673 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2012), 10-2177, Sanchez-Rodriguez v. AT & T Mobility Puerto Rico, Inc.

Docket Nº:10-2177.
Citation:673 F.3d 1
Opinion Judge:TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Miguel S
Attorney:Juan Rafael Gonz
Judge Panel:Before TORRUELLA, BOUDIN, and DYK,[*] Circuit Judges.
Case Date:March 08, 2012
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
 
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673 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2012)

Miguel SÁNCHEZ-RODRÍGUEZ, Plaintiff, Appellant,

v.

AT & T MOBILITY PUERTO RICO, INC., Defendant, Appellee.

No. 10-2177.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit.

March 8, 2012

Heard July 25, 2011.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Juan Rafael González-Muñoz, with whom González Muñoz Law Offices, PSC, María E. Margarida-Franco, and Margarida Franco Law Office, were on brief for appellant.

Todd J. Shill, with whom John R. Martin, and Rhoads & Sinon LLP, were on brief for appellee.

Before TORRUELLA, BOUDIN, and DYK,[*] Circuit Judges.

TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff-Appellant Miguel Sánchez-Rodríguez (" Sánchez" ) appeals the district court's award of summary judgment to his employer, AT & T Mobility Puerto Rico, Inc. (" AT & T" ), on his claims of religious discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000a-2000e (" Title VII" ). Although we disagree with some aspects of the district court's decision, we conclude that the grant of summary judgment for AT & T was correct. We further conclude that the district court did not err in denying Sánchez's request for additional discovery in response to AT & T's motion for summary judgment.

I. Background

A. Facts

We recount the undisputed facts to which the parties stipulated in the district court.

Sánchez was hired by AT & T 1 in March of 2000 as an Installation Technician. In February of 2001, Sánchez transferred to a Retail Sales Consultant position in the Caguas-Cayey-Humacao-Fajardo sales region (" Caguas region" ), where he sold cellular telephones and accessories at service kiosks located in shopping centers. His yearly salary between 2003 and 2006 ranged from $23,129.59 to $26,425.47. Sánchez also earned yearly commissions ranging from $10,653.03 to $18,938.17.

During 2006 and 2007, AT & T staffed three hundred Retail Sales Consultants throughout Puerto Rico, including over forty in the Caguas region. Between September 2006 and June 2007, AT & T had hired over fifty-three Retail Sales Consultants, thirty of whom were full-time employees. These new hires included ten Retail Sales Consultants for the Caguas region, of whom five were full-time employees.

In September of 2006, Sánchez informed his supervisors and AT & T's Human Resources (" HR" ) department that he had become a Seventh Day Adventist. As a Seventh Day Adventist, Sánchez had a religious obligation to abstain from work on Saturdays and attend Sabbath services. Therefore, he requested an accommodation in his work schedule by being allowed to take Saturdays off. In October of 2006, Sánchez presented a letter from his church confirming and explaining his religious observance

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of the Sabbath. On approximately November 21, 2006, AT & T's HR department sent Sánchez a letter stating that his position necessitated that he work on rotating Saturday shifts and that it would be a hardship on AT & T to grant Sánchez his requested accommodation.

In lieu of a change in his schedule, AT & T offered Sánchez two different positions that would not require him to work on Saturdays: Representative 1 for Customer Service (" Rep 1" ) and Business Sales Specialist. The Rep 1 position typically required Saturday hours, but AT & T determined that it would not be a hardship to allow Sánchez to take Saturdays off. The Business Sales Specialist position did not require work on Saturdays or Sundays. The annual wages for the Rep 1 and Business Sales Specialist positions were $23,088 and $22,970, respectively. However, neither position offered the opportunity to earn commissions. Thus, Sánchez declined both offers, since his income would significantly decrease.

In early 2007, Sánchez applied for two other positions at AT & T in Puerto Rico, but was not interviewed for either position. In February of 2007, Sánchez presented another letter from his church confirming his observance of the Sabbath. Sánchez also filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) office in San Juan, Puerto Rico, alleging religious discrimination.

In March of 2007, Sánchez informed his supervisor that he had been trying to find co-workers who were willing to swap shifts with him and take his Saturday shifts, but that he was unable to do so. Sánchez stated that he was therefore forced to violate AT & T's attendance policy by not working his Saturday shifts. Sánchez's supervisor told him that working Saturdays was a requirement of his job. Sánchez's supervisor also notified AT & T's HR department about the situation.

On approximately April 5, 2007, AT & T's Director of HR sent Sánchez a letter. The letter described " working rotating shifts (including Saturdays)" as an " essential function" of Sánchez's position. The letter acknowledged that Sánchez had declined the two positions offered by AT & T because of the reduction in salary those positions would entail. The letter noted that Sánchez had continued to miss work on Saturdays, but that no adverse disciplinary action had been taken for these absences. However, it warned Sánchez that letting him miss work on Saturdays " [was] not an option for it undermine[d] the scheduling/attendance requirements." Therefore, the letter said that AT & T would start disciplining Sánchez for any additional Saturdays he missed.

The letter then stated:

It is important for the Company to maintain a neutral scheduling system and not to burden other employees into working more than their share of Saturdays, among others. In an effort to accommodate your necessities we are going to allow shift swaps with your co-workers. Be mindful that the Company cannot impose a shift swap on the employees. It would be in a voluntary fashion. We shall try this alternative for a period of two (2) months to determine whether it is workable or not.

You will need to be active in obtaining voluntaries. The Company will assist you in providing the employees schedules; allowing you to advertise your need for swaps on the bulleting board and in any other form that you deem necessary and is acceptable. After the conclusion of the two (2) months trial period, we shall meet to discuss the outcome and whether it gave us the needed results or whether other measures

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are needed to accommodate your needs.

There is no evidence in the parties' stipulation or anywhere in the record that AT & T ever actually gave Sánchez the " employees['] schedules."

In May of 2007, Sánchez informed the HR department that he could not find workers to swap shifts with him, and that he would therefore be absent on Saturdays. In response, that same month, Sánchez's supervisor placed him on active disciplinary status. The supervisor also warned Sánchez that further measures, including termination, would be taken if he continued to miss work on Saturdays. In the same month, Sánchez's supervisor also sent him eight emails advising him that his sales figures were below expectations.

In June of 2007, Sánchez applied for a Retail Sales Consultant position in Worcester, Massachusetts; Sánchez's application was rejected on the ground that he " did not meet basic qualifications" for the position, even though it was the same position he held in Puerto Rico. That same month, the HR department emailed Sánchez, again informing him that his absences would be subject to the attendance policy. Sánchez was asked to meet with HR to discuss his absenteeism, although the record does not indicate whether this meeting took place. Finally, on June 20, 2007, Sánchez tendered his letter of resignation, stating, " An opportunity had showed [sic] up I [sic] which I can have the Saturday[; ] in addition it represent[s] an opportunity for my professional growth."

B. Procedural History

On December 26, 2007, Sánchez filed a Complaint against AT & T in the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. Sánchez alleged religious discrimination in violation of Title VII. On April 16, 2008, Sánchez filed an Amended Complaint which added a claim under Title VII that AT & T retaliated against Sánchez for his February 2007 EEOC complaint.2

The district court issued a Case Management Order (" CMO" ) on July 30, 2008. Under the CMO, all discovery in the case had to be completed by April 30, 2009. The CMO also stated that any motion requesting an extension of the discovery deadline would have to be filed " well in advance of the deadline." Counsel for both sides participated in an Initial Scheduling Conference (" ISC" ) with the district court judge on September 26, 2008. The district judge told the parties to " see if [they] can come up with a Stipulation of Facts that would permit [them] to file Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment." However, the judge also told the parties: " In case you can't come up with a proposed Stipulation of Facts, then let me know, and then you can proceed with Discovery." In addition, the court ordered AT & T to provide certain discovery that Sánchez had requested, including information about Sánchez's earnings and about the salary in the other positions AT & T offered him.

After some additional discovery, but without any depositions having been taken, the parties filed a Joint Motion Submitting Stipulation of Facts (" Stipulation" ) on April 7, 2009. The Stipulation recounted the facts mentioned in Section I(A), supra. The parties then filed cross-motions for summary judgment on April 30, 2009, which was also the discovery deadline the district court had set. Although Sánchez had never previously asked for an extension

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of the discovery deadline, he now asked, in a footnote at the end of his motion, for additional discovery regarding...

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