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Pereira v. Electric Boat Corp.

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

October 21, 2019



          William E. Smith, Chief Judge.

         Before the Court is Defendant Electric Boat Corporation's Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 16. After considering the evidence and arguments presented by the parties, for the reasons set forth herein, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

         I. Factual Background[1]

         Plaintiff Fernando Pereira applied for a job as an “Outside Electrician” with Electric Boat in May 2014. Def. Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (“Def.'s SUF”) ¶ 11, ECF No. 18. Electric Boat, a government contractor, has a facility in Quonset Point, Rhode Island, where it manufactures submarine components and outfits submarines. Id. at ¶¶ 4-5. Outside Electricians are responsible for installing lighting, components, cabinets, hangers, and cable, as well as hooking-up electrical components, fiber-optics and testing. Id. at ¶ 7. Both parties agree that Pereira accepted a conditional job offer from Electric Boat contingent upon his completion of Electric Boat's physical examination. Id. at ¶ 13.

         All applicants for positions at Electric Boat are required to undergo this post-offer pre-employment physical exam to determine whether the applicant is medically able to perform the functions of the position. Id. at ¶ 17. Concentra Medical, an outside contractor, conducted Pereira's physical in July 2014. Id. at ¶¶ 18-19. Due to his medical history, Electric Boat requested additional medical information from Pereira. Id. at ¶ 19 (quoting Damien M. DiGiovanni Decl., Exhibit D, Andrews Dep. 14:5-14). Dr. Susan Andrews, the medical director at Electric Boat's Quonset Point facility, obtained further documentation of Pereira's medical conditions, including records going back two years. Def.'s SUF ¶ 14, ¶ 20, ¶ 25; Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Undisputed Facts (“Pl.'s RSUF”) ¶ 21, ECF No. 25-2. Pereira's medical history included a knee injury from 2011, carpal tunnel syndrome, and degenerative joint disease in both knees and ankles. Def.'s SUF ¶¶ 27-33.

         Based on these records, his physical exam by Concerta, and Dr. Andrews' discussions with Pereira, Dr. Andrews determined that Pereira would require restrictions, specifically that he could not stand for an entire shift and had significant limitations in certain movements such as bending, crouching, and gripping. Id. at ¶ 35.[2] Dr. Andrews relayed these restrictions to Brian Shields, the Manager of Electric Operations at the facility. Id. at ¶¶ 35-39. Shields, who had no role in determining the restrictions themselves, ultimately found that Pereira's restrictions could not be accommodated due to the nature of the Outside Electrician Job, which requires standing or walking for an entire day, using one's hands repetitively, and bending and squatting constantly. Id. at ¶ 39.[3]

         After Shields made this determination, Electric Boat's Accommodation Review Committee (“ARC”) was convened to conduct an individualized assessment, which included interviewing Pereira. Id. at ¶¶ 40-43. Electric Boat claims that Pereira stated during the interview that he needed an hour-long break after performing several hours of repetitive tasks; Pereira denies admitting he could not do the job or that he needed specific restrictions. Id. at ¶ 44; Pl.'s RSUF ¶ 44. The parties also dispute whether Pereira admitted in that meeting that no accommodations would enable him to perform the job functions. Def.'s SUF ¶ 45; Pl.'s RSUF ¶ 45. The ARC found that Pereira could not be accommodated, and Pereira was told he could apply for other positions at Electric Boat that might be a better fit. Def.'s SUF ¶¶ 46-7.

         In January 2015, Pereira applied again for an Outside Electrician job at Electric Boat. Id. at ¶¶ 48-49. As part of his second application process, Electric Boat was provided with updated medical information regarding Pereira's carpal tunnel syndrome. Id. at ¶ 49. Based on that, Dr. Andrews determined that she could lift some of the previous restrictions related to Pereira's carpal tunnel syndrome if he wore a wrist brace, and presented those updates to Shields. Id. at ¶¶ 52-53. However, without any changes to his other restrictions, his offer was again rescinded. Id. at ¶ 53. A second ARC interview and discussion took place in April and May 2015, at which time it was again determined that Pereira could not be accommodated. Id. at ¶ 54.

         Pereira filed suit against Electric Boat, alleging two causes of action: (1) that Electric Boat intentionally discriminated against him on account of his disability[4] by refusing to hire him, in violation of the Rhode Island Civil Rights Act, R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-112-1 et seq (“Count I”); and, (2) that Electric Boat intentionally discriminated against the Plaintiff on account of his age by refusing to hire him (“Count II”). Plaintiff's Complaint (“Pl. Compl.”), Exhibit 1, ECF No. 1. Electric Boat filed this motion for Summary Judgment (“Def. Mot.”), ECF No. 16, and Memorandum in Support of its Motion, ECF No. 17. Plaintiff filed an Objection to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (“Pl. Obj.”), in which he dropped Count II of his Complaint. ECF No. 25-1. Defendant filed a Reply in Further Support of its Motion for Summary Judgment (“Def. Reply”). ECF No. 29.

         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 “construe[s] the record in the light most favorable to the nonmovant and resolv[es] all reasonable inferences in that party's favor[, ] . . . we can safely ignore conclusory allegations, improbable inferences, and unsupported speculation.” Mulloy v. Acushnet Co., 460 F.3d 141, 145 (1st Cir. 2006), quoting Carroll v. Xerox Corp., 294 F.3d 231, 237 (1st Cir. 2002).

         III. Plaintiff's Prime Facie Case

         A. Relevant Law

         In employment discrimination cases based on disparate treatment, the Court usually 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) (“McDonnell Douglas”). However, the instant case falls into a particular sub-genre of disparate treatment cases - ones in which the plaintiff alleges that an employer failed to hire him because of a protected disability.[5] In this context, to make out a prime facie case, the plaintiff must show that he “(1) suffers from a disability . . . as defined by the ADA[6] . . . that (2) he was nevertheless able to perform the essential functions of the job, either with or without reasonable accommodation, and finally (3) that [the employer] took an adverse employment action against him because of . . . his protected disability.”[7]Carroll, 294 F.3d at 237 (citing Lessard v. Osram Sylvania, Inc.,175 F.3d 193, 197 (1st Cir. 1999)). Where there is no direct evidence of the third element, ...

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