Warner v. Montgomery Township, CIVIL ACTION NO. 01-3309 (E.D. Pa. 7/22/2002)

Decision Date22 July 2002
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 01-3309.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Pennsylvania

ROBERT F. KELLY, Senior Judge.

Presently pending before this Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Plaintiff's Response. For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion will be granted.


This action is an employment discrimination case.1 Elijah W. Warner, Sr. ("Warner"), who is a black male, claims that his employer, Montgomery Township, and its employees, Police Chief Richard Brady ("Brady") and Township Manager John Nagel ("Nagel") (collectively, "the Defendants"), wrongfully discharged him because of alleged racial and disability discrimination and retaliation. Specifically, Count I of Warner's Complaint alleges discrimination pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. ("ADA") and 42 U.S.C. § 1981; Count II alleges Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress; Count III alleges violations of Warner's First Amendment rights, as well as violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985(1-3) and 1986; Count IV alleges violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Title VII and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 951, et seq. ("PHRA"); Count V alleges violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1982; Count VI alleges various state law claims; Count VII alleges violations of Warner's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights; and Count VIII alleges invasion of Warner's privacy. See Compl. Warner has stipulated to dismiss Counts VI, entitled "Violation of State Rights", and Count VIII, entitled "Invasion of Privacy." (Defs.' Mem. Law Supp. Mot. Summ. J., Ex. B at 102 (Warner's Depo.)). As a result of Warner's stipulation, Counts VI and VIII are dismissed with prejudice.

Montgomery Township hired Warner as a police dispatcher from August 1, 1997 until his employment was terminated on October 5, 2000. (Compl., ¶ 11). As a police dispatcher, Warner was ordinarily assigned to work the midnight shift from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. (Defs.' Mem. Law Supp. Mot. Summ. J. at 8). The midnight shift is relatively quiet and Warner was routinely the only employee in the Police Department or Township Building. (Id.). Warner's supervisor, Chief Richard Brady, referred to Warner as "Captain Midnight" four or five times throughout Warner's employment with the Police Department. (Id. at 8-9). Warner never voiced a complaint that the nickname was offensive until the filing of this lawsuit. (Id. at 9).

Throughout Warner's employment with Montgomery Township he received numerous raises and promotions. (Id. at 2). In fact, Warner is unable to recall if there was ever a time when he was denied a raise or a promotion after the requisite evaluation or promotional testing. (Id., Ex. B at 178 (Warner's Depo.)). In 2000, Warner was involved in obtaining a salary and wage increase for all hourly employees. (Id., Ex. G (Montg. Twnsp. Board of Supervisors Ltr. to Warner)). By letter, the Montgomery Township Board of Supervisors informed Warner of the wage increase and thanked him for his "valuable" involvement. (Id.).

In addition to receiving raises and promotions, Warner also received discipline throughout his employment.2 On numerous occasions, Warner was disciplined for failing to comply with proper police dispatcher policies and procedures. (Defs.' Mem. Law Supp. Mot. Summ. J. at 3). As part of his discipline, Warner received verbal and written notification of errors, remedial training and numerous suspensions. (Id.). It was at the conclusion of a five day suspension from work that Warner was scheduled to return to work on May 31, 2000. (Id.). On May 31, 2000, Warner called and left a message stating that he would not be returning because he had tremors in his hands. (Id. at 4). "On or about June 1, 2000, [Warner] complained to his doctor of symptoms of unclear etiology, mainly uncontrollable tremors in his right arm and hand, with severe pain in his right shoulder, which made writing and using a keyboard impossible during the tremors."3 (Compl., ¶ 14). On June 1, 2000, Warner submitted a handwritten doctor's note dated May 30, 2000 from the Mount Airy Family Practice to the Police Department "stating that he would be out of work for six months due to tremors in his right hand due to unknown etiology." (Defs.' Mem. Law Supp. Mot. Summ. J. at 4). Specifically, the note states as follows:

"Mr. Warner has been under the care of our physicians and other health care processionals for symptoms of unclear etiology. A joint decision has been reached that six months short term disability is warranted for complete diagnosis and treatment."

/s/ Linda W. Good, M.D.

(Id., Ex. I (Note Regarding Warner's Disability Written by Linda W. Good, M.D.)). Notably, the doctor's note fails to include any diagnosis or description of Warner's symptoms concerning his disability. (Id.). The note also fails to suggest any reasonable accommodation, such as a split keyboard, to assist Warner in the performance of his employment duties. (Id.).

Based upon the aforementioned doctor's note, Montgomery Township placed Warner on short term disability. (Id. at 4). As part of its Disability Policy, Montgomery Township scheduled to have Warner examined by one of its doctors, Dr. Matthew Cahill, M.D. (Id. at 5). On June 19, 2000, Dr. Cahill examined and evaluated Warner and his condition. (Id.). During the examination, Warner stated that "he had undergone extensive work-up for this problem, including a neurological examination by Dr. Smith as well as multiple examinations by the Mt. Airy Family Practice, an MRI and a 24 hour electroencephalogram." (Id.). That same date, Dr. Cahill wrote a report based on his medical examination of Warner. (Id.). Dr. Cahill's report states the following impression, in pertinent part, as follows:

My impression is that the symptom is likely to be a benign, familiar tremor given the fact that tests and referrals have been made and no pathology has been found, according to the patient. The possibility exists that there is a more distinct neurologic abnormality, perhaps even a focal seizure type of disorder, but apparently appropriate neurological evaluation has been instituted and without further records I cannot say whether there is any suggestion or evidence of a true seizure disorder.

(Id., Ex. J (Dr. Cahill's Report)). Based on Warner's physical examination and verbal history, without reviewing the other reports and diagnostic studies performed by Dr. Smith and the Mt. Airy Family Practice, Dr. Cahill concluded that Warner was not disabled and could safely return to work. (Id.).

After receiving Dr. Cahill's report, Montgomery Township and the Police Department concluded that it could not determine whether Warner was disabled until Dr. Cahill had reviewed the reports and diagnostic studies performed by Dr. Smith and the Mt. Airy Family Practice. (Id. at 6). On July 20, 2000, Montgomery Township forwarded correspondence to Warner informing him of his rights and responsibilities under the Township's Disability Policy and the Family and Medical Leave Act. (Id.). Following up on its July 20, 2000 letter, Montgomery Township sent Warner a second letter dated July 24, 2000 confirming his signing of a medical release form and requesting that he advise the Township if he was seeing any other doctors regarding his disability. (Id.). In keeping with its Disability Policy, the Township forwarded correspondence dated August 10, 2000 requesting that Warner complete various sections of the long term disability claim form. (Id.).

After receiving and reviewing various medical records concerning Warner, Dr. Cahill issued a supplemental report dated August 15, 2000. (Id., Ex. N (Dr. Cahill's Suppl. Report)). Upon a complete review of the newly acquired records and Warner's previous examination, Dr. Cahill once more expressed the opinion that Warner "may safely return to work given that the only limitation in his functioning is perhaps a maximum of ten minutes of tremor total during any day, and typically much less." (Id.). Following the receipt of Dr. Cahill's supplemental report, Nagel and Brady conferred and determined that Warner was not disabled and was able to return to work. (Id. at 7). In order to accommodate Warner's tremors, Montgomery Township and the Police Department determined that Warner would be scheduled for the day shift with another dispatcher upon his initial return to work. (Id.). "The reasoning of the Defendants was that a second dispatcher would be able to assist and take over the Plaintiff's duties for whatever brief period of time the Plaintiff might be suffering from a tremor of the right hand." (Id.). Consequently, the Defendants sent Warner a letter dated September 6, 2000 informing him that he was to return to work the day shift on September 11, 2000 and that he was scheduled to work from September 11, 2000 through September 15, 2000 with another dispatcher. (Id.).

On September 10, 2000, one day prior to when Warner was scheduled to return to work, Warner left Chief Brady a voice mail message informing him "that he had to go to court on a child support matter for September 11, 2000 and that he had a follow-up appointment with his doctor for September 12, 2000."4 (Compl., ¶ 22). On September 12, 2000, Warner called the Police Department and left a voice message stating that his doctor told him to stay home and that he had completed his long term disability paperwork. (Defs.' Mem. Law Supp. Mot. Summ. J. at 8). Warner has never forwarded any documentation confirming his court appearances or any documentation from his doctors substantiating their September 10, 2000 advices that Warner stay home from work. (Id.). Additionally, Warner has not provided to the Defendants any...

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