116 F.3d 876 (D.C. Cir. 1997), 96-7089, Aka v. Washington Hosp. Center

Docket Nº:96-7089.
Citation:116 F.3d 876
Party Name:Etim U. AKA, Appellant, v. WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER, Appellee.
Case Date:June 20, 1997
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
 
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Page 876

116 F.3d 876 (D.C. Cir. 1997)

Etim U. AKA, Appellant,

v.

WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER, Appellee.

No. 96-7089.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

June 20, 1997

Argued March 31, 1997.

Karen LeCraft Henderson, Circuit Judge, filed opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (No. 94cv01281).

James L. Kestell, Washington, DC, argued the cause and filed the briefs, for appellant.

Henry Morris, Jr., argued the cause, for appellee, with whom Anne M. Hamilton and Stewart S. Manela, were on the briefs. Samuel K. Charnoff, Washington, DC, entered an appearance, for appellee.

Barbara L. Sloan, Attorney, Washington, DC, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, argued the cause and filed the brief, for amicus curiae.

Before: WALD, HENDERSON and TATEL, Circuit Judges.

Opinion for the Court filed by Circuit Judge WALD.

Opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part filed by Circuit Judge HENDERSON.

WALD, Circuit Judge:

On March 29, 1996, the district court granted summary judgment to Washington Hospital Center ("Washington Hospital") in this action alleging employment discrimination in hiring and transfer decisions based on disability, age, and national origin. See Aka v. Washington Hosp. Ctr., Civ. No. 94-1281, 1996 WL 435026 (D.D.C. March 29, 1996). The appellant, Etim U. Aka, now challenges that grant of summary judgment to Washington Hospital, as well as the denial of his own motion for summary judgment on one of his claims. We hold that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to Washington Hospital with regard to one of the challenged hiring decisions, and with regard to Aka's claim that Washington Hospital has failed to satisfy its obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. ("the ADA") to offer Aka a "reasonable accommodation" to his disability, and we remand the case for trial of these claims; we affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment to Washington Hospital with regard to Aka's remaining claims.

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I. BACKGROUND

Etim U. Aka, a 55-year-old man born and raised in Nigeria, began working for Washington Hospital as an Operation Room Orderly in 1972, two years after he emigrated from Nigeria to the United States. His orderly job, which involved transporting patients and other materials to and from Washington Hospital's operating room, required substantial amounts of heavy lifting and pushing. Aka worked as an orderly for Washington Hospital for twenty years, maintaining a good employment record and earning a Bachelor's Degree and a Master's Degree in Health Service Management to boot. As an orderly, Aka was a member of the bargaining unit represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 722.

Aka took a medical leave of absence beginning on August 22, 1991, giving diabetes as the reason. He returned to work on October 1, 1991, but then was hospitalized four days later, for a heart condition. Aka underwent bypass surgery in November, and was in rehabilitation for several months afterward. In late November, a Personnel Relations Representative from Washington Hospital visited Aka and advised him to apply for another medical leave of absence, which he did. Washington Hospital granted his request, retroactive to October 5, 1991. In April of 1992, Aka's doctor released him from the hospital and instructed him to avoid activity requiring more than a "light or moderate level of exertion." Aka sought a new job at the hospital which would be consistent with this limitation, but Washington Hospital informed him that none were available, and placed him on an eighteen-month "job-search leave" retroactive to April 7, 1992; this status permitted Aka to retain his seniority and to receive the preference accorded to Washington Hospital employees when competing for positions with non-employee applicants. (Had Aka instead continued on regular medical leave past October 5, 1992, Washington Hospital would at that point have been entitled under the collective bargaining agreement to treat Aka's leave of absence as a resignation.) The Personnel Relations Representative informed Aka that it was his responsibility to review Washington Hospital's job postings and to apply for any vacant jobs that interested him.

In early 1993, Aka applied for a Financial Manager position that paid a higher salary than his orderly position, but Washington Hospital did not give him an interview. The Personnel Relations Representative advised Aka to apply for lower-paying positions, specifically suggesting the positions of File Clerk and Unit Clerk. Aka applied for the position of Central Pharmacy Technician in May of 1993; this position involved a variety of clerical tasks related to the filling of prescriptions, such as patient census checks, charge processing, and stock replacement. Washington Hospital's Assistant Director of Pharmacy Clinical Services interviewed Aka for this position, but gave the job to employee Jaime Valenzuela instead.

In July of 1993, four vacancies opened up in the position of File Clerk. The File Clerk position entailed an array of clerical duties, such as updating insurance, preparing bills and reports, and classifying, indexing, and purging documents. Aka applied for these File Clerk positions in early July. Washington Hospital's Supervisor of Credit and Collections interviewed Aka for these positions, but did not select him for any of them; she instead selected two other employees and two non-employee applicants. Aka filed a grievance and complained to the union about the selection of non-employee applicants over employee applicants, which he believed violated the collective bargaining agreement, and the union filed a class grievance on this ground on behalf of Aka and another employee who had applied for these jobs. Before the Arbitrator ruled on these grievances, Washington Hospital agreed to remove the two non-employee hires from these jobs and replace them with employee applicants; but still did not give any of these positions to Aka. The union continued to press the grievances, however, and on November 17, 1994, the Arbitrator issued an opinion holding that Washington Hospital had not violated the collective bargaining agreement by choosing other employee applicants over Aka. The Arbitrator noted that the Union had "correctly" required Washington Hospital to remove the two outside hires because

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hiring them had violated the collective bargaining agreement, Joint Appendix ("J.A.") at 288, but held that Washington Hospital had sufficient reason to find that Aka had less relevant experience than the other employee applicants eventually selected for these jobs, and thus was not obliged by the collective bargaining agreement to give the job to Aka, despite his greater seniority. The Arbitrator acknowledged that Aka had "the necessary minimal qualifications to be considered for the job," had a "solid" evaluation and "good marks" for his ability to work with peers, and was "a highly intelligent and motivated man" who "could be expected to grasp the technical aspects of the job quite readily," but found that he had less experience in billing services and office clerical environments than the employee applicants who were selected. Id. at 289. Aka continued to apply for other posted positions, including File Clerk and Unit Clerk positions, but he was not invited to interview for any of these positions.

On June 9, 1994, Aka filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, alleging that Washington Hospital's failure to place him in the Central Pharmacy Technician or File Clerk positions constituted discrimination on the basis of his disability and national origin in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII") and the ADA 1; discrimination on the basis of his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. ("the ADEA"), and a failure to reinstate him after his medical leave in violation of the District of Columbia Family and Medical Leave Act, D.C. CODE ANN. § 36-1301 et seq. 2 The district court granted Washington Hospital's motion for summary judgment with regard to all of Aka's claims on March 29, 1996.

II. DISCUSSION

A party's motion for summary judgment on a claim should not be granted unless the moving party demonstrates that the other party has failed to present a genuine issue of material fact with regard to that claim, and that the movant is entitled to prevail as a matter of law. See FED.R.CIV.P. 56(C); WRIGHT ET AL., FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE § 2711, at 555 (2d ed.1983). When the party against whom summary judgment is granted appeals to this court, we review the trial court's grant of summary judgment de novo; we uphold the grant of summary judgment only if the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the party against whom summary judgment was granted, indicates that the non-moving party presented no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that on the basis of the record evidence no reasonable factfinder could have returned a verdict for the non-moving party. See, e.g., Tao v. Freeh, 27 F.3d 635, 638 (D.C.Cir.1994). If we find that, viewed in this light, the record indicates that the non-moving party has presented genuine issues of material fact relevant to the claim, we must reverse the grant of summary judgment and remand the matter so that the factfinder can resolve those issues.

Our review of grants of summary judgment on claims of employment discrimination involves two further considerations. First, because employment discrimination claims center on...

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