FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
MASSACHUSETTS [Hon. William G. Young, U.S. District Judge]
Timothy M. Burke, with whom Jared S. Burke and Law Offices of
Timothy M. Burke, were on brief for appellant.
C. Ouellette, with whom Leonard H. Kesten, Deidre Brennan
Regan, and Brody, Hardoon, Perkins & Kesten, LLP, were on
brief for appellee.
Torruella, Lipez, and Barron, Circuit Judges.
Michelle Audette, a police patrol officer in Plymouth,
Massachusetts, appeals from the entry of summary judgment for
the Town of Plymouth ("Town"), the Plymouth Police
Department ("Department"), and a number of the
Town's and the Department's employees. Audette claims
that she suffered discrimination in violation of the
Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C.
§§ 12101-12213, and its Massachusetts state-law
corollary, Massachusetts General Laws chapter 151B § 4,
when the defendants failed to accommodate her request for
transfer to another position in the Department after she
sustained an on-the-job injury. Audette further alleges that
she suffered illegal retaliation when she attempted to assert
her rights under the ADA and that she suffered discrimination
on the basis of her gender in violation of Massachusetts law.
We affirm the district court's rejection of these claims.
following facts are undisputed, except as noted.
Audette's Ankle Injuries
began her career as a patrol officer for the Plymouth Police
Department in 1986. While working on October 4, 2010, she
sustained the first of two on-the-job injuries to her right
ankle. These injuries led to visits to many doctors, two
surgeries, and rounds of physical therapy. To this day, she
has yet to fully recover.
doctors have prescribed physical limitations to her movement
in order to aid in her recovery. These limitations have
varied at times, but include: strictly sedentary work,
shorter working shifts (four or six hours, rather than the
typical eight-and-a-half), working in an "air-cast"
boot, working with the use of crutches, limited standing or
walking to forty-five minutes out of every hour, and limited
bending. According to the Plymouth Police Department's
"Rules and Regulations" manual, a patrol
officer's duties include patrolling by foot and in a
vehicle, responding to emergencies, providing services on an
emergency basis, aiding individuals who are in danger of
physical harm, preserving crime scenes, and apprehending
criminal offenders. Since the initial injury, Audette's
limitations have prevented her from fulfilling her standard
responsibilities as an active patrol officer, except for a
brief period between August 2011 and January 2012, when she
sustained a second on-the-job injury to the same ankle.
the Plymouth Police Department continues to employ Audette as
a patrol officer. When doctors' limitations on her
working conditions have permitted, Audette has received
full-time pay for working part-time shifts in a light-duty
capacity as a station officer. When her doctors' limitations
have not allowed her to work as a station officer, Audette
has been afforded full pay while taking "injured on
duty" ("IOD") leave. The Department has also
granted her other accommodations not available to other
patrol officers, including an elevator key and a designated,
convenient parking spot.
The Department's National Incident-Based Reporting
many police departments across the nation, the Plymouth
Police Department participates in the National Incident-Based
Reporting System ("NIBRS"). NIBRS is an
incident-based reporting system used by law enforcement
agencies to collect and report data on crimes. Local, state,
and federal agencies compile and maintain data in NIBRS as
part of their records management responsibilities.
Ordinarily, two Department employees are responsible for
NIBRS data: the Department's Records Sergeant,
oversees all records maintenance, including NIBRS, and a
civilian clerical worker. In July 2012, the Records Sergeant
was also assisted by Detective Robert Morse, who oversaw the
Department's evidence management responsibilities. After
the Records Sergeant announced his retirement in September
2012, Morse temporarily took over NIBRS oversight
2013 -- when Audette was out of work due to her first ankle
surgery -- Morse announced that he would retire. On May 30,
2013, patrol officer Benjamin Dexter returned to work after
sustaining an injury, and he was placed on full-time light
duty. Plymouth Police Chief Michael Botieri assigned Dexter
to train with Morse and assist in getting "caught
up" with the NIBRS records. By October 6, the Department
had sufficiently caught up with its backlog, and Dexter was
reassigned as a station officer for the remainder of his
light-duty status. The Department never appointed another
patrol officer on light duty to assist with the NIBRS data
outside of Dexter's four-month assignment in
2013. In November 2013, Dexter returned to
active-duty status as a patrol officer, and Sergeant Michael
Ferazzi was appointed as the new Records Sergeant and became
responsible for NIBRS oversight.
Audette's Accommodation Request
underwent ankle surgery in June 2013. Later that summer her
doctor issued a note stating that she could return to work on
October 21. The only limitation the doctor placed on Audette
was "walking/standing based on symptoms." On
October 9 -- three days after Officer Dexter had been
reassigned from NIBRS data maintenance to station officer --
Audette delivered a letter to Chief Botieri titled
"Reasonable [Accommodation], " which requested that
she be allowed to work the NIBRS data-entry position to which
Dexter had been assigned. We quote the letter in full:
I am requesting a "Reasonable [Accommodation]" as I
would like to return to work and feel that I can be a
productive member of this Police Department.
Following a very extensive and [painful] ankle injury I am
currently in the healing process after receiving [surgery]. I
have recently received a [Doctor's] note allowing for me
to return to work on October 21, 2013. The physical
limitations are for 4 hours, with walking and standing
limited to symptoms. As I continue with my Physical Therapy I
find that my symptoms vary day to day.
I recently became aware that a nontraditional "Light
Duty" assignment had been offered to another Officer and
that this assignment is currently vacant. This assignment was
utilized to aid in keeping the [NIBRS] records/stats up to
date. This assignment is mainly sitting while reading and
completing data on a computer.
I am [hopeful] this same opportunity could be extended to me.
Being assigned to a seated position would allow me to feel
productive as well as continue to heal and gain greater