Criado v. IBM Corp., Nos. 97-1341

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore STAHL; GODBOLD
Citation145 F.3d 437
Parties8 A.D. Cases 336, 13 NDLR P 2 Elizabeth CRIADO, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. IBM CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee. IBM CORPORATION, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Elizabeth CRIADO, Defendant-Appellee. . Heard
Docket Number97-1342,Nos. 97-1341
Decision Date08 October 1997

Page 437

145 F.3d 437
8 A.D. Cases 336, 13 NDLR P 2
Elizabeth CRIADO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
IBM CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee.
IBM CORPORATION, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Elizabeth CRIADO, Defendant-Appellee.
Nos. 97-1341, 97-1342.
United States Court of Appeals,
First Circuit.
Heard Oct. 8, 1997.
Decided June 5, 1998.

Page 439

Jeffrey G. Huvelle, with whom Michael A. Dawson, Covington & Burling, Alfredo M. Hopgood and McConnell Valdes were on brief for appellant IBM Corporation.

Enrique J. Mendoza-Mendez, with whom Mendoza & Bac was on brief for appellee Elizabeth Criado.

Before STAHL, Circuit Judge, GODBOLD * and CYR, Senior Circuit Judges.

GODBOLD, Senior Circuit Judge.

The defendant IBM Corporation appeals from a final judgment in favor of plaintiff Elizabeth Criado on her claim that her employment with IBM was terminated in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12112, and the Puerto Rico Indemnity Law, 29 L.P.R.A. § 185a-d. IBM questions the sufficiency of the evidence in numerous respects. By cross-appeal Criado questions elements of the damage award in her favor. 1

I. Factual and Procedural History

The jury was entitled to find the following facts, either as undisputed or based on sufficient evidence.

Elizabeth Criado relocated to Puerto Rico from New York in 1987 to assume a full-time position in IBM's marketing department. From 1987 to 1993 she performed her job very well, often receiving commendations and

Page 440

recognition for surpassing marketing and sales goals. During this period Criado was under the care of a psychiatrist, Dr. Michael Woodbury, who diagnosed her with Attention Deficit Disorder and treated her for an anxiety disorder and bouts of depression. Although the bouts of depression often required temporary medication, none was so severe that it required Criado to take a leave of absence.

In 1994 Criado's mental impairment worsened as the result of both personal and professional stressors. She was married in January of 1994. Her new husband had five children from a previous marriage, some of whom resided with Criado and her husband. In May a new manager, Kathy Lee, replaced Criado's former supervisor. Lee's managerial style was more formal and rigid than Criado's previous supervisors, and Criado considered her inept. All of these factors caused Criado's condition to degenerate rapidly.

By June of 1994 Criado's anxiety disorder and depression had worsened to the point that she began to request accommodations for her condition. Dr. Woodbury, her doctor, suggested that she take a disability leave so that he could treat her condition, give her time to recuperate, and experiment with possible medication if needed. He thought that if Criado were granted a one-month leave he could ameliorate her condition to the point that she could return to work and once again be a productive employee despite her illness. Following IBM's procedure he requested a disability leave for Criado to begin June 22, but it was not until mid-July that the leave was granted. IBM's medical department only granted leave through August 1 because that was the date originally requested by Dr. Woodbury.

Criado was not well enough to return to work in August, and Dr. Woodbury tried to convey this information by fax to IBM's medical unit in New York, by sending evaluations dated August 4 and 12. The parties dispute whether IBM received the August 12 fax, although evidence showed that Woodbury's office made a one-minute telephone call to IBM's medical department fax number on August 12, indicating that a fax was transmitted. Woodbury tried to make sure that all communication concerning Criado was between himself and IBM, because he thought that Criado's treatment depended on her isolation from IBM affairs. However, supervisor Lee continued to contact Criado directly, and on August 17 she informed Criado that her leave of absence had not been extended past August 1, and, because she had failed to return to work, her employment with IBM had been terminated. Subsequent to this termination letter, Dr. Woodbury wrote IBM asking that it reconsider Criado's termination. He attached his evaluations dated August 4 and August 12. He continued to say that Criado's condition would improve enough for her to return to work if she were given more time away from IBM. He also informed IBM that the termination letter had worsened Criado's condition.

IBM describes Criado's termination as a misunderstanding of the fact that she, through the doctor, was seeking additional leave time after the three-week leave expired, which arguably related to Dr. Woodbury's efforts to pass information by fax to IBM's medical department in New York. But, assuming the faxes did not reach the medical department, it is undisputed that Dr. Woodbury by subsequent letter sent information on Criado's condition and requested reconsideration of her termination. IBM refused to reconsider Criado's termination, and on August 28, 1995, she filed suit against IBM alleging that it had discharged her in violation of the ADA and the Puerto Rico Indemnity Law.

A jury returned a verdict in favor of Criado on her federal and state claims, and awarded her $200,000 in compensatory damages, $209,139 for back pay, $46,384 for front pay, and $250,000 in punitive damages. The $450,000 in compensatory and punitive damages were reduced to $300,000 pursuant to a statutory damages cap found at 42 U.S.C. § 1981(b)(3)(D). The court did not award prejudgment interest or order IBM to reinstate Criado. After the parties filed a series of post-trial motions the district court decided to reconsider the issue of reinstatement and held an evidentiary hearing to determine whether it had erred in failing to order IBM

Page 441

to reinstate Criado. After this hearing the court determined that Criado's position had been eliminated in 1995 so that reinstatement was not warranted. The court further found that it would not order Criado's reinstatement to an alternate position because of her past antagonistic relationship with supervisors. Also, the court denied Criado's motion asking for an award of pre-judgment interest.

Each party filed a timely notice of appeal from the judgment, and the appeals were consolidated. We affirm the district court on all issues raised by IBM and Criado.

II. IBM's Appeal

A. Issues and standards of review

At times IBM presents its issues as though purely turning on questions of law, but the central issue involves sufficiency of the evidence as raised by a Rule 50(b) motion. IBM asserts that Criado did not present sufficient evidence (1) that she has a disability; (2) that she was a qualified individual; (3) that the accommodation she requested was reasonable; and (4) that her employment was terminated because of a disability.

When examining denial of a motion for a judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(b) we review de novo the sufficiency of the evidence. However, we employ the same determinative standards utilized by the district court. We cannot evaluate "the credibility of witnesses, resolve conflicts in testimony, or evaluate the weight of evidence," and we must affirm unless "the evidence, viewed from the perspective most favorable to the nonmovant, is so one-sided that the movant is plainly entitled to judgment, for reasonable minds could not differ as to the outcome." Gibson v. City of Cranston, 37 F.3d 731, 735 (1st Cir.1994) (citations omitted).

IBM questions the damages awarded to Criado, including the awards of front and back pay and the assessment of punitive damages. Deciding whether to uphold a jury's award of damages is within the district court's discretion, and we will not disturb this discretion unless we find "strong evidence of a lapse in judgment." Selgas v. American Airlines, Inc., 104 F.3d 9, 12 (1st Cir.1997); see also Fishman v. Clancy, 763 F.2d 485, 489-90 (1st Cir.1985) (juries have wide discretion in determining the amount of punitive damages, and the trial court has broad discretion to affirm the jury's award of damages).

B. Criado's burden under the ADA

The ADA provides that "[n]o covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability...." 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). To prevail on an unlawful discrimination claim under the ADA a plaintiff must prove three things by a preponderance of the evidence: first, she must show that she was disabled within the meaning of the Act; second, she must prove that with or without reasonable accommodation she was a qualified individual able to perform the essential functions of the job; and third, she must show that the employer discharged her because of her disability. Jacques v. Clean-Up Group, Inc., 96 F.3d 506, 511 (1st Cir.1996).

Under the ADA, the term "discriminate" embodies "not making reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability ... unless such covered entity can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business of such covered entity." 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(5)(A). The ADA defines "qualified individual with a disability" as "an individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position that such individual holds or desires." Id. § 12111(8). The Act recognizes that a reasonable accommodation may include "job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules," and other similar accommodations. Id. § 12111(9)(B).

C. Criado's disability

IBM contends that the court should have granted its motion for judgment as a matter of law because Criado's impairment is not a disability as defined by the ADA. The ADA defines disability as:

Page 442

(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual;

(B) a record of such an...

To continue reading

Request your trial
161 practice notes
  • Laporta v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 4:00CV50.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • May 22, 2001
    ...argument. 155 F.3d at 783-84. The Sixth Circuit specifically relied upon and discussed the First Circuit decision in Criado v. IBM Corp., 145 F.3d 437 (1st Cir.1998), in which the court rejected an assertion by the employer that it fired the employee because of "`her failure to report to wo......
  • Davis v. Lausd Personnel Com'n, No. B188435.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • June 28, 2007
    ...to take advantage opportunistically of company benefits." (Criado v. IBM Corp. (D.P.R.1997) 962 F.Supp. 262, 264, affd. (1st Cir.1998) 145 F.3d 437, italics added.) Davis mistakenly relies on Government Code section 31725 for the proposition that he should have been reinstated regardless of......
  • Taylor v. Rice, No. 05-5257.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 27, 2006
    ...additional unpaid leave for necessary treatment [and] making employer provided transportation accessible"); see also Criado v. IBM Corp., 145 F.3d 437, 443 (1st Cir.1998); Hudson v. MCI Telecomms. Corp., 87 F.3d 1167, 1168-69 (10th Cir.1996). This is precisely what Taylor proposes doing, an......
  • Calef v. Gillette Co., No. 02-1444.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • March 11, 2003
    ...in whole or in part, because Page 91 of his disability. See Carroll v. Xerox Corp., 294 F.3d 231, 237 (1st Cir.2002); Criado v. IBM Corp., 145 F.3d 437, 441 (1st Cir.1998). The ADA defines the term "disability" as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
161 cases
  • Laporta v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 4:00CV50.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • May 22, 2001
    ...argument. 155 F.3d at 783-84. The Sixth Circuit specifically relied upon and discussed the First Circuit decision in Criado v. IBM Corp., 145 F.3d 437 (1st Cir.1998), in which the court rejected an assertion by the employer that it fired the employee because of "`her failure to report to wo......
  • Davis v. Lausd Personnel Com'n, No. B188435.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • June 28, 2007
    ...to take advantage opportunistically of company benefits." (Criado v. IBM Corp. (D.P.R.1997) 962 F.Supp. 262, 264, affd. (1st Cir.1998) 145 F.3d 437, italics added.) Davis mistakenly relies on Government Code section 31725 for the proposition that he should have been reinstated regardless of......
  • Taylor v. Rice, No. 05-5257.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 27, 2006
    ...additional unpaid leave for necessary treatment [and] making employer provided transportation accessible"); see also Criado v. IBM Corp., 145 F.3d 437, 443 (1st Cir.1998); Hudson v. MCI Telecomms. Corp., 87 F.3d 1167, 1168-69 (10th Cir.1996). This is precisely what Taylor proposes doing, an......
  • Calef v. Gillette Co., No. 02-1444.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • March 11, 2003
    ...in whole or in part, because Page 91 of his disability. See Carroll v. Xerox Corp., 294 F.3d 231, 237 (1st Cir.2002); Criado v. IBM Corp., 145 F.3d 437, 441 (1st Cir.1998). The ADA defines the term "disability" as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT