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Garcia v. Salvation Army

United States District Court, D. Arizona

September 12, 2016

Ann Garcia, Plaintiff,
Salvation Army, Defendant.


          David G. Campbell United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Ann Garcia asserts claims against her former employer, Salvation Army, for religious discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”); failure to engage in the interactive process in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”); and intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”). Salvation Army moves for summary judgment. Doc. 147. Garcia has filed two separate motions, each of which requests partial summary judgment on her interactive process claim. Docs. 150, 151. Briefing is complete and no party requests oral argument. The Court will grant Defendant's motion and deny Plaintiff's motions.

         I. Background.

         In late 1999, Ann Garcia began attending religious services at the Salvation Army's Estrella Mountain Corps (“EMC”) in Avondale, Arizona. Doc. 148-2 at 11. In December 2002, EMC hired Garcia to serve as an assistant to Major Angie Medina, the pastor of the church. Doc. 148-9 at 5-6. In July 2010, Majors Dionisio and Arlene Torres (husband and wife) replaced Major Medina as EMC's pastors. Doc. 148, 36. A few months later, Garcia transitioned to a position as social services coordinator. Doc. 148-9 at 11. In December 2011, Garcia stopped attending religious services at EMC because she felt that “policies and procedures [were] being broken and not enforced by” the new pastors. Doc. 164, ¶ 2. She continued to work at EMC.

         In March 2012, Garcia received her first annual performance review at EMC. Doc. 148-12 at 11-12. Major Arlene Torres rated Garcia as good, very good, or outstanding with respect to twelve of the fourteen performance factors. Id. Garcia received a rating of “improvement needed” on two factors, creativity and initiative. Id. at 11. Overall, she received a rating of very good, and was awarded a 2% raise. Id. at 12.

         In June 2013, Garcia received a second performance review. Id. at 13-14. Garcia received a rating of good, very good, or outstanding with respect to eleven of the fourteen performance factors. Id. She received a rating of “improvement needed” on three factors: attendance, creativity, and attitude. Id. Her interpersonal relationship with her supervisor was also rated as “improvement needed.” Id. at 14. Major Torres offered the following criticisms of Garcia's work:

Ann's attendance needs drastic improvement, and we hope to see a dramatic decrease in her days off in the coming year. . . . Would like to see Ann increase her creativity as it relates to her assigned tasks. . . . Ann does what it takes to get the job done, but lacks enthusiasm and a positive attitude. . . .
Ann has a tendency to mix personal feelings and business issues. She needs to do whatever it takes to keep personal and business issue[s]
Ann keeps an acceptable attitude, when she is left alone, but tends to spiral into a negative attitude when required to interact with her supervisor(s), or given directives. Ann needs to learn to be more respectful in her attitude towards everyone, as our expectation is that she be courteous and professional at ALL times.

Id. at 13-14. Garcia received an overall rating of “good” and a 2% raise. Id. at 14.

         In response to this performance review, Garcia filed an internal grievance. Id. at 5-6. She complained that her performance evaluation constituted “a very negative attack on [her] character, ” and that it was unsupported by evidence. Id. at 5. She stated: “I have been very disappointed and frustrated with the way I have been treated by Captain Arlene Torres ever since my husband and I left the church. I feel discriminated against.” Id. She asked for a reevaluation. Id.

         After Garcia filed this grievance, she learned that a client, Rosa Novoa, had filed a written complaint against her on July 10, 2013. Garcia asked to see a copy of the complaint, but Major Arlene Torres denied the request, citing an interest in protecting client confidentiality. Doc. 161-17 at 2. Garcia then filed another grievance. Doc. 148-12 at 2-3. Salvation Army made several attempts to schedule a meeting to address Garcia's grievances, but due to scheduling conflicts and Garcia's subsequent leave of absence, the meeting never took place. Doc. 148-7 at 19-20. On November 5, 2013, Garcia filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging religious and age discrimination and retaliation. Doc. 148-12 at 8. The charged was dismissed on July 9, 2014. Id. at 9.

         Garcia was granted leave from Salvation Army in October 2013 to address widespread pain, chronic fatigue, insomnia, and muscle and joint stiffness related to fibromyalgia. Doc. 148-16 at 14. The leave was extended several times. Garcia's rheumatologist approved her to return to work “without restrictions” beginning May 26, 2014. Doc. 148-19 at 19. Garcia did not return to work that day. On May 27, she sent an email to Jan Hoffer, Human Resource Generalist for Salvation Army's Southwest Division, stating the following:

I feel that I am not ready to go back into the exact same working environment which my doctors have advised against. There seems to be a mental block/barrier and this has to do a lot with the Novoa complaint that was never made available to me[.] I am requesting an accommodation . . . My accommodation would be that a copy or ...

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