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Myers v. Sodexo

March 9, 2010

JOY DENISE MYERS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SODEXO, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael M. Mihm United States District Judge

ORDER

This matter is now before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Summary Judgment [#31] is GRANTED.

JURISDICTION

The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as the claims asserted arise pursuant to the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12112, et seq.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Defendant, Sodexo, Inc. ("Sodexo"), operates a cafeteria at Eureka College, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner to students and faculty every day, with the exception of certain school breaks and holidays. During each meal, Sodexo employs a checker who is responsible for taking care of the dining room, restocking coffee/juice/bagels/bread/ condiments, wiping down tables and chairs, tidying up the dining room, and checking-in the students and faculty. To check-in guests, the checker either accepts cash or swipes a pre-paid card from the patrons, with each swipe taking only a few seconds and cash transactions taking only slightly longer. By the time of the 2007-08 school year at issue in this case, most of the transactions were handled by swiping the pre-paid cards.

Plaintiff, Joy Denise Myers ("Myers"), was employed by Sodexo as a checker from approximately 1990 to March 11, 2008. Prior to the 2007-08 school year, Myers had worked Monday through Friday from 6:00am to 2:00pm with a 15-minute paid break and a 30-minute meal break. Breakfast was served from 7:15am to 9:00am, and lunch was served from 10:45am to 12:45am, but there was often downtime during these meal periods when there were no students or faculty to check-in. The checker would sit at a desk and check-in diners, while another employee served as a runner to take care of the other duties in the dining room identified above. During the time that a meal was not being served, Myers was responsible for cleaning the dining room, restocking items, and getting the dining room ready for the next meal.

The employee who had worked as the runner during Myers' shifts quit at the end of the 2006-2007 school year, and Sodexo chose not to replace her because business had declined to the point that it was unprofitable to maintain two employees for the dining room. As a result, when the 2007-2008 school year commenced, the runner's duties were distributed among four other employees, including Myers. As a result of this change, Myers was the only employee who worked in the dining room during the breakfast and lunch periods during the weekdays. All checkers no longer just checked-in diners, but also had to wipe tables, counters, and chairs, restock food and drink items, and take care of the dining room. All checkers worked behind a podium without a chair when checking in diners; no checker had a chair.

Upon returning to work after the summer break in August 2007, Myers noticed that there was no longer a chair at the checker's station. She told Kathy Moore ("Moore"), Sodexo's General Manager at Eureka College, that she could not stand for very long and wanted the chair back. Sodexo then requested information about Myers' need for a chair. Myers brought in a note from Dr. Amy Zacharias stating, "Please allow patient to sit during student check-in due to medical illness." Upon receiving this note, Sodexo requested additional information regarding Myers' illness and sitting requirements. Myers responded with a second note from Dr. Zacharias stating, "Patient has a [diagnosis of] fibromyalgia and due to this[,] patient has difficulty standing for long periods of time. Please allow patient to sit 1 hour in am and 2 hours at lunch until further recommendations can be made by rheumatologist. Patient will be seeing him in next several weeks."

On September 6, 2007, Myers met with Harold Taegel, Sodexo's Senior Director of Labor Relations and a union representative regarding Dr. Zacharias' notes. During the meeting, Myers' request for a chair to sit in during check-in was denied. However, the parties created a work schedule that would allow her to work from 6:30 am to 3:45 pm with a one-hour sitting break in the morning and a two-hour sitting break at lunch. Myers was not happy with this accommodation but agreed to try the new schedule.

On September 10, 2007, Myers provided a third note from Dr. Zacharias stating, "Patient has fibromyalgia and I would recommend she be allowed to sit intermittently during 7:15-9 am breakfast period and 10:45-12:45 lunch period to check students in. It is not necessary to sit for a consecutive period of time." Sodexo again declined to provide her with a chair to sit in during check-in, but modified her schedule to work 6:30 am to 2:45 pm with five 10-minute breaks spread intermittently throughout the day, in addition to her usual 15 minute break and 30 minute meal break. Myers remained unhappy with this schedule, as she wanted to go back to her 6:00 am to 2:00 pm schedule and be able to sit while checking in students during the breakfast and lunch hours.

Myers then brought in a note dated September 19, 2007, from Cyndee Dickinson, a nurse in her rheumatologist's office, stating, "Resume normal 6 am - 2 pm work schedule. Due to fibromyalgia, sit as needed." In another meeting attended by Myers, Jeff Lataille ("Lataille"), Sodexo's District Manager, and a union representative, Sodexo again declined to provide her with a chair to sit during check-in, but rather returned her to the 6:00 am to 2:00 pm work schedule and allowed her to take sitting breaks as needed. She remained unsatisfied but again agreed to try the new schedule.

Myers took several medical leaves during this semester. After returning from these leaves, she was still unhappy with Sodexo's attempt to accommodate her needs. Accordingly, in March 2008, Myers provided a note from her rheumatologist, Dr. Mark Getz, stating, "Sit as needed during work schedule." On March 11, 2008, Myers, Lataille, Moore, and union representatives attended another meeting to discuss this request. At this meeting, Sodexo offered her several options: (1) a lateral transfer to a job in the dish room where she could sit whenever she wanted without needing to find someone to replace her; (2) staying in her checker job and receiving up to two more breaks in addition to her 30 minute lunch break and her 15 minute break where she could sit; (3) reducing her work schedule to 20 hours per week so her workdays would be shorter; and (4) allowing her to go home if she believed she was not well enough to do her job. Following the meeting, Myers ended the dialog to establish an appropriate accommodation, went on extended medical leave, and never returned to work.

On or about June 6, 2008, Myers applied for Social Security Disability Income ("SSDI") benefits because she believed she was unable to work. She was deemed totally disabled and received an award of SSDI benefits. Myers is unable to work at all outside the home in ...


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