United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
MAYRA F. PENA, Plaintiff,
HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL INC., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
WILLIAM E. SMITH CHIEF JUDGE. UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Judge Lincoln D. Almond filed a Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) (ECF No. 42) recommending that
Defendant Honeywell International Inc.'s
(“Honeywell”) Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF
No. 27) be granted with respect to all counts in
Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (ECF No. 9). Plaintiff
Mayra F. Pena timely filed an Objection to the R&R
(“Objection”) (ECF No. 45). For the reasons set
forth below, the Court accepts the R&R.
respect to Counts I through VIII, Magistrate Judge Almond
recommended that summary judgment is appropriate because, in
light of the Supreme Court's decision in Cleveland v.
Policy Mgmt. Sys. Corp., 526 U.S. 795 (1999), no
reasonable juror could reconcile Plaintiff's position in
this litigation with her prior declaration in the context of
applying for Social Security Disability Insurance
(“SSDI”). (R. & R. 14-15.) Additionally,
Magistrate Judge Almond endorsed summary judgment with
respect to Plaintiff's remaining retaliation claims
(Counts IX through XII) because Plaintiff failed to set forth
evidence upon which a reasonable juror could glean a
sufficient causal relationship between Plaintiff's
termination and her alleged protected activity, a complaint
to her supervisor about her break schedule. (Id. at
Objection, Plaintiff avers that she has sufficiently
explained away any inconsistencies between her SSDI
application and this litigation. (Mem. in Opp'n to R.
& R. 11, ECF No. 45-1.) Plaintiff suggests that
Magistrate Judge Almond overlooked the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) guidelines that
discuss the impact of statements made in the context of SSDI
applications on claims under the Americans with Disabilities
Act (“ADA”). (Id. at 12-14.) In
Plaintiff's Reply to Defendant's Response to
Plaintiff's Objection (“Reply”) (ECF No. 49),
Plaintiff attempts to further reconcile her conflicting
statements by identifying an affidavit in which she attested,
“The SSDI application did not ask if I needed any
accommodations of a disability in order to work and no one at
any of the hearings asked. Had I been asked, I would have
responded, ‘Yes.'” (Reply 1-2; Pena Aff.
¶ 24, ECF No. 45-3.) Plaintiff also argues that her
deposition testimony elucidates that she did not understand
the line of questioning and was tricked by Honeywell's
counsel into “admitting that she is lying and trying to
manipulate the system.” (Id. at 6-7.) Finally,
with respect to the retaliation claims, Plaintiff, in a
conclusory manner, suggests “a jury could find that
Pena's February 21, 2013 complaint set off a chain of
events that ultimately led to her termination on June 17,
2013.” (Mem. in Opp'n to R. & R. 15.)
Court's de novo review leads it to the same conclusion as
Magistrate Judge Almond: summary judgment is appropriate on
all counts. As an initial matter, with respect to Counts I
through VIII, it is clear that Plaintiff misconstrues and
misapplies the governing standard. Throughout her filings
with this Court, Plaintiff purports to rationalize or spell
out why she provided inconsistent statements in her SSDI
application and in this litigation. However, this is not what
Cleveland requires. Rather, “to defeat [a
defendant's] motion for summary judgment, [a plaintiff]
must explain why the representations of total disability
[s]he has made in the past are consistent with [her]
current claim that [s]he could perform the essential
functions of [her position] with reasonable
accommodation.” Sullivan v. Raytheon Co., 262
F.3d 41, 47 (1st Cir. 2001) (citing Cleveland, 526
U.S. at 798 (emphasis added)). Plaintiff simply has not
satisfied this standard.
other words, Plaintiff has not sufficiently explained why her
representation for purposes of SSDI that she became unable to
work because of her disabling condition on March 8, 2013 and
remained disabled after that point, is consistent with her
position for purposes of this litigation that on March 8,
2013 (her final day of work), she was “completely
capable of working in other settings” with the
exception of the Molding Department. Moreover, a closer look
at Plaintiff's deposition testimony crystallizes the
inconsistency when viewed against Plaintiff's SSDI
application.While at times confusing, Plaintiff's
deposition clearly states that she was wholly unable to work.
post hoc affidavit, which conflicts with her SSDI application
and her deposition testimony, does not alter this landscape;
indeed, “a party cannot create a genuine issue of fact
sufficient to survive summary judgment simply by
contradicting his or her own previous sworn statement (by,
say, filing a later affidavit that flatly contradicts that
party's earlier sworn deposition) without explaining the
contradiction or attempting to resolve the disparity.”
Cleveland, 526 U.S. at 806-07 (citations omitted).
Further, in light of the Supreme Court's
Cleveland decision handed down two years after the
EEOC's guidance, Plaintiff's citation to and reliance
on factors set forth by the EEOC is of no moment.
summary judgment is appropriate with respect to
Plaintiff's retaliation claims (Counts IX through XII).
Plaintiff's conclusory declarations in her Objection do
nothing to alter the fact that she still has not identified
evidence upon which a reasonable juror could causally link
her February 21, 2013 complaint to her supervisor with her
June 17, 2013 termination. When Plaintiff's statements,
bereft of evidentiary support, are dispensed with, all that
remains is her reliance on temporal proximity, which in this
instance cannot carry the day. See Calero-Cerezo v. U.S.
Dep't of Justice, 355 F.3d 6, 25 (1st Cir. 2004)
(“Three and four month periods have been held
insufficient to establish a causal connection based on
temporal proximity.” (citations omitted)); see also
Clark Cty. Sch. Dist. v. Breeden, 532 U.S. 268, 273
(2001) (“The cases that accept mere temporal proximity
between an employer's knowledge of protected activity and
an adverse employment action as sufficient evidence of
causality to establish a prima facie case uniformly hold that
the temporal proximity must be ‘very close.'”
(citations omitted)). The Court has considered
Plaintiff's remaining arguments and deems them to be
the Court fully ACCEPTS the R&R (ECF No. 42) and adopts
its reasoning. Defendant Honeywell's Motion for Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 27) on all counts of Plaintiff's
Amended Complaint (ECF No. 9) is GRANTED in its entirety.
Judgment will enter for Defendant.
before me for a report and recommendation (28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B)) is Defendant Honeywell International,
Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF Doc. No. 27).
Plaintiff opposes the Motion. (ECF Doc. No. 33). A hearing
was held on June 19, 2017.
commenced this employment discrimination action in state
court on or about April 16, 2015. Defendant removed the case
to this Court on May 5, 2015. The operative pleading is
Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (ECF Doc. No. 9) which was
filed on August 28, 2015 and contains twelve federal and
state statutory claims.
Amended Complaint, Plaintiff claims that Honeywell violated
various anti-discrimination statutes by failing to reasonably
accommodate her disabilities (Counts I through IV). She also
claims her discharge was unlawfully motivated by her
disabilities (Counts V through VIII). Finally, she claims
that she was unlawfully subject to retaliation for reports of
unlawful discriminatory conduct she made to the Human
Resources Department at Honeywell (Counts IX through XII).
judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, the discovery and
disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show 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). When deciding a motion for
summary judgment, the Court must review the evidence in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all
reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor.
Cadle Co. v. Hayes, 116 F.3d 957, 959
(1st Cir. 1997).
judgment involves shifting burdens between the moving and
nonmoving parties. Initially, the burden requires the moving
party to aver “an absence of evidence to support the
nonmoving party's case.” Garside v. Osco Drug,
Inc., 895 F.2d 46, 48 (1st Cir. 1990)
(quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325
(1986)). Once the moving party meets this burden, the burden
falls upon the nonmoving party, who must oppose the motion by
presenting facts that show a genuine “trialworthy issue
remains.” Cadle, 116 F.3d at 960 (citing
Nat=l Amusements, Inc. v. Town of Dedham, 43 F.3d 731,
735 (1st Cir. 1995); Maldonado-Denis v.
Castillo-Rodriguez, 23 F.3d 576, 581 (1st
Cir. 1994)). An issue of fact is “genuine” if it
“may reasonably be resolved in favor of either
party.” Id. (citing Maldonado-Denis,
23 F.3d at 581).
oppose the motion successfully, the nonmoving party must
present affirmative evidence to rebut the motion. See
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256-257
(1986). “Even in cases where elusive concepts such as
motive or intent are at issue, summary judgment may be
appropriate if the nonmoving party rests merely upon
conclusory allegations, improbable inferences, [or]
unsupported speculation.” Medina-Munoz v. R.J.
Reynolds Tobacco Co., 896 F.2d 5, 8 (1st Cir.
1990). Moreover, the “evidence illustrating the factual
controversy cannot be conjectural or problematic; it must
have substance in the sense that it limns differing versions
of the truth which a factfinder must resolve.”
Id. (quoting Mack v. Great Atl. & Pac. Tea
Co., 871 F.2d 179, 181 (1st Cir. 1989)).
Therefore, to defeat a properly supported motion for summary
judgment, the nonmoving party must establish a trialworthy
issue by presenting “enough competent evidence to
enable a finding favorable to the nonmoving party.”
Goldman v. First Nat'l Bank of Boston, 985 F.2d
1113, 1116 (1st Cir. 1993) (citing
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249). Additionally, if the
affirmative evidence presented by the nonmoving party raises
a question of credibility as to the testimony provided by the
moving party, summary judgment is inappropriate, and that
credibility issue must be presented to the factfinders at
trial. Firemen's Mut. Ins. Co. v. Aponaug Mfg.
Co., 149 F.2d 359, 363 (5th Cir. 1945)
(“The success of an attempt to impeach a witness is
always a jury question, as is the credibility of the
witnesses where they contradict one another, or
following facts are gleaned from the parties' statements
of fact filed pursuant to Local Rule Cv 56. (ECF Doc. Nos.
28, 35, 36). Honeywell's Cranston manufacturing facility
is comprised of several production/assembly areas, including
the Respiratory Department, Molding Department, Logo
Department, Quickloc/Cedars Department and the SCBA Area.
(ECF Doc. No. 28 at ¶ 1). In the Molding Department,
Honeywell manufactures finished goods and works in process
for assembly. Works in process are products in the process of
manufacture that have not yet reached the finished-good
state. Id. at ¶ 2. Plaintiff frequently worked
in the Respiratory Department. Id. at ¶ 6.
2013, when Plaintiff worked at Honeywell, there were
approximately twenty to twenty-five employees working in the
Molding Department. Id. at ¶ 7. In the Molding
Department, the machines run continuously, and a new part
comes out of the machine every thirty seconds; in other
Departments, the operator controls when the machines operate.
Id. at ¶ 8. Some Honeywell employees indicated
that they preferred to work in areas other than the Molding
Department because other areas allowed employees to work at
their own pace, whereas in the Molding Department, employees
had to keep up with the pace of the machines. Id. at
¶ 10. Employees also preferred to work in areas other
than the Molding Department because the machines were closer
together in other Departments, and employees were able to
more easily socialize. Id. at ¶ 11.
2012, Honeywell decided that all employees who worked in the
production and assembly areas should be cross-trained to work
in all departments. Id. at ¶ 13. Honeywell felt
it was important to have cross-trained employees to meet the
demands of Honeywell customers. Id. at ¶ 14. It
was Honeywell's business practice to move associate
assemblers to departments where customer demand was greatest
and, as a result, an employees' inability to work in any
particular area would burden the production process.
Id. at ¶ 15. It was particularly important for
employees to rotate into the Molding Department because it
runs twenty-four hours a day and does not shut down for
employee lunch and other breaks. Id. at ¶ 16.
To fill positions when employees took breaks, vacation time,
or otherwise, employees working in other areas would move to
the Molding Department. Id. at ¶ 17. Honeywell
trained all of its employees, including Plaintiff, in all
Assembly Departments for which training was required,
including the Molding Department. Id. at ¶ 18.
hired Plaintiff in or about 2008 as a Machine Operator and
Associate Assembler in its Cranston, Rhode Island facility.
Id. at ¶ 19. Plaintiff was previously employed
at the same location by North Safety Products starting in or
about 2002, and Honeywell hired Plaintiff when it took over
the facility in or about 2008. Id. at ¶ 20.
Plaintiff completed her training for the Molding Department
in October 2012. Id. at ¶ 21. Following her
training, Honeywell asked Plaintiff to work in the Molding
Department. Id. at ¶ 22. Working in the Molding
Department was consistent with Plaintiff's position as an
Associate Assembler. Id. at ¶ 23. Over a month
after Plaintiff's training in the Molding Department, she
took medical leave commencing on November 29, 2012.
Id. at ¶ 24. This medical leave was, at least
in part, due to her depression because of the change of
season. Id. at ¶ 25. Prior to her medical leave
commencing on November 29, 2012, Plaintiff had previously
taken several other medical leaves of absence totaling
twenty-three weeks, including from October 14, 2011 to
November 21, 2011; from December 16, 2011 to February 13,
2012; and from June 22, 2012 to August 6, 2012. Id.
at ¶ 26. Given these previous medical leaves, Plaintiff
had no remaining Family and Medical Leave Act
(“FMLA”) leave. Id. at ¶ 27.
Plaintiff returned from medical leave on January 14, 2013.
Id. at ¶ 28.
her return from medical leave, Plaintiff worked in the
Molding Department for four hours per day, two to three times
per week. Id. at ¶ 29. Plaintiff worked this
schedule without incident for over a month and did not
complain about working in the Molding Department until late
February 2013. Id. at ¶ 30. In late February
2013, Plaintiff approached Jose Gouveia, Senior Human
Resources Generalist at Honeywell, to report that one of the
Production Leaders, Mayra Fermin, asked her to go to the
Molding Department. Id. at ¶ 31. Plaintiff
claims that she told Mr. Gouveia that she did not want to
work in that Department because “it was harmful to
[her] emotionally.” Id. at ¶ 32. On March
7 and March 8, 2013, Plaintiff met with Mr. Gouveia; Kevin
Dyer, Plaintiff's supervisor; and Conor Ryan, the Health
Safety and Environmental Site Leader. Id. at ¶
33. At the March 7, 2013 meeting, Honeywell requested a
letter from Plaintiff's doctor. Id. at ¶
34. The next day, on March 8, 2013, Plaintiff provided a
letter from her psychiatrist, Dr. James Greer, dated March 4,
2013. Id. at ¶ 35. Dr. Greer's March 4,
2013 note stated: “Currently [Plaintiff] is reporting
exacerbation of her anxiety systems which are interfering
with her ability to function. She reports that these
specifically occur when she is being sent to the molding room
as opposed to the more typical duties to which she is
accustomed.” Id. at ¶ 37.
Greer's note was reviewed by Mr. Ryan, as Health Safety
and Environmental Site Leader, to determine what
accommodations Plaintiff requested and whether Honeywell
could make such accommodations. Id. at ¶ 38.
Dr. Greer stated, “I am requesting that you assist her
in other placements than in this setting….”
Id. at ¶ 40. Dr. Greer's note did not
explain how the Molding Department
“exacerbate[ed]” Plaintiff's anxiety
symptoms, while no other Department had this effect.
Id. at ¶ 41. Plaintiff was informed that the
March 4, 2013 note was not sufficient, and she would not be
excused from working in the Molding Department as scheduled.
Id. at ¶ 43. In response, Plaintiff told the
Honeywell personnel that she was going to go home, and she
called her daughter to pick her up. Id. at ¶
44. Plaintiff never returned to work after March 8, 2013.
Id. at ¶ 45.
subsequently retained Attorney Veronika Kot of Rhode Island
Legal Services, who instructed Plaintiff not to have any
communication with Honeywell and that Ms. Kot would be the
one to talk to Honeywell, not her. Id. at ¶ 47.
Unaware that Plaintiff had retained Ms. Kot and of her
directive to Plaintiff, Honeywell attempted to contact
Plaintiff to clarify her condition to enable it to provide a
proper accommodation. Id. at ¶ 48. To that end,
Mr. Gouveia sent Plaintiff a Reasonable Accommodation Request
Form for her to complete with Dr. Greer. Id. at
¶ 50. In addition, on April 2, 2013, Dr. Elizabeth
Jennison, Honeywell's Associate Director of Health
Services, wrote to Dr. Greer, asking for “additional
documentation to understand the medical necessity for
[Plaintiff's] request.” Id. at ¶ 51.
Dr. Jennison's letter requested that Dr. Greer,
“please clarify how [Plaintiff's] anxiety symptoms
could allow her to work in many areas ...