212 F.3d 638 (1st Cir. 2000), 98-2291, A-Ayala v. Lederle Parenterals, Inc. et al.

Docket Nº:98-2291
Citation:212 F.3d 638
Party Name:ZENAIDA GARC A-AYALA, Plaintiff, Appellant, v. LEDERLE PARENTERALS, INC., ET AL., Defendants, Appellees.
Case Date:May 18, 2000
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
 
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212 F.3d 638 (1st Cir. 2000)

ZENAIDA GARC A-AYALA, Plaintiff, Appellant,

v.

LEDERLE PARENTERALS, INC., ET AL., Defendants, Appellees.

No. 98-2291

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

May 18, 2000

Heard November 2, 1999

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Carlos M. Vergne Vargas, with whom Limeres, Vergne & Duran was on brief, for appellant.

Graciela J. Belaval, with whom Martinez, Odell & Calabria was on brief, for appellees.

Barbara L. Sloan, with whom C. Gregory Stewart, General Counsel, Philip B. Sklover, Associate General Counsel, Vincent J. Blackwood, Assistant General Counsel, and Jodi B. Danis, Attorney, were on brief, for amicus curiae Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Before: Lynch, Circuit Judge, Campbell, Senior Circuit Judge, and O'Toole, District Judge.[*]

LYNCH, Circuit Judge.

Zenaida Garc¡a-Ayala appeals an order granting summary judgment for her former employer, Lederle Parenterals, Inc., in a suit that alleges wrongful termination and demands injunctive relief and compensatory and punitive damages under the Americans with Disabilities Act. See Garc¡a-Ayala v. Lederle Parentals, Inc., 20 F.Supp.2d 312, 313 (D.P.R. 1998). The district court held that Garc¡a was not a "qualified individual" under the Act because the accommodation she requested from her employer was not "reasonable." See id. at 315. We reverse and direct entry of judgment for the plaintiff.

I.

The parties stipulated to the following facts. Garc¡a worked for Lederle Parenterals, Inc. as a secretary from October 1983 to June 13, 1996, when her employment was terminated. Most recently, she was the only clerical employee in the company's Validation Department.

Lederle's disability benefits program provides that an employee may receive up to fourteen continuous weeks of salary continuation and then short-term disability benefits (STD) at sixty percent of full salary. Under the plan, an employee could be absent from work for a twenty-six week period, work another two weeks, and then be out for an additional twenty-six weeks for the same disability. During her employment at Lederle, Garc¡a used the salary continuation and short-term disability

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benefits on fourteen separate occasions, in addition to her sick leave. Lederle had a policy of reserving a job for one year when employees had been out on STD. It applied that policy and terminated Garc¡a's employment after her one-year reservation period ended.

Since 1986, Garc¡a has been stricken with breast cancer and has undergone several rounds of surgery and chemotherapy. From March 15, 1987 to September 16, 1987, she was absent from work for 184 days as a result of a modified radical mastectomy. During this period, she received salary continuation benefits for fourteen weeks, and then short-term disability for the remainder. From September 1987 until 1993 she was back at work. Six years later, in August 1993, a biopsy revealed adenocarcinoma of the breast, infiltrating duct type, persistent, and, as a result, Garc¡a was absent for 115 days. She then returned to work.

In December 1994, Garc¡a was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma of the breast, metastatic. On March 17, 1995, she underwent surgery to remove a nodule in her neck. Before that surgery, Garc¡a used up her sick leave and was absent from work for a total of eighty-eight and a half hours. Following surgery, she received short-term disability benefits for thirty-four consecutive days. In May, she took an additional forty-six hours of leave. From June 9 through 25, 1995, she received salary continuation benefits in relation to the medical condition.

Sometime after her surgery, Garc¡a saw a television report on a bone marrow transplant procedure that offered a treatment for her cancer. She was interviewed by doctors in June 1995 and Garc¡a informed Lederle in July that she needed to undergo this procedure, which was only available at a Chicago hospital. From August 7 through 20, 1995, she was absent due to chemotherapy (for which she took nineteen hours sick leave and short-term disability). From September 13 through 27, 1995, she was again absent due to treatment (eight hours sick leave/fifteen days of short-term disability). In October 1995, Garc¡a took eleven and one-half hours of sick leave.

Garc¡a was hospitalized for the bone marrow treatment on November 14, 1995. She received STD payments until March 19, 1996. As of that date, she started receiving long-term disability (LTD). Lederle did not consider her to be an employee once she was on LTD. On April 9, 1996, doctors certified to Lederle that Garc¡a would be able to return to work on July 30, 1996.

On June 10, 1996, Lederle's Human Resources Director, Aida Margarita Rodr¡guez, called Garc¡a at home and asked her to come to work to meet with her. Garc¡a complied and Rodr¡guez notified her that the company deemed her disability to have begun in March 1995, that her one-year period for job reservation had elapsed in March 1996, and that her employment was terminated. Garc¡a asked that her job be reserved until July 30th, when her doctors expected her to return to work, but to no avail. On June 13th, Lederle sent Garc¡a a letter confirming her conversation with Rodr¡guez and denying her request for additional leave.

As it turned out, although Garc¡a had requested an accommodation until July 30th, it was on August 22, 1996 that Garc¡a's doctors released her for work, though they did not notify Lederle of this and Garc¡a did not re-apply for employment.

Garc¡a's essential job functions did not go unfilled. At least three different temporary employees provided by agencies performed Garc¡a's tasks at Lederle during her medical leave and after her dismissal. Indeed, from June 13, 1996, to January 31, 1997, a period of over seven months from Garc¡a's dismissal, the company chose to use temporary employees. The company says her position was never filled by a permanent employee. There was no evidence that the temporary employees cost Lederle any more than Garc¡a

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would have or that their performance was in any way unsatisfactory.

II.

On May 16, 1997, Garc¡a brought suit against Lederle, its parent companies, American Home Products Corp. and American Cynamid Co., and others for alleged violations of the ADA and Puerto Rico Act No. 44 of July 2, 1985, P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 1, §§ 501 et seq., as a result of the termination of her employment following surgery for breast cancer. She seeks back pay, reinstatement (or "front pay"), injunctive relief from future discrimination, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorney's fees. On March 30, 1998, the parties submitted a stipulation of material facts together with a Motion Submitting Stipulation of Uncontested Material Facts and Legal Controversies. On September 28, 1998, the court granted Lederle's cross-motion for summary judgment, denied Garc¡a's motion for summary judgment, declined to exercise its supplemental jurisdiction over Garc¡a's claim under Act 44, and dismissed the case. See Garc¡a-Ayala, 20 F.Supp.2d at 313.1 Garc¡a appeals.

III.

There is some disagreement as to what happened at the trial court and, resultantly, as to the standard of review to be applied by this court on an appeal from summary judgment entered after cross-motions. Citing Reich v. John Alden Life Insurance Co., 126 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir. 1997), and United Paperworkers International Union, Local 14 v. International Paper Co., 64 F.3d 28, 31 (1st Cir. 1995), both Lederle and Garc¡a have argued that clear-error review should apply to the factual inferences made by the district court since the decision below was based on stipulated facts and made on cross-motions for summary judgment.2 But seeWightman v. Springfield Terminal Ry. Co., 100 F.3d 228, 230 (1st Cir. 1996) ("Cross motions for summary judgment neither alter the basic Rule 56 standard, nor warrant the grant of summary judgment per se.").

The EEOC, appearing as amicus curiae urges de novo review, the customary standard for appellate review of summary judgment. The district court opinion in this jury-claimed case does not discuss whether there was a waiver of jury trial rights or a stipulation under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 39(a)(1),3 or whether it was resolving the matter on a jury-waived and a "case stated" basis or on conventional summary judgment; the order entered was for summary judgment (although the opinion once used the phrase "The Court finds"). Out of the confusion, we think it wise to reiterate a few basics.

For the purposes of standard of appellate review in these circumstances, there is usually a distinction between non-jury and jury cases. This circuit, in United Paperworkers, held that:

[i]n a nonjury case, when the basic dispute between the parties concerns only the factual inferences that one might draw from the more basic facts to which the parties have agreed, and where neither party has sought to introduce additional factual evidence or asked to present witnesses, the parties are, in

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effect, submitting their dispute to the court as a case stated.

Id. (internal quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added). We have reached the same result in other non-jury cases. See Reich, 126 F.3d at 6; EEOC v. Steamship Clerks Union 1066, 48 F.3d 594, 603 (1st Cir. 1995); Continental Grain Co. v. Puerto Rico Maritime Shipping Auth., 972 F.2d 426, 429-30 & n.7 (1st Cir. 1992); Boston Five Cents Savings Bank v. Secretary of the Dep't of Housing & Urban Dev., 768 F.2d 5, 11-12 (1st Cir. 1985); Federacion de Empleados del Tribunal Gen. de Justicia v. Torres, 747 F.2d 35, 36 (1st Cir. 1984); cf. Posadas de Puerto Rico, Inc. v. Radin, 856 F.2d 399, 400-01...

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