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Williams v. Baltimore City Community College

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 23, 2014

DIANE WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
BALTIMORE CITY COMMUNITY COLLEGE, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GEORGE L. RUSSELL, III, District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant, Baltimore City Community College's ("BCCC") Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 45). Plaintiff Diane Williams brings this Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (2012) action against BCCC, her former employer. Having reviewed the pleadings and supporting documents, the Court finds no hearing necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2014). For the reasons outlined below, BCCC's Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

Williams was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease called Keratoconus in the tenth-grade. Keratoconus causes a distortion in the shape of the eye. Symptoms can include blurry vision, increased light sensitivity, halos around light, eye strain, headaches, eye pain, and eye irritation. It can require treatments that reshape the cornea, or, in Williams's case, corneal transplant surgery.

BCCC hired Williams as Assistant Director of Housekeeping in May 2007. In 2008, as a result of complications from her Keratoconus, Williams required surgery on her right cornea and a left corneal transplant. On June 2, 2008, Williams submitted a request for medical leave, under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(2) (2012), from June 10, 2008 through December 10, 2008.

Williams underwent surgery on her right cornea on June 10, 2008. On June 24, 2008, BCCC informed Williams that her "request for intermittent leave under the FMLA [was] approved from the requested period of June 10, 2008 through December 10, 2008."[1] (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 6, ECF No. 45-8) (emphasis added). After the first surgery, Williams did not return to work before undergoing a corneal transplant in her left eye on August 12, 2008.

On August 27, 2008, BCCC sent Williams a letter informing her that her twelve-week FMLA benefit would expire as of September 3, 2008. (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 8, ECF No. 45-10). Further, the letter stated that if Williams was unable to return to work on September 4, 2008, she was required to submit a doctor's note and appear for a Workability Examination by the State Medical Director. (Id.). In response, on September 2, 2008, Williams submitted a note from her treating ophthalmologist indicating that she was still under his care and recommending a return-to-work date of December 10, 2008.

Williams presented herself to the State Medical Doctor, Dr. Lyons, for a workability evaluation on September 16, 2008. In his Workability Evaluation, dated September 23, 2008, Dr. Lyons noted Williams's symptoms as:

limited vision in her right eye and little to no vision in her left eye. In the left eye, she is only able to see light and shapes. She complains of photophobia in both eyes, and intense headaches[, ]... she cannot read printed material[, ]... is unable to tolerate looking at a computer monitor[, and] has poor depth perception.

(Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 1 ["Workability Evaluation"] at 3, ECF No. 45-3). Dr. Lyons opined that Williams was unable to return to work, and that her symptoms were "unlikely to improve enough in the foreseeable future that would enable her to safely and reliably perform the full duties of [her] position." (Workability Evaluation at 5).

By letter dated October 3, 2008, Human Resources Associate Marcia J. Tisdale advised Williams that "Dr. Lyons came to the determination that based on [her] condition; [her] return to work date should remain as Wednesday December 10, 2008." (Pl.'s Resp. in Opp'n Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. ["Opp'n"], Ex. 6, ECF No. 50-6). On October 6, 2008, however, Ms. Tisdale sent a second letter informing Williams that based on Dr. Lyons's opinion that her symptoms were "unlikely to improve enough in the foreseeable future that would enable her to safely and reliably perform the full duties of [her] position, " it had been determined that she was no longer physically capable of performing her duties. (Opp'n, Ex. 7 ["October 6, 2008 Letter"], ECF No. 50-7). Ms. Tisdale advised Williams to notify the College of her intentions related to her continued employment. (Id.). By letter dated October 17, 2008, Williams reiterated her intention to return to work on December 10, 2008.[2] (Opp'n, Ex. 8, ECF No. 50-8).

Also on October 17, 2008, Dr. Lyons clarified his prognosis regarding his reference to the "foreseeable future" in a formal Workability Evaluation Clarification that indicated he did not believe Williams would be able to return to work by December 10, 2008, as stipulated by her treating ophthalmologist. (Opp'n, Ex. 9, ECF No. 50-9). Finally, on November 3, 2008 Williams received a letter from BCCC stating that she would be terminated if she failed to return to work on October 31. (Opp'n, Ex. 10, at 1, ECF No. 50-10). The letter was dated October 28, 2008 and the postmark on the envelope indicates it was mailed on October 30. (Id. at 3). Williams failed to return to work and was terminated on October 31, 2008.

Williams filed a charge of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which issued its right to sue letter on November 8, 2011. She filed a three-count Complaint on January 24, 2012, against BCCC, the President and Board of Trustees of BCCC, and the State of Maryland alleging disability discrimination (Count I), the failure to provide reasonable accommodation (Count II), and retaliation (Count III), all in violation of the ADA. BCCC filed this Motion for Summary Judgment on May 2, 2014.[3] (ECF No. 45). Williams ...


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