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Lyons v. The Johns Hopkins Hospital

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 12, 2016




         Now pending is a motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff, Ian Curran Lyons, filed suit against The Johns Hopkins Hospital (“the Hospital”), alleging that the Hospital violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The Hospital moved for summary judgment on June 30, 2016. (Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 46). The plaintiff responded, (Resp. in Opp'n Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 47), and the Hospital replied, (Reply, ECF No. 48). No oral argument is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons set forth below, the court will grant the defendant's motion for summary judgment.[1]


         The uncontested facts are as follows. Mr. Lyons started working at the Hospital as a clinical social worker starting on July 9, 2012. (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 9, First Lyons Dep. Transcript 9-10, ECF No. 46-9). His supervisors included Paula Heneberry and Diane Pickett. (Id. 19). Mr. Lyons started as a part-time employee but had transitioned to full-time employment by September 2012. (Id. 18). In December 2012, the Hospital referred him to a “fitness for duty” evaluation in light of his five unplanned absences from work and a complaint from an outside provider alleging that he had displayed “grossly unprofessional behavior.” (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 11, Lyons Dep. Exs. 13, ECF No. 46-11). The evaluation included a drug test, which was performed on Dec. 13 and yielded a positive result for cocaine. (First Lyons Dep. Transcript 45). Mr. Lyons then informed Charles Glicksman - the Hospital employee performing the in-person part of the evaluation - that he had used cocaine while employed by the Hospital “three to four times” and that this use was a symptom of his bipolar disorder. (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 10, Second Lyons Dep. Transcript 2-3, ECF No. 46-10). He also indicated to Mr. Glicksman that he had used cocaine before he was employed by the Hospital. (Id. 3-4). In fact, he had used cocaine at least as far back as 1996. (First Lyons Dep. Transcript 4).

         The Hospital did not immediately terminate Mr. Lyons. Instead, it approved a leave of absence - which the plaintiff requested - until February 25, 2013. (First Lyons Dep. Transcript 47; Lyons Dep. Exs. 18). Mr. Glicksman also referred the plaintiff to two drug treatment facilities: The Resource Group and The Kolmac Clinic. (Second Lyons Dep. Transcript 4, 21; Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 3, Glicksman Decl. 2-3, ECF No. 46-3). Mr. Lyons started treatment at The Resource Group on December 28, 2012. (Second Lyons Dep. Transcript 4-5). The Resource Group urged him to participate in its Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), which Mr. Lyons knew would include random drug tests. (Id. 7, 18-19). However, Mr. Lyons declined to enroll in the IOP and then ended treatment at The Resource Group altogether in early February 2013. (Id. 19). After looking at its website, the plaintiff determined The Kolmac Clinic was also “inadequate” and declined to pursue treatment there. (Id. 21-22). Instead, the plaintiff met about once per month with Dr. Chul Kwon, who treated his bipolar disorder only. (Id. 22; Mot. Summ J. Ex. 16, Kwon Dep. 5, ECF No. 46-16). Dr. Kwon mistakenly believed the plaintiff was also undergoing treatment for cocaine use at The Resource Group. (Kwon Dep. 3-4).

         Throughout his leave of absence, the Hospital was aware that Mr. Lyons was not following the treatment options that Mr. Glicksman had recommended. In January 2013, a counselor at The Resource Group told Mr. Glicksman she had referred the plaintiff to the IOP; that she thought he was minimizing his drug use; and that she was not convinced his drug use was only tied to his mood disorder. On February 19, the counselor told Mr. Glicksman the plaintiff had ended treatment at The Resource Group without participating in the IOP, and this information was relayed to the plaintiff's supervisors. (Glicksman Decl. 3-5).

         On March 26, 2013, Mr. Lyons emailed Ms. Heneberry and other Hospital employees requesting to return to work on April 15. He also requested accommodations - specifically, regularly scheduled daytime working hours and two consecutive days off each week. (Lyons Dep. Exs. 34-35). When the Hospital informed him that he needed to be cleared by Occupational Health Services (“OHS”) before he could return to work, the plaintiff said he would like assurances that his proposed accommodations would be fully considered before he subjected himself to a health examination. (Id. 33-35). The Hospital never stated whether his proposed accommodations were acceptable; according to the Hospital, no response was given because the accommodations related to the plaintiff's work schedule, and Mr. Lyons had not yet been cleared to return. (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 14, Osborn Dep. 13-15, ECF No. 46-14). On April 16, Mr. Lyons called OHS and asked for a “return to work assessment, ” but OHS told him he must first meet with the Hospital's Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (“FASAP”) for an initial fitness for duty evaluation. (Second Lyons Dep. Transcript 26-29). Before that evaluation took place, the Hospital terminated the plaintiff on April 18 because, in its view, Mr. Lyons had not complied with its drug treatment recommendations. (Osborn Dep. 5, 12). The Hospital notified Mr. Lyons of his discharge in a letter dated April 18, which he received on May 2. (Resp. in Opp'n Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 2, Lyons Exs. 6, ECF No. 47-2). Mr. Lyons claims he did not use any illegal drugs between December 13, 2012 (when he tested positive for cocaine) and May 2, 2013 (when he learned his job had been terminated). (Lyons Exs. 5). During that same time period, he also never informed the Hospital that he had stopped using cocaine, and he was never tested for illegal drug use. (Second Lyons Dep. Transcript 25, 36).

         On June 4, 2013, Mr. Lyons filed an internal complaint with the Hospital's Office of Workforce Diversity (“OWD”) in which he claimed he was never given an opportunity to explore workplace accommodations. The complaint form lists possible bases for discrimination; Mr. Lyons marked the box next to “disability” but not the box next to “retaliation.” (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 5, OWD Complaint, ECF No. 46-5). The Hospital abandoned that internal investigation upon learning the plaintiff had also filed an external charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (Osborn Dep. 10-11; Lyons Dep. Exs. 36). In his EEOC charge, Mr. Lyons claims the discrimination he allegedly suffered took place at the earliest on March 26, 2013. As the basis for the alleged discrimination, Mr. Lyons again checked the box for “disability” but not the box for “retaliation.” (Lyons Dep. Exs. 36). In a written summary included in the EEOC charge, the plaintiff claimed he requested accommodations in March 2013 but never received a reply other than a discharge letter and thus “was denied reasonable accommodation and discharged due to disability” in violation of the ADA. (Id.).

         Separately, on March 19, 2013, Ms. Heneberry filed a complaint about Mr. Lyons to the Maryland Board of Social Work Examiners (“the Board”). (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 12, Heneberry Dep. 10, ECF No. 46-12). She did so because she believed the plaintiff had a substance abuse problem and was not receiving treatment. (Id.). The Board then brought charges against Mr. Lyons under the Maryland Social Work Examiners Act on November 8, 2013. (Lyons Dep. Exs. 37-41). In March 2014, the Board and the plaintiff agreed to a Consent Order under which Mr. Lyons was put on probation and ordered to undergo mandatory drug testing. (Id. 46-52). The plaintiff failed to comply with the Consent Order, in part because he failed to show up for three drug tests. (Id. 59). In January 2015, Mr. Lyons voluntarily surrendered his license to practice social work due to “health concerns.” (Id. 61-63).

         The plaintiff's amended complaint, filed January 22, 2016, lists three counts. Count I alleges discrimination under the ADA based on a failure to accommodate and failure to engage in an interactive process. According to Mr. Lyons, this unlawful conduct occurred both before and after he was placed on leave. (Amended Compl. ¶¶ 71-81, ECF No. 37). Counts II and III both allege retaliation. Count II alleges the Hospital's decision to terminate Lyons was retaliation for Lyons taking leave and requesting accommodations. (Id. ¶¶ 82-90). Count III alleges the Hospital retaliated against Mr. Lyons by reporting him to the Board after learning he had filed an internal complaint. (Id. ¶¶ 91-98).


         This court has subject matter jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (See Amended Compl. ¶¶ 4-5). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment should be granted “if 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) (emphases added). “A dispute is genuine if ‘a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Libertarian Party of Va. v. Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Dulaney v. Packaging Corp. of Am., 673 F.3d 323, 330 (4th Cir. 2012)). “A fact is material if it ‘might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.'” Id. (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). Accordingly, “the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment[.]” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48. The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (per curiam), and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor, Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007) (citations omitted); see also Jacobs v. N.C. Admin. Office of the Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 568-69 (4th Cir. 2015). At the same time, the court must “prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial.” Bouchat v. Balt. Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 526 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993)).


         Count I ...

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