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Rogers v. Maricopa County Community College District

United States District Court, D. Arizona

February 6, 2019

James Rogers, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Maricopa Community College District, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          Dominic W. Lanza United States District Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         This action arises from James Rogers's (“Rogers”) employment at GateWay Community College (“GateWay”), which is part of the Maricopa County Community College District (“the District”). (Doc. 1.) Rogers alleges that the District and two GateWay administrators, Dr. Maria Wise (“Dr. Wise”) and Dr. Vivian Miranda-Strawbridge (“Dr. Miranda”) (collectively, “Defendants”), subjected him to a hostile work environment in retaliation for his advocacy on behalf of disabled GateWay students. (Id.) Rogers further alleges that he suffered a heart attack, nervous breakdown, and other medical issues as a result of Defendants' conduct, which required him to take leave from work. (Id.) Finally, Rogers alleges that, when he recovered and was ready to return to work, he was prevented from returning to the same or similar job and/or denied reasonable accommodations.

         The complaint asserts three causes of action: (1) a claim for retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Rehabilitation Act against all Defendants, premised on Defendants' efforts to retaliate against Rogers due to his advocacy on behalf of disabled GateWay students; (2) a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”) against all Defendants; and (3) a claim against the District, under both the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and the ADA, premised on the District's exacerbation of Rogers's medical issues and failure to allow him to return to work after he recovered. (Id.) Now pending before the Court is Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment on the second and third causes of action, which Rogers opposes. (Docs. 25, 32, 34.) As explained below, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendants submitted a 39-paragraph statement of facts in support of their motion but clarified that “[t]he facts are stated in the light most favorable to Plaintiff and may not be the true facts.” (Doc. 26 at 1.) In response, Rogers agreed that 37 of the 39 paragraphs were accurate. (Doc. 33.) The summary below is thus derived from Defendants' statement of facts, with Rogers's two objections denoted in footnotes.

         Rogers was employed at GateWay as the Coordinator of Student Success Programs in charge of the Disability Resources & Services Office (“DRS Office”). (Doc. 26 ¶ 2.) In that role, he was responsible for identifying student needs relating to disabilities, providing mandatory services (including issuing accommodations), and serving as an advocate for disabled students. (Id.)

         Rogers alleges he was subjected to a hostile work environment by faculty and administrators. (Id. ¶ 6.) Rogers had been promised a job teaching a social work class but was not hired because the faculty “did not like” him and because of his position as the manager of the DRS Office. (Id. ¶ 7.) The public humiliation arising from this incident, coupled with the stress arising from the hostile work environment he endured, caused Rogers to suffer a heart attack on or about March 23, 2016. (Id. ¶ 8.)

         Sometime thereafter, Rogers returned to work. Rogers alleges he had a nervous breakdown and suffered cardiovascular incidences due to work-related stress. (Id. ¶ 10.)[1]On February 6, 2017, Rogers left work because he didn't feel well. (Id.) He hasn't returned to work at GateWay since then. (Id.)

         Rogers applied for and was granted FMLA leave retroactive to February 6, 2017. (Id. ¶ 12.) The following events occurred while Rogers was taking FMLA leave: (1) although Rogers's office “was not moved, ” Dr. Miranda told a coworker that she believed Rogers's office should be moved so that it “had a line of sight to the DRS front counter” (id. ¶ 19); (2) Dr. Miranda made numerous false and disparaging statements about Rogers, including comments to a coworker that Rogers had been insubordinate, had engaged in wrongdoing, had preexisting health problems, had told lies, and had done a poor job as the DRS coordinator (id. ¶¶ 33, 34, 36, 37, 39); (3) Defendants selected another GateWay employee to serve as the temporary supervisor of an ASU Internship program that Rogers had created, but Rogers “could have resumed his place as [supervisor] in the program” had he returned to GateWay (id. ¶¶ 20-21); (4) four ASU interns were placed in departments other than the DRS Office because they expressed a desire to work in other departments (id. ¶ 22); and (5) Dr. Miranda instructed a coworker to remove Rogers's personal items (a coffee mug, framed photos, and a coffee warmer) from Rogers's office and put them into storage (id. ¶ 23). Since beginning his FMLA leave, Rogers hasn't had any direct communication with Dr. Miranda or Dr. Wise. (Id. ¶ 11.)

         On June 29, 2017, Defendants received a notice of claim letter from Rogers. (Id. ¶ 24.)

         On June 30, 2017, Rogers exhausted his FMLA leave. (Id. ¶ 12.) However, Rogers's doctor indicated that Rogers couldn't return to work due to physical and/or mental impairments. (Id.) Therefore, Rogers began taking ADA leave. (Id.)

         On July 1, 2017, Rogers supplemented the notice of claim letter. (Id.)

         On October 4, 2017, Rogers filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC and attached a letter to the charge. (Id. ¶ 25.)[2]

         On or about October 6, 2017, Rogers began working with the District's human resource representatives in an attempt to locate a vacant position to assume when he became capable of returning to work. (Id. ¶ 27.)

         On November 30, 2017, the EEOC terminated its investigation and issued a right to sue letter to Rogers. (Id. ¶ 30.)

         DISCUSSION

         I. Le ...


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