Williams v. Philadelphia Housing

Citation380 F.3d 751
Decision Date26 August 2004
Docket NumberNo. 03-1158.,03-1158.
PartiesEdward R. WILLIAMS; Angelynne Williams, H/W v. PHILADELPHIA HOUSING AUTHORITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, Edward R. Williams, Appellant.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Eduardo C. Robreno, J.

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Alex H. Pierre (Argued), Philadelphia, PA, for Appellant.

Patrick J. Harvey, David E. Brier (Argued), Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll, Philadelphia, PA, for Appellee.

BEFORE: NYGAARD, FUENTES and STAPLETON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION OF THE COURT

STAPLETON, Circuit Judge.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., prohibits covered employers from discriminating against qualified individuals on the basis of their disabilities. Edward Raymond Williams was unable to carry a firearm as the result of a mental condition, and was additionally perceived by his employer to be unable to have access to firearms, or be around others carrying firearms. Granting summary judgment in favor of the Philadelphia Housing Authority ("PHA"), Williams's employer, the District Court held that such limitations would not make Williams significantly restricted in the major life activity of working because they did not prevent him from performing work in a broad range of jobs in various classes. Because the District Court did not consider whether such limitations would prevent Williams from performing work in a class of jobs, and because a reasonable jury could conclude that Williams was actually (or perceived to be) precluded from working in a class of jobs, we will now reverse that grant of summary judgment and remand Williams's ADA discrimination claim (and corresponding claim under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act) for further proceedings. We will affirm the District Court's determination with respect to Williams's retaliation claims because Williams has not proffered sufficient evidence to support a retaliation claim.

I. Factual and Procedural Background
A. The Facts Viewed in the Light Most Favorable to Williams

Williams was hired by PHA as a police officer and worked for PHA for 24 years until his termination. On May 19, 1998, shortly after arriving for an evening shift, Williams received a page to report to the sergeant's office of PHA's police department. After being confronted by a superior officer about his fractious interactions with other employees, Williams yelled and made a number of profane and threatening remarks.

Williams was immediately suspended without pay. Later that evening, he called a counselor with Delaware County Psychological Services, and remarked, "I understand why people go postal." According to a PHA police officer who later spoke with the counselor, Williams talked of "smoking people, going postal, and having the means to do it."

Two days after the confrontation, PHA wrote to Williams and directed him to report to the PHA radio room for duty. Williams did not return to work, but instead began to call in sick on a daily basis. On June 25, 1998, PHA ordered Williams to undergo a psychological examination with its psychologist, Dr. Lauren Finley.

The parties agree that, sometime in June or July 1998, Williams submitted an application for a medical leave of absence from July 2, 1998 through August 28, 1998. The request included a "medical certification form" completed by Helen Huffington, M.S.S., a counselor with Delaware County Psychological Services, who diagnosed Williams as suffering from "Major Depression, recurrent, severe." A198. PHA approved the request. On July 29, 1998, PHA Assistant Chief Aaron Hughes wrote to Williams regarding his employment status. Hughes wrote, "As of August 20, 1998, you will have exhausted all of your sick leave and annual leave benefits. Therefore, you will have to request through memorandum a leave of absence.... [F]ailure to do so will mean that you have voluntarily resigned as a member of this police department." A197. Williams would again be asked, on September 22, 1998, to apply for a leave of absence, and did so.

On August 17, 1998, Williams's personal psychologist, Dr. Marjory Levitt, wrote a letter to Hughes regarding Williams. The letter stated, in pertinent part:

Sgt. Edward R. Williams, Sr., has requested that I write to you and report on his readiness to return to full time employment beginning August 20, 1998.

Sgt. Williams states that he is fully prepared physically and psychologically to resume his professional duties. He assures me that he is emotionally stable and able to perform reliably and fulfill his responsibilities. He is not taking any psychotropic medications and denies other substance use, with the exception of a medication for hypertension. He has not been evaluated by a psychiatrist, nor has he been in regular individual outpatient treatment. He does request that his contact with [the PHA superior officer Williams confronted on May 19, 1998] be as limited as possible.

A199.

In August and September 1998, Williams attended three appointments with Dr. Finley, PHA's psychologist. On September 21, 1998, Dr. Finley shared her evaluation of Williams's fitness for duty:

It is my professional opinion that Sgt. Williams should not resume active duty, involving his usual and normal work activities, unless he is under the proper care of medical and psychological personnel. He requires psychological treatment for depression and stress management. He also requires an evaluation by medical personnel to determine if he may be further helped by psychotropic medications. Sgt. Williams can resume working on alternate work assignments and should do so for a minimum period of 3 months in order to provide an initial opportunity for him to begin receiving benefits from regular medicinal and/or psychological treatment. He should be reevaluated after this time in order to determine whether or not he can resume active duty with the continuation of prescribed treatment regiment for the management of his stress and depression.

Sgt. Williams [sic] condition appears to be exacerbated by considerable tension between himself and one of his superiors.... It could be helpful if the difficulties between them could be mediated or if the amount of contact between the two was greatly reduced.

A200. Upon receipt of the Finley letter, PHA requested clarification of Dr. Finley's findings, to which Dr. Finley responded on October 10, 1998:

First, I have been called upon by human resources to provide a consultative evaluation for [Sergeant] Edward Williams. I have not nor will I be working with [Sergeant] Williams on an ongoing basis. Second, Mr. Williams is fully capable of working, for a temporary period, in either an administrative and/or clerical capacity. He should not carry a weapon, however, for a minimum period of three months. He can work around other officers who will be wearing their weapon. Third, it [is] anticipated that [Sergeant] Williams will be able to fully return to active duty, resuming his usual job responsibilities after this approximate three month period. However, a more definite time frame cannot be provided at this time, pending a reevaluation.

A201.

On October 13, 1998, after Dr. Finley had cleared Williams for restricted duty, Williams requested that PHA temporarily reassign him to work in the PHA training unit. Hughes responded:

[I]t is the position of this police department that the specific position that you are requesting is not open to you due to your on-going treatment with Dr. Lauren Finley ... and her recommendation that you should not carry a weapon while still under her care for the next several months. This department has also concluded that once you have completed all of your treatment with Dr. Finley, releasing you to return to full duty, with authorization to carry firearms once again, you are to report back to uniform patrol duty.

A204.

One day later, Williams wrote to Hughes requesting an assignment "in the [PHA] radio room until [his] 3 month evaluation [was] over...." PHA did not respond to that request until this litigation ensued.1

On November 19, 1998, Deputy Chief of Police Ricks wrote an internal memorandum to Carl Marinelli, Assistant General Manager for Human Resources, regarding Williams's employment status. Wrote Ricks, "Williams has exhausted all of his leave time and should apply for a medical leave of absence. If he does not apply for a medical leave of absence by November 30, 1998, it is the position of this department that Human Resources terminate Edward Williams according to PHA personnel policy regarding medical leave." A863.

On December 3, 1998, Marinelli wrote to Williams requesting that he file for medical leave.

As you know, you have exhausted all leave time available as a police Officer with the Philadelphia Housing Authority. It is now necessary that you obtain the required medical evidence and apply for a medical leave of absence. This information and your formal written request should be received by my office no later than December 18, 1998. Failure to do so will result in PHA terminating your employment as of that date.

A206. Williams did not contact Marinelli regarding an application for medical leave and did not respond to the letter.

On December 29, 1998, Marinelli sent a letter to Williams notifying him that he was being terminated.

In my letter to you dated December 3, 1998 I asked that you request a medical leave of absence and submit that request along with supporting medical evidence to me no later than December 18, 1998. As you have submitted neither, I am notifying you of your termination from the Philadelphia Housing Authority effective August 28, 1998. Please call ... to discuss your termination benefits.

A249.

B. Procedural Background

Williams filed a complaint against PHA in the United...

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