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Mehan v. United Parcel Service

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 26, 2019

BRIAN MEHAN, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          RICHARD D. BENNETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Brian Mehen ("Mehan" or "Plaintiff') brings this action against Defendant United Parcel Service ("UPS" or "Defendant"), alleging violations of Title I of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§12111, et seq. Plaintiff claims that while employed at UPS's distribution center in Frederick, Maryland between September 2014 and September 2016, UPS discriminated against him based on his disability, deafness (Count I), failed to accommodate this disability (Count IT), fostered a hostile work environment (Count III), and retaliated against him (Count IV). Currently pending before this Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint (ECF No. 5.) The parties5 submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 5.) is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         In a ruling on a motion to dismiss, this Court must accept the factual allegations in the plaintiffs complaint as true and construe those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See, e.g., Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir.1999). This action arises from Mehan's allegations that his employer, UPS, discriminated against him because he is deaf, failed to accommodate his disability, subjected him to a hostile work environment, and retaliated against him.

         Mehan has worked for UPS for twenty-three years at facilities across the country, including in West Los Angeles and San Francisco, California; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Frederick, Maryland, as well as the facility in Salisbury, Maryland where he is currently employed.. (Compl. ¶ 10, ECF No. 1.) From September 2014 to September 2016, Mehan worked as a package loader and sorter at a UPS distribution facility located in Frederick, Maryland. (Id. ¶ 14.) The alleged discrimination against the Plaintiff occurred over the two-year span that he was working as a package loader and sorter at the Frederick facility. (Id. ¶ 1.)

         Mehan began working as a package loader and sorter at the UPS distribution facility in Frederick, Maryland in September 2014. (Id. at ¶ 14.) When he arrived, Mehan's supervisors knew diat he had a hearing disability. (Id. at ¶ 16.) Accordingly, UPS furnished the services of a sign language interpreter during his initial training on September 9, 2014. (Id. at ¶ 17.) Mehan did not require the assistance of an interpreter to perform his day-to-day loading and sorting jobs, but did require access to interpretation services to participate and benefit from meetings and other events. (Id. at ¶ 15.) For example, Mehan needed an interpreter to facilitate discussions about scheduling, overtime and extra pay opportunities, and performance evaluations. (Id.)

         Mehan did not receive any assistance from an interpreter throughout his employment at the Frederick facility. (Id. at¶ 17.) He estimates that his supervisors, Rebecca Foster, Jacob Hughes, and Mike Stone, excluded him from over 100 meetings and other events. (Id. at ¶ 18.) They made no effort to educate Mehan's coworkers his disability or suggest effective means of communicating with him. (Id. at ¶ 19.)

         Mehan's supervisors refused to provide him with equal working opportunities and ignored his requests to meet and discuss the working conditions of deaf employees. In November 2014, near the beginning of UPS's peak pre-holiday delivery season, Mehan asked Foster to meet with him and other deaf employees to discuss the potential of working additional hours. (Id. at¶ 20.) Foster ignored his request In November and December 2014, Mehan was passed over for additional work while other employees without hearing impairments were provided this benefit. (Id. at ¶ 20.) In January 2015, Mehan against asked Foster for a meeting with other deaf employees about extra work opportunities and work conditions. (Id. at ¶ 21.) Foster wrote him a note instructing him to contact his first-line supervisor, Mike Stone and/or Jacob Hughes. (Id. at ¶ 21.) Mehan followed these instructions. In January and February 2015, he repeatedly asked both Stone and Hughes to hold a meeting for deaf employees. (Id. at¶ 22.) On the first such occasion, Hughes forwarded Mehan's request to David Ridenour, the Human Resources Manager at the Frederick center. (Id.) When Mehan continued to ask for a meeting, Stone and Hughes absolved themselves of responsibility, claiming that they had already forwarded his request to Ridenour. (Id.) Ridenour never followed up. (Id.)

         Mehan's co-workers bullied him because of his disability, and neither his supervisors nor human resources personnel attempted to correct this behavior. By February 2015, Mehan's coworkers had grown comfortable teasing him by making obscene gestures to mock his use of sign language. (Id. at ¶ 23.) They also disparaged him to his supervisors. (Id. at ¶ 23.) Mehan wrote Foster about the bullying shortly after it began, but Mehan alleges that he did not receive a meaningful response. (Id.) On February 11, 2015, Hughes alerted Mehan that Ridenour was nearby on the shop floor, (Id. at ¶ 24.) Mehan immediately approached Ridenour and requested a formal quarterly meeting with him-the sort of meeting regularly held with other employees-and asked that an interpreter participate to facilitate a discussion about his requests for additional work and the bullying he was enduring. (Id. at ¶ 25.) Ridenour agreed and scheduled the meeting for about a month later, on March 4, 2015. (Id.) When that day arrived, Mehan appeared at Ridenour's office only to discover that Ridenour had not obtained the services of an interpreter and that he was busy with other work. (Id. at ¶ 26.) After waiting some time for the meeting to begin, Mehan approached Ridenour and inquired about the status of their meeting. (Id.) Ridenour dismissed the question, explaining that he was busy and that no interpreter would be coming. (Id.)

         Ridenour and Foster continued to ignore Mehan throughout his employment. On April 22, 2015, Mehan attempted to ask him when they could have a quarterly meeting with a sign language interpreter present. (Id. at ¶ 27.) Striding across the shop floor carrying a cup of coffee, Ridenour ignored Mehan and walked away. (Id.) Mehan returned to work. (Id.) On April 24, 2015 Mehan wrote Ridenour a note explaining that he was having issues with his coworkers that he needed to discuss. (Id. at ¶ 28.) Ridenour did not respond to the note. (Id.) On numerous other occasions, Mehan asked his immediate supervisors, Mike Stone and Jacob Hughes, for help organizing a meeting with Ridenour. (Id. at ¶ 29.) Hughes and Stone consistently relayed Mehan's requests to Ridenour, who never scheduled or convened a meeting. (Id.) Mehan also approached Foster for a meeting but she, like Ridenour, repeatedly refused to schedule such a meeting or to instruct others to do so. (Id. at 30.) In sum, Mehan's supervisors failed to hold any quarterly meetings with him that were typical of their relations with hearing employees. (Id. at ¶ 31.)

         Foster allegedly retaliated against Mehan for seeking an audience with her. (Id. at ¶ 32.) Without offering an explanation, she repeatedly transferred him from one work station to another where he was often required to perform unpleasant or undesirable work tasks. (Id.) Mehan accuses Foster of being aware of his bullying problems and chose to employ these work station transfers either as a means of punishing Mehan or to momentarily isolate him from his bullies, rather than addressing the problem at its source. (Id. at ¶ 33.) Mehan's coworkers were emboldened by these transfers; they allegedly taunted, humiliated, and abused him with increasing frequency. (Id. at ¶ 34.) Mehan alleges that a sympathetic colleague reached out to him via text message to inform him that the co-workers who were bullying him were also falsely disparaging him to other employees "in a vile and extreme fashion" and were making false and/or meritless complaints about him to supervisors. (Id. at ¶ 35.)

         To illustrate the way in which he was allegedly ostracized while working at UPS's Frederick facility, Mehan alleges that no one commemorated his 20th year of service at UPS. (Id. at¶ 37.) Typically, UPS celebrates its employees' milestone years of service, including for smaller milestones of five or ten years. (Id. at ¶ 36.) When Mehan's 20-year work anniversary arrived, no one at UPS acknowledged this fact. (Id. at ¶ 37.)

         In November 2015, Mehan once again asked Foster for additional working hours during the peak pre-holiday season and Foster once again denied his request without explanation. (Id. at ¶ 38.) Mehan protested that this decision was unfair because hearing employees who had asked for additional hours received them. (Id.) He complained that, while working at other UPS centers in Indianapolis and San Francisco, his supervisors had freely given him substantial extra working hours. (Id. at ¶ 38.) Mehan did not receive any extra working hours throughout the 2015 pre-holiday peak delivery season, even though his hearing co-workers were assigned such hours. (Id. at ¶ 39.)

         During the first half of 2016, Mehan decided to escape the difficult working environment he faced in Frederick by taking advantage of a UPS employee policy that permitted transfers from one UPS location to another. (Id. at ¶ 40.) To obtain the benefit of this program, Mehan applied to enroll in a solar energy technology training program at a community college on Maryland' Eastern Shore. (Id. at ¶ 40.) He had planned to transfer to the Salisbury, Maryland UPS facility during the Summer of 2016 to ease the transition for his spouse and their four children, who would be able to adjust to their new home before the school year started. (Id. at¶ 41.) In June 2016, Mehan emailed Ridenour's assistant, Shannon, to obtain a meeting with Ridenour about his transfer. (Id. at ¶ 43.) When Mehan appeared for the meeting at the appointed time in June 2016, Ridenour explained that he had forgotten to schedule an interpreter's appearance and rescheduled the appointment. (Id. at ¶ 43.) As a result of this rescheduling, Mehan could not initiate his formal transfer request for an additional two months. (Id. at ¶ 44.)

         On June 14, 2016 Mehan filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). (Id. at ΒΆ 48; Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss Ex. 1, ECF No. 5-2.) On the form provided by the EEOC, Mehan indicated, by placing an X next to the terms "retaliation" and "disability," that he was discriminated against based on his disability and that UPS had been retaliated against him. (ECF No. 5-2.) Mehan elaborated upon the particulars of his claims by explaining that he had been "denied reasonable accommodation as needed" despite several requests for an interpreter and that had been ...


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