Ennis v. National Ass'n of Business and Educational Radio, Inc., 94-1585

Citation53 F.3d 55
Decision Date15 May 1995
Docket NumberNo. 94-1585,94-1585
Parties, 4 A.D. Cases 589, 10 A.D.D. 113, 6 NDLR P 330 Joan M. ENNIS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BUSINESS AND EDUCATIONAL RADIO, INCORPORATED, Defendant-Appellee.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)

ARGUED: John Michael Bredehoft, Charlson & Bredehoft, P.C., Reston, VA, for appellant. James Joseph Kelley, II, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, Washington, DC, for appellee. ON BRIEF: Elaine C. Bredehoft, Linda G. Hill, Charlson & Bredehoft, P.C., Reston, VA, for appellant. Kevin P. McGlinchey, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, Washington, DC, for appellee.

Before HAMILTON and LUTTIG, Circuit Judges, and BUTZNER, Senior Circuit Judge.

Affirmed by published opinion. Judge LUTTIG wrote the opinion, in which Judge HAMILTON and Senior Judge BUTZNER joined.


LUTTIG, Circuit Judge:

Appellant, Joan M. Ennis, appeals from an order of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granting summary judgment in favor of appellee, the National Association of Business and Educational Radio ("NABER" or "the Association"), on Ennis' Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") claim. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.


In April 1990, NABER hired Joan Ennis as a bookkeeping clerk. At the time, Ennis was completing the admirable undertaking of adopting a child, Andrew Joshua or A.J., who was infected with the human immunodeficiency virus ("HIV"). A.J. remains asymptomatic to date. NABER's human resources manager knew of the adoption and encouraged Ennis to enroll A.J. in the Association's health plan. J.A. at 610-11.

NABER provides its customers with a service called "frequency coordination." When applications for frequency coordination are received, the mailroom sorts the checks or other payment information into groups of ten to twenty, and sends these "batches" to the bookkeeping section for entry; the application itself is sent to the data entry section for processing. Data entry clerks cannot process the application until bookkeeping records the payment information. Ennis' primary job function was to enter batches of check information into NABER's computer system.

NABER's management had numerous problems with Ennis' job performance. Memoranda to her personnel file document that supervisors repeatedly reprimanded Ennis about inaccuracies in data entry, excessive socializing, excessive personal phone calls, and tardiness. See, e.g., J.A. at 94, 98-101, 105, 106-07, 122.

In the Fall of 1992, Leigh Veshosky, Ennis' immediate supervisor since August of that year, instructed Ennis that each day she must enter at least two of the current day's batches for each of NABER's five divisions, before leaving for the evening at 5:15 p.m. J.A. at 122; 641-42.

On January 28, 1993, Veshosky learned that the data entry section was left idle because only one batch from the previous day was entered. As a result, NABER suspended Ennis for two-and-one-half days. Veshosky recorded the event in a memorandum to Ennis' file that concluded, "[s]hould she violate her job duties at any time in the future her employment may at that time, without further discussion or notification, be terminated." J.A. at 122-23.

Ennis filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") approximately two weeks later. She alleged that the January suspension was prompted by NABER's desire to have Ennis leave the Association so as to avoid the possibly catastrophic impact of A.J.'s condition on NABER's insurance rates.

In June 1993, in preparation for Ennis' annual performance appraisal, Veshosky reviewed her records to find that on three occasions during a thirty-day period (May 5, May 28, and June 4, 1993), Ennis failed to enter the batches as required. Veshosky also learned from "every data entry area that there were regularly numerous errors in [Ennis'] data entry." J.A. at 138-39. Veshosky memorialized in Ennis' file that these "specific items separately or together " demonstrated an unacceptable level of performance and, therefore, that Ennis would be terminated. J.A. at 139.

Ennis brought the instant action under Title I of the ADA, alleging that NABER suspended and terminated her because of her known association with her disabled son, in violation of 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12112(b)(4). 1 As she had averred before the EEOC, Ennis claims that NABER fired her to avoid the possibility of a catastrophic impact that A.J.'s illness might have caused on the Association's insurance rates. As evidence to support that alleged motive, Ennis proffers a memorandum from NABER's director of human resources to all employees, describing the Association's insurance coverage. The memorandum, dated December 29, 1992, notes that if the number of individuals electing coverage goes above fifty, premium increases will be based on the participant's actual expenses, rather than the current "pool" coverage; "[w]hat this translates to," the memo concludes, "is if we have a couple of very expensive cases, our rates could be more dramatically affected than they currently are." J.A. at 142. According to Ennis, this, and the fact that NABER's president recently had "the first of the 'couple of very expensive cases,' " Appellant's Br. at 18, confirm that the Association fired her because of her relationship with a disabled person. NABER responded that Ennis' discharge was in no way related to her son's condition or its insurance coverage, but solely the consequence of her poor work performance. The Association moved for summary judgment. After a hearing, the district court granted the motion on April 1, 1994. The court found that the McDonnell Douglas framework is applicable to an ADA claim and that Ennis had established a prima facie case of discrimination, but that she failed to present evidence, sufficient to create a triable issue, that the legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason that NABER proffered to explain Ennis' discharge was a pretext for discrimination. J.A. at 699-704. Ennis now appeals.


Courts have applied the McDonnell Douglas scheme of proof to claims brought under several different statutes. See McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 1824, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973); Texas Dept. of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 252-53, 101 S.Ct. 1089, 1093, 67 L.Ed.2d 207 (1981). In this case, we must decide whether the now familiar, burden-shifting framework is applicable to a claim brought under the ADA.

To the extent possible, we adjudicate ADA claims in a manner consistent with decisions interpreting the Rehabilitation Act. See Doe v. University of Md. Medical Sys. Corp., 50 F.3d 1261, 1264 n. 9 (4th Cir.1995); Tyndall v. National Educ. Ctrs., 31 F.3d 209, 213 n. 1 (4th Cir.1994); 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12201(a). And, courts routinely have applied the McDonnell Douglas paradigm to Rehabilitation Act claims, at least in those circumstances where the defendant disavows any reliance on discriminatory reasons for its adverse employment action. See, e.g., Crawford v. Runyon, 37 F.3d 1338, 1341 (8th Cir.1994); Teahan v. Metro-No. Commuter R.R., 951 F.2d 511, 514 (2d Cir.1991), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 113 S.Ct. 54, 121 L.Ed.2d 24 (1992); Smith v. Barton, 914 F.2d 1330, 1339-40 (9th Cir.1990), cert. denied, 501 U.S. 1217, 111 S.Ct. 2825, 115 L.Ed.2d 995 (1991) (all holding that where an employer asserts that its adverse employment action against a disabled person was motivated by legitimate reasons unrelated to the disability, the McDonnell Douglas framework is apt). Accepting the framework's application to the Rehabilitation Act, and finding no reason to distinguish the two statutes in this regard, we hold that the McDonnell Douglas scheme of proof does apply to appropriate claims under the ADA.

Under the McDonnell Douglas proof scheme, the plaintiff has the initial burden of proving a prima facie case of discrimination by a preponderance of the evidence. If the plaintiff succeeds in proving the prima facie case, the burden shifts to the defendant to articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory explanation which, if believed by the trier of fact, would support a finding that unlawful discrimination was not the cause of the employment action. If the defendant meets this burden of production, the presumption created by the prima facie case "drops out of the picture," and the plaintiff bears the ultimate burden of proving that she has been the victim of intentional discrimination. St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, --- U.S. ----, ---- - ----, 113 S.Ct. 2742, 2746-49, 125 L.Ed.2d 407 (1993) (holding that prima facie case plus disbelief of employer's asserted justification for employment action is not necessarily sufficient to establish violation; summary judgment appropriate unless plaintiff presents adequate evidence that employer unlawfully discriminated).

In general terms, a plaintiff establishes a prima facie case by proving a set of facts which would enable the fact-finder to conclude, in the absence of any further explanation, that it is more likely than not that the adverse employment action was the product of discrimination. Burdine, 450 U.S. at 254, 101 S.Ct. at 1094; Furnco Constr. Corp. v. Waters, 438 U.S. 567, 577, 579-80, 98 S.Ct. 2943, 2949-50, 2951, 57 L.Ed.2d 957 (1978); Mitchell v. Data Gen. Corp., 12 F.3d 1310, 1315 (4th Cir.1993); Duke v. Uniroyal, Inc., 928 F.2d 1413, 1418 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 963, 112 S.Ct. 429, 116 L.Ed.2d 449 (1991). To assist in the practical application of the standard, we have on occasion specified more precisely the elements of the prima facie case, depending on the factual situation and claim alleged, see McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802 n. 13, 93 S.Ct. at 1824 n. 13. We now hold that in a typical discharge case brought under the ADA, a plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that (1) she was in the protected...

To continue reading

Request your trial
880 cases
  • Paris v. Arc/Davidson County, Inc., No. 1:02CV01012.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • February 25, 2004
    ...... ARC of North Carolina, as well as the National ARC. ARC is governed locally by a volunteer Board ...Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 ... undue hardship on the operation of [its] business." 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(5)(A). . ..., 252 F.3d 696, 702 (4th Cir.2001) (citing Ennis v. Nat'l Ass'n of Bus. & Educ. Radio, Inc., 53 ......
  • Doe v. Methodist Hosp., 30S01-9504-CV-420
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Indiana
    • December 31, 1997
    ...v. Gus Mayer Boston Store, 924 F.Supp. 763 (E.D.Tex.1996) (collecting cases). But see Ennis v. Nat'l Ass'n of Bus. and Educ. Radio, Inc., 53 F.3d 55 (4th Cir.1995)(concluding HIV positive status not a disability per se ). The condition certainly affects a major life activity. See Ind.Code A......
  • Lewis v. Zilog, Inc., Civ. A. No. 1:93-CV-2671-FMH.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • September 5, 1995
    ...cases is applicable. See DeLuca v. Winer Indus. Inc., 53 F.3d 793, 797 (4th Cir.1995); Ennis v. National Ass'n of Bus. & Educ. Radio, Inc., 53 F.3d 55, 57 (4th Cir. 1995). Also, the Eleventh Circuit has applied the Title VII analysis in both Section 1983 and age discrimination cases. Burns ......
  • Runnebaum v. NationsBank of Maryland, N.A., 94-2200
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • August 15, 1997
    ...unsupported speculation ... is not enough to defeat a summary judgment motion." Ennis v. National Ass'n of Bus. & Educ. Radio, Inc., 53 F.3d 55, 62 (4th Cir.1995). A. McDonnell Douglas Framework The McDonnell Douglas scheme of proof applies to ADA claims like Runnebaum's, "where the defenda......
  • 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