimand

While Adams was on medical leave, AACPS notified him in writing that "a pre-discipline conference" had been scheduled "to discuss allegations [relating to the January 19 incident, specifically] that [Adams] grabbed a student by the arms, shook her, and pinned her up against the wall." [Document 25-8] at 1. The letter informed Adams that he would "be advised as to the procedures to be followed" after the conference and that he could "have an attorney or association representative present." Id . Adams attended the pre-discipline conference on May 10.[6] [Document 45-6] at 13.

On May 24, AACPS "formally reprimanded" Adams for the January 19 incident in a letter signed by the Deputy Superintendent of Schools. Id . The written reprimand stated that "on January 19, while attempting to obtain a cell phone from a student, [Adams] engaged in physical contact by using a technique that escalated a situation that could have been handled differently." Id . AACPS ...


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