969 F.Supp. 99 (D.Conn. 1997), 3 93 CV 2423, Motta v. Meachum

Docket Nº3 93 CV 2423
Citation969 F.Supp. 99
Party NameMotta v. Meachum
Case DateMay 15, 1997
CourtUnited States District Courts, 2nd Circuit, District of Connecticut

Page 99

969 F.Supp. 99 (D.Conn. 1997)

Elaine C. MOTTA

v.

Larry R. MEACHUM.

No. 3:93 CV 2423 (JGM).

United States District Court, D. Connecticut.

May 15, 1997

Page 100

Rebecca M. Vicente, Soycher & Winslow, Bloomfield, CT, Judith D. Meyer, Avon, CT, for plaintiff.

Margaret Quilter Chapple, Sharon M. Hartley, Terrance M. O'Neill, Attorney General's Office, Hartford, CT, for defendant.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

MARGOLIS, United States Magistrate Judge.

On December 7, 1993, plaintiff Elaine Motta commenced this action pursuant to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. ["the Act"], against defendant Larry Meachum, claiming defendant discriminated against her on the basis of her disabilities and failed to provide reasonable accommodations to permit her to perform her job. Plaintiff amended her complaint on June 13, 1995. (Dkt.# 35).

This file was referred to this Magistrate Judge for all proceedings on August 28, 1995. (Dkt.# 36). The parties consented to proceed to trial before this Magistrate Judge on October 27, 1995. (Dkt.# 38). On May 20, 1996, the parties filed a forty-one-paragraph Stipulation of Facts and Law ["Stip."]. (Dkt.# 47, § 5, pp A-Z, AA-HH.1-7). 1 A court trial was held for five days, on May 28-31, 1996 and June 4, 1996. (Dkt.# # 49-58). 2 On July 22, 1996, defendant filed his post-trial brief. (Dkt.# 65). On July 22, 1996, plaintiff filed her proposed findings of facts and post-trial brief. (Dkt. # # 66-67). On August 27 and 29, 1996, defendant and plaintiff, respectively, filed their reply briefs. (Dkt.# # 71-72).

For the reasons stated below, judgment shall enter for defendant.

I. FINDINGS OF FACT

The following constitutes the court's findings of fact, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a):

At all times relevant to the complaint, defendant Larry R. Meachum was Commissioner

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of Corrections of the State of Connecticut, and was the chief executive officer of the Connecticut Department of Corrections ["DOC"] with the ultimate authority for the hiring, promotion, transfer and training of all employees within the DOC; he further was responsible for controlling and supervising all operations and facilities of the DOC. (Stip.¶ B).

Plaintiff Elaine C. Motta began working for the DOC in or about August 1991 as a Social Worker Trainee, and was assigned to the Hartford Correctional Center ["HCC"]. (Stip.¶ D). During this time period, HCC was classified as a Level IV facility. (Stip.¶ X). However, HCC also houses Level V inmates, who are "probably the most violent inmate[s] in the state." (Hoffman Tr. at 52-53). Level V inmates generally are housed on the third floor of the facility. (Hoffman Tr. at 65-67).

In her job application in July 1991, plaintiff reported that she was not handicapped. (Stip.¶ Y). When plaintiff began working for DOC, she was healthy and was not aware that she had any physical problems at that time. (Stip.¶ BB). Plaintiff was not required to undergo a preplacement physical examination. (Houser Tr. at 17-18, 31-32). Plaintiff held the position of Social Worker Trainee for six months, performing certain of the essential functions of a Correctional Rehabilitation Service Officer ["CRSO"], without attending any training in self-defense or in how to deal with physical confrontations with inmates. (Stip.¶ U). During this time period, plaintiff had direct daily contact with inmates, meeting with them in their cell blocks, counseling area, school library, and even in the hallways. (Motta 5/28/96 Tr. at 6-7). In December 1991, plaintiff completed a six-week training program at the DOC's Center for Training and Staff Development. (Stip.¶ Z). The training received by plaintiff included courses in basic security skills, conflict management, use of force, emergency procedures, chemical agents, disciplinary procedures, restraint devices, hostage negotiation and survival, security skills, management of aggressive behavior, use of a 24-inch straight baton, cell extraction, defensive tactics, and assaults on officers. (Stip. ¶ AA. See also Exh. H; Houser Tr. at 112-14; Semple, Talbert & Sullivan Tr. at 6-9). 3

In May 1992, plaintiff reviewed the exam announcement for a CRSO I position. (Stip.¶ CC). In August 1992, plaintiff was promoted to the position of CRSO I. (Stip.¶ E). Plaintiffs daily activities as CRSO included, inter alia, counseling inmates, preparing case files, coordinating court appearances and doctors' appointments for inmates, and overseeing inmates' progress within educational and/or rehabilitative programs. (Stip. ¶ R. See also Exh. K). Plaintiff's job duties as a CRSO I at HCC included a "moderate" amount of walking and stair climbing. (Stip.¶ V). At the time, HCC had three floors and no transportation elevator; plaintiff routinely used the stairs to the second or third floors of the facility approximately two or three times in an average day. (Stip. ¶ W. See also Exh. 1 (under seal); Exh. F; Motta 5/28/96 Tr. at 11-27, 32-34; Motta 5/29/96 Tr. at 56-57, 58-69, 71-72, 76-83, 126-27, 128-30; cf. Hoffman Tr. at 8-9, 20-23, 27-28, 29-32, 44-46, 57-60; Semple, Talbert & Sullivan Tr. at 78-79, 80-83). Prior to her illness, plaintiff's average case load was "about 120" inmates,' although she estimated that she dealt with between twenty-five and a hundred inmates daily, in the administrative offices, counseling area, hospital area, hallways, and school. (Motta 5/2/96 Tr. at 76-77, 78-79).

One significant portion of plaintiff's responsibilities included the preparation of "objective classifications" for inmates, in which six or seven categories are analyzed by deriving information from the prison's computer, including severity of violence, escape risk, and vocational education of an inmate, to determine his overall risk score; usually this work was done in the administrative area of the prison, in which there is very limited

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contact with prisoners. (Motta 5/28/96 Tr. at 27-32, 77-78; Motta 5/29/96 Tr. at 69-70; Stahl & Rowan Tr. at 126-27; Houser Tr. at 70-72). Upon cross-examination, plaintiff was insistent that a counselor did not need to meet face-to-face with an inmate in order for him to review and sign his objective classification. (Motta 5/29/96 Tr. at 70-71). 4 There were two CRSO's at HCC whose primary assignments were the preparation of objective classifications--Michael Carter and Sister Donna Hoffman. (Motta 5/28/96 Tr. at 31-32, 46; Motta 5/29/96 Tr. at 85-87; Stahl & Rowan Tr. at 127-28; Hoffman Tr. at 3-7). Plaintiff estimated that approximately sixty percent of her time was spent on purely administrative matters which could be performed in the front offices. (Motta 5/28/96 Tr. at 76-77). 5

When plaintiff visited inmates in the residential areas, such as the tiers or dormitory, she would wear a body alarm provided to her by an officer in the center control area. (Motta 5/28/96 Tr. at 34-36; Motta 5/29/96 Tr. at 74). Plaintiff also utilized a body alarm which was effective only in the counseling area. (Motta 5/28/96 Tr. at 36; Motta 5/29/96 Tr. at 73-74. See also Hoffman Tr. at 25 (telephone in counseling area also serves as an alarm)). At the time, there were approximately nine to twelve CRSO's at HCC, who worked Mondays through Fridays, 8:30 a.m. through 3:45 p.m. (Motta 5/28/96 Tr. at 41; Stahl & Rowan Tr. at 116-17; Hoffman Tr. at 9-10; Semple, Talbert & Sullivan Tr. at 46). As previously mentioned, two worked exclusively in the administrative offices, four had offices in the dormitories, and the rest, including plaintiff, had offices in the counseling area. (Motta 5/28/96 Tr. at 42; Motta 5/29/96 Tr. at 71-72; Hoffman Tr. at 33-36). Plaintiff agreed, upon cross-examination, that one of the essential elements of being a counselor is the ability to meet face-to-face with the inmates being counseled, to derive "a feel" and "an understanding" for the inmates and their requests. (Motta 5/29/96 Tr. at 66-67). Sister Donna agreed that speaking and listening to inmates is "the most important function of the counseling job," which can take approximately seventy to eighty percent of a counselor's time. (Hoffman Tr. at 20-23. See also Hoffman Tr. at 39-40). 6 Sister Donna was not aware of any correctional counselor who had no inmate contact. (Hoffman Tr. at 49-50). Sister Donna testified that there were eight counseling offices off a larger reception area; on a given day, there could be as many as thirty to fifty inmates in this vicinity, usually without correctional officers present. (Hoffman Tr. at 33-36, 37). Sister Donna further estimated that as much as ninety to ninety-five percent of a counselor's contacts with inmates takes place outside the presence of correctional officers. (Hoffman Tr. at 48-49. See also Houser Tr. at 112). Even Level V inmates are brought to the counseling area, and can be left unaccompanied by a correctional officer. (Hoffman Tr. at 53).

During her career as a CRSO I, plaintiff never restrained an inmate, plaintiff was never physically attacked by an inmate, and she never saw or heard of another counselor physically attacked or in a physical confrontation with an inmate. (Motta 5/28/96 Tr. at 8, 40-41; Motta 6/4/96 Tr. at 12). In November 1992, plaintiff first learned that her job with DOC was considered "hazardous duty" when she received a "hazardous duty" bonus in the amount of her paycheck; she testified no mention was made of this at her interview for the job. (Motta 5/28196 Tr. at 8-9, 78; Motta 5/29/96 Tr. at 130-31). 7 According to

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a pension agreement between the State Employees' Bargaining Coalition and the State of Connecticut, dated January 17, 1990, a CRSO I position is designated as a hazardous duty position. (Exh. G; Houser Tr. at 160-61, 164).

Plaintiff testified that when a "Code 7" alarm or "all available...

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2 practice notes
  • Nugent v. St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital Center, 041807 NYSDC, 05 Civ. 5109
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Southern District of New York
    • April 18, 2007
    ...63 F.3d 131, 138 (2d Cir. 1995); accord Valentine v. Standard & Poor's, 50 F.Supp.2d 262, 287 (S.D.N.Y. 1999); Motta v. Meachum, 969 F.Supp. 99, 113 (D. Conn. 1997). An employer’s failure to provide a reasonable accommodation may constitute an adverse action under the ADA.16 42 U.S.C. §......
  • Morland v. Ghosh, 071514 ILNDC, 12 C 500
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 7th Circuit Northern District of Illinois
    • July 15, 2014
    ...Bowman v. University of Chicago Hospitals, 852 N.E.2d 383, 392 (1st Dist. 2006). [2] Milward v. Acuity Specialty Products Group, Inc., 969 F.Supp. 101, 113 (D. Mass. [3] Gonzalez v. Feinerman, 663 F.3d 311, 314 (7th Cir. 2011). ...
2 cases
  • Nugent v. St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital Center, 041807 NYSDC, 05 Civ. 5109
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Southern District of New York
    • April 18, 2007
    ...63 F.3d 131, 138 (2d Cir. 1995); accord Valentine v. Standard & Poor's, 50 F.Supp.2d 262, 287 (S.D.N.Y. 1999); Motta v. Meachum, 969 F.Supp. 99, 113 (D. Conn. 1997). An employer’s failure to provide a reasonable accommodation may constitute an adverse action under the ADA.16 42 U.S.C. §......
  • Morland v. Ghosh, 071514 ILNDC, 12 C 500
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 7th Circuit Northern District of Illinois
    • July 15, 2014
    ...Bowman v. University of Chicago Hospitals, 852 N.E.2d 383, 392 (1st Dist. 2006). [2] Milward v. Acuity Specialty Products Group, Inc., 969 F.Supp. 101, 113 (D. Mass. [3] Gonzalez v. Feinerman, 663 F.3d 311, 314 (7th Cir. 2011). ...