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Paolino v. U.S. Airways, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

January 26, 2016

Jonathan Paolino, Plaintiff,
US Airways, Inc., Defendant.


Neil V. Wake United States District Judge

Before the Court is Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 64) and the parties’ competing statements of facts and briefs. Also before the Court are the parties’ cross-motions to exclude expert testimony (Docs. 62, 63) and accompanying briefs. For the reasons that follow, Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted, rendering moot the motions to exclude expert testimony.


US Airways, Inc. (“US Airways”) hired Jonathan Paolino in April 2013. Months later, a manager thought he saw Paolino asleep in the breakroom and fired him. Paolino now claims he was fired because of his disability: an anxiety disorder that sometimes manifests in a “dissociative state” resembling sleep. U.S. Airways moves for summary judgment on the grounds that (1) the manager did not know of Paolino’s disability and (2) even if he did, it was not the reason he fired Paolino.


A motion for summary judgment tests whether the opposing party has sufficient evidence to merit a trial. Summary judgment should be granted if the evidence reveals no genuine dispute about any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A material fact is one that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, and a factual dispute is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

The movant has the burden of showing the absence of genuine disputes of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). However, once the movant shows an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party’s case, the burden shifts to the party resisting the motion. The party opposing summary judgment must then “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial” and may not rest upon the pleadings. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. To carry this burden, the nonmoving party must do more than simply show there is “some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, must not weigh the evidence or assess its credibility, and must draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. Where the record, taken as a whole, could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587.


The following facts are drawn from the undisputed portions of U.S. Airways’ statement of facts (Doc. 65), Paolino’s controverting statement of facts (Doc. 70), and parts of the record.

A. Paolino’s Disability

In 2012, Paolino was diagnosed with a general anxiety disorder. (Doc. 70 at ¶ 52.) This disorder can cause unexpected panic attacks. (Id. at ¶¶ 53-54.) Sometimes these attacks feel like a heart attack. (Doc. 65-1 at 16.) Other times they result in a temporary change in or loss of consciousness, known as a “dissociative state.” (Doc. 70 at ¶ 49.) Since diagnosis, Paolino has been receiving psychiatric treatment. (Id. at ¶¶ 52, 55.)

B. Paolino’s Employment

US Airways hired Paolino in April 2013. (Doc. 65 at ¶ 1.) At a pre-employment drug screening, Paolino disclosed that he was taking medication for his anxiety disorder. (Doc. 70 at ¶ 57.) He also told his immediate supervisor, Michelle Paxton, about his medication. (Id. at ¶¶ 58, 63.)

US Airways management hierarchy was organized as follows. Paxton reported to various shift managers, including Jesse Stewart. (Id. at ¶ 58.) These shift managers reported to senior manager Tim James. (Id.) James reported to director John Daley. (Doc. 65 at ¶¶ 5, 7.) Paolino received assignments from Paxton, shift managers, and James, and therefore considered them all his direct supervisors. (Doc. 70 at ¶¶ 59-60.)

In May 2013, Paolino had a panic attack. (Doc. 65 at ¶ 39.) He felt like he was having a heart attack, so Paxton called paramedics. (Id. at ¶ 40; Doc. 70 at ¶ 66.) After the attack, Paolino was told to take the rest of the day off. (Doc. 70 at ¶ 67.)

The next several months were less eventful. Paolino experienced anxiety relating to upcoming dental surgery and requested leave. (Id. at ¶¶ 72-73.) Paxton teased him about this anxiety and asked him to return to work early. (Id. at ¶¶ 74-75.) Paolino voiced his concerns to a Human Resources manager. (Id. at ¶¶ 71, 76.) Paolino did not suffer a panic attack comparable to the May 2013 incident during this time. (Id. at ¶ 70.)

The incident preceding termination occurred on December 16, 2013. (Doc. 65 at ¶ 9.) While James was conducting a meeting, Daley’s assistant interrupted and summoned James and Stewart to the employee breakroom. (Id. at ¶¶ 8-9.) In the breakroom, James saw Paolino reclining in a chair near a wall. (See Id. at ¶ 11.) His eyes were closed, and his head was back. (Id.) James called Paolino’s name, but he did not respond. (Doc. 65-3 at 9.) James then tapped Paolino’s arm, at which point he became alert or startled. (Id. at 11-12.) It took a moment for Paolino to come to his senses and understand who was standing in the room, and he seemed in shock. (Doc. 70 at ¶ 79.) James then sent Paolino home for the day. (Id. at ¶ 80.)

Later that day, Paolino emailed James, Paxton, Stewart, and another shift manager about the incident. (Doc. 65 at ΒΆ 15; Doc. 70 at ...

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