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Grzybek v. Canadian Pacific Railroad

June 20, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable David H. Coar


Plaintiff Lester Grzybek ("Grzybek" or "Plaintiff") brought this suit against Canadian Pacific Railroad ("Soo Line" or "Defendant"), based on an alleged discriminatory termination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. Now before this Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment, brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 (Docket No. 48). For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion is GRANTED.


Plaintiff alleges violations of his rights under the ADA. As such, this Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as it is a civil action arising under the laws of the United States. Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391, as a substantial part of the events giving rise to Plaintiffs' claim occurred in this federal judicial district.

Plaintiff Grzybek worked as a switchman at Soo Line. In this position, Grzybek moved railroad cars from track to track. Failure to do his job properly could have resulted in injury or death to Grzybek or other Soo Line employees. The switchman position is classified safety-sensitive by the Federal Railroad Administration.

In May 1996, Grzybek had a myocardial infarction. As a result, he underwent angioplasty. Following angioplasty, Grzybek was out of work for over a month. Upon returning to work, his workload increased. Grzybek attributes his ability to increase his workload to the fact that he felt so healthy. There were no job duties that Grzybek could not perform as a result of his angioplasty.

Following his angioplasty, Soo Line required Grzybek to provide annual updates regarding his cardiac health to verify his fitness for duty. These requests were based upon the determination of Dr. Daniel Janiga, Soo Line's Chief Medical Officer, that such updates were necessary.*fn1 Grzybek describes this new requirement as being "treated...differently" and receiving "limitations" as a result of his "perceived disability." (Pl.'s Facts Resp. ¶ 10.)

In August 1997, Soo Line requested that Mr. Grzybek provide it with medical records, EKG results, lab results, and information regarding any work-related restrictions Grzybek might have. Grzybek provided the requested information. In November 1998, Grzybek provided Soo Line a copy of lab test results from October 1998. Janiga asked Grzybek to also provide "office notes" from his most recent appointment with his doctor. Grzybek refused to provide the requested notes to Janiga, claiming that he thought that the request was "unreasonable." Specifically, in a December 22, 1998 letter, Grzybek stated: "I believe this to be not only an invasion of my privacy but find your request unnerving and unethical as an attempt to disrupt the confidentiality between my doctor and me." (Kern Aff. Ex. E.)

In response, Janiga's letter stated that a switchman is a safety sensitive position. He further explained that as Soo Line's Chief Medical Officer, it was his job to determine Grzybek's fitness for duty. Janiga stated that the office notes were needed to determine "whether you are or are not capable of performing the job given the work demands of your craft," and claimed that the request "is not an invasion of your privacy but simply ascertaining whether you are able to perform your job safely not only for your own safety but for the safety of your colleagues and the public." (Id. Ex. F.)

On January 29, 1999, Grzybek sent Janiga a letter stating that he had already sent a copy of a stress test from August 1997 and a blood cholesterol test from October 1998. Grzybek reiterated that he would not send any further medical information and that "continued harassment and intimidation with removal from service is inappropriate." On February 9, 1999, Janiga again responded in writing to Grzybek's refusal to provide the requested information regarding his cardiac condition. Janiga explained that while blood and cholesterol tests are helpful, such tests don't necessarily indicate what an individual's functional cardiac abilities are. According to Janiga, office notes in which the history and objective clinical findings are documented, or a narrative from an individual's physician, along with supplemental documentation such as a stress test and/or Echocardiogram, provide the best means of determining what an individual's functional cardiac abilities are.*fn2

Despite Janiga's explanation as to why he needed additional medical information, Grzybek still refused to provide it. Based on his continued refusals to provide the requested information, Soo Line removed Grzybek from service for approximately seventeen days without pay.

On February 9, 1999, Grzybek provided, "under protest," the requested information concerning his cardiac condition.

After Soo Line removed Grzybek from service for failure to provide his medical information, he filed a claim with his union seeking back pay for the time he was held out of service. This was eventually decided by the National Railroad Adjustment Board ("NRAB"). In pursuing his claim, Grzybek was represented by the General Chairman of his Union. A neutral arbitrator from the NRAB held that Soo Line was entitled to the medical information it sought and that Grzybek was not entitled to back pay for the days he was held out of work, finding:

It is well established that the Carrier has the right and responsibility to ensure that its active employees are physically able to safely perform their duties . . . Given the fact that [Mr. Grzybek] had suffered an acute myocardial infarction in 1996 which required surgery, we are not in a position to say that the Carrier's Chief Medical Officer acted unreasonably when he requested current information as to Mr. Grzybek's clinical status. Such information was clearly relevant in determining Mr. Grzybek's ongoing fitness for duty as a switchman. ... [Mr. Grzybek] had been informed that the carrier needed annually updated medical information. When he chose not to provide that information, the carrier had the right to medically disqualify the claimant from service until medical documentation of ...

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