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Mancini v. City of Providence

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

October 10, 2017

MARK MANCINI, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF PROVIDENCE, by and through its Treasurer, James J. Lombardi, III, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM E. SMITH, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Before the Court are Plaintiff Mark Mancini's Motion for Summary Judgment and Defendant City of Providence's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment.[1] After considering the evidence and arguments presented by the parties, for the reasons set forth herein, Plaintiff's motion is DENIED and Defendant's motion is GRANTED.

         I. Background[2]

         Plaintiff Mark Mancini was, at all relevant times, a Sergeant in the Providence Police Department (“PPD”), and an employee of the Defendant City of Providence (“the City”).[3] On November 15, 2010, Mancini injured his right knee while chasing a suspect in the line of duty.[4] As a result of Mancini's injury, he was placed on “injured on duty” (“IOD”) status and was out of work until May 2011.[5] When Mancini returned to work, he was placed on “light duty” status.[6] In August 2011, the PPD terminated his light duty status, and by September 2, 2011, as a result of a directive from his employer, Mancini filed for accidental disability benefits with the City.[7] On June 27, 2012, the City denied Mancini's application for an accidental disability pension.[8] After Mancini was denied the pension, the City refused to allow him to return to work on light duty status.[9]

         On May 3, 2012, Mancini learned of the June 2012 Lieutenant's Promotional Examination (the “Lieutenant's exam”).[10] The promotional process for attaining the rank of lieutenant was governed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) between the City and the police union.[11] According to the CBA, the criteria for selecting a lieutenant were as follows: (1) 0-85 points for his or her score on a 100-question written examination; (2) 0-5 points for his or her level of education; (3) 0-5 points for his or her level of seniority; and (4) 0-5 points for his or her service.[12] The top five individuals who took the Lieutenant's exam would be eligible for promotion.[13] On June 16, 2012, Mancini took the exam and received a total score of “88.2, ” ranking him seventh of the sixteen sergeants who took the exam and taking him out of the running for promotion to the rank of lieutenant.[14] At the time of the exam, Mancini was the only promotional candidate on IOD status.[15]

         The portion of the exam at issue here is the score Mancini received for the “service section” of the exam, where Mancini scored a “0” out of a possible “5” points.[16] The service section was graded by the Chief of Police, Colonel Hugh T. Clements, Jr.[17]Under the CBA, Clements was required to exercise his sole discretion to evaluate and rate a promotional candidate's overall work performance.[18] In evaluating a candidate, the Chief of Police typically considered letters of commendation, memoranda of merit received, and other factors to determine a candidate's service points. Had Mancini received at least “1” point in the service section, he would have tied with the fifth highest test taker and been eligible for promotion to lieutenant based on his seniority.[19]

         Mancini filed the instant suit against the City and Clements for employment discrimination in failing to promote him to lieutenant because of his disability, or in the alternative, his record of disability.[20] Defendant Clements was dismissed from the lawsuit after a decision by the Rhode Island Supreme Court, on a certified question from this Court, that there is no individual liability under Section 28-5-7(6) of the Rhode Island Fair Employment Practices Act (“FEPA”). See generally Mancini v. City of Providence, 155 A.3d 159 (R.I. 2017). (This matter was stayed for a considerable amount of time while the certified question was under advisement with the Rhode Island Supreme Court.)

         Mancini has charged the City with four counts of unlawful discrimination including violations of the Rhode Island Civil Rights Act of 1990, Rhode Island Fair Employment Practices Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and Civil Rights of Peoples with Disabilities Act.[21]

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         “The court shall grant summary judgment 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). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court views “the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Garmon v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp., 844 F.3d 307, 312 (1st Cir. 2016) (quoting Rodriguez-Cuervos v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 181 F.3d 15, 19 (1st Cir. 1999)). That said, “a nonmovant cannot rely ‘merely upon conclusory allegations, improbable inferences, and unsupported speculation.'” Id. at 313 (quoting Pina v. Children's Place, 740 F.3d 785, 795 (1st Cir. 2014)). Ultimately, “a plaintiff's ability to survive summary judgment depends on his ability to muster facts sufficient to support an inference of discrimination.” Id. (quoting Bennett v. Saint-Gobain Corp., 507 F.3d 23, 30 (1st Cir. 2007)). Where, as here, there are cross-motions for summary judgment, this “simply require[s] [the Court] to determine whether either of the parties deserves judgment as a matter of law on facts that are not disputed.” Barnes v. Fleet Nat'l Bank, N.A., 370 F.3d 164, 170 (1st Cir. 2004) (quoting Wightman v. Springfield Terminal Ry., 100 F.3d 228, 230 (1st Cir. 1996)).

         III. Discussion

         In employment discrimination cases based on disparate treatment, the Court applies the three-part burden-shifting paradigm set forth by the Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-04 (1973).[22] At the outset, a plaintiff must establish a prima facie case of discrimination. Rathbun v. Autozone, Inc., 361 F.3d 62, 71 (1st Cir. 2004) (citing McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802). In the failure-to-promote context, to establish a prima facie case, the plaintiff must show he “(i) is a member of a protected class who (ii) was qualified for an open position for which [he] applied, but (iii) was rejected (iv) in favor of someone possessing similar qualifications.” Id. (citing Gu v. Boston Police Dep't, 312 F.3d 6, 11 (1st Cir. 2002); see also McGary, 47 A.3d at 280 (recognizing that “[t]he burden placed on the complainant at this stage is not especially onerous”). If the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, a presumption of discrimination arises, and “[t]he burden of production then shifts to the employer to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its employment decision(s).” Rathbun, 361 F.3d at 71; McGarry, 47 A.3d at 280. An “employer need only produce competent evidence, taken as true, to enable a rational factfinder to conclude there existed a nondiscriminatory reason for the challenged employment action.” Feliciano de la Cruz v. El Conquistador Resort & Country Club, 218 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir. 2000) (quotation omitted). At this juncture, “[t]he burdens of proof and production fall squarely upon the plaintiff to demonstrate that the defendant's tendered explanation is only a pretext and that discrimination was the true motive underlying the [promotion] decision.” McGarry, 47 A.3d at 280-81. “The core inquiry in such disparate treatment cases is whether the defendant intentionally discriminated against the plaintiff because of [his alleged disability].” Rathbun, 361 F.3d at 71 (citing Cumpiano v. Banco Santander, 902 F.2d 148, 153 (1st Cir. 1990))(emphasis added).

         A. Mancini's Prima Facie Case of Discrimination

         1. Disability Mancini argues that at the time of the Lieutenant's exam he was a member of a protected class because he had a disability within the meaning of the law.[23] The City counters that Mancini was not a member of a protected class because he did not have a disability within the meaning of the law.[24]

         There are three ways a person may be covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”); the ADA defines disability as follows:

The term “disability” means, with respect to an individual-
(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual;
(B) a record of such an impairment; or
(C) being regarded as having such an impairment (as described in paragraph (3)).

42 U.S.C. § 12102(1).

         Mancini asserts that he had a disability as defined in subsection (1)(A), that is, he had a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.[25] In order to qualify for coverage, however, Mancini must provide competent evidence to demonstrate this fact. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) defines a physical or mental impairment as follows:

(1) Any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more body systems, such as neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory (including speech organs), cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, immune, circulatory, hemic, lymphatic, skin, and endocrine; or
(2) Any mental or psychological disorder, such as an intellectual disability (formerly termed “mental retardation”), organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.

29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(h).

         Further, EEOC regulations state that “[a]n impairment is a disability within the meaning of this section if it substantially limits the ability of an individual to perform a major life activity as compared to most people in the general population.” Id. § 1630.2(j)(1)(ii). But that

[a]n impairment need not prevent, or significantly or severely restrict, the individual from performing a major life activity in order to be considered substantially limiting. Nonetheless, not every impairment will constitute a disability within the meaning of this section.

Id.

         Lastly, the ADA defines major ...


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