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Ford v. Marion County Sheriff's Department

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 20, 2017

BRIGID A. FORD, Plaintiff,
v.
MARION COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

          ENTRY ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND RELATED MOTIONS

          William T. Lawrence, Judge.

         This case is before the Court on the Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 47). The motion is fully briefed and the Court, being duly advised, GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART the motion for the reasons set forth below. The Court also GRANTS the Plaintiff's motion to file a surreply (Dkt. No. 102) and directs the Clerk to file the surreply (found at Dkt. No. 102-1). The Court DENIES the Plaintiff's Verified Motion for Rule 56(d) Relief (Dkt. No. 108) because none of the additional discovery the Plaintiff seeks would be material to the Court's analysis of the instant motion.[1] Finally, the Court GRANTS the Plaintiff's motion to file an oversized brief (Dkt. No. 133) and directs the Clerk to file the amended response to the motion for summary judgment (found at Dkt. No. 133-1).

         I. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the admissible evidence presented by the non-moving party must be believed, [2] and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the non-movant's favor. Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (“We view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.”). However, a party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on her pleadings, but must show what evidence she has that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial. Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., Inc., 325 F.3d 892, 901 (7th Cir. 2003). Particularly relevant in this case, [3] the non-moving party bears the burden of specifically identifying the relevant evidence of record, and “the court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001). Finally, to the extent that the Plaintiff has included citations to evidence in her “timeline” exhibit that she did not cite to in her already oversized response brief or her surreply, the Court has not considered that additional evidence. See Local Rule 56-1.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The relevant[4] facts of record, viewed in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, as the non-moving party, are as follow.

         Plaintiff Brigid Ford began working full-time as a deputy for the Marion County Sheriff's Office (“MCSO”) in 2003, having previously worked as a reserve officer.[5] In 2008, she began working as a sworn deputy sheriff in the warrants unit of the special investigations section of the criminal division of the MCSO.

         Ford's Disability

         On April 18, 2012, Ford was injured in a car accident. She returned to work on “limited duty” status on April 25, 2012. Until January 19, 2013, she conducted research and fulfilled other duties in the criminal warrants unit. She was then transferred to the Marion County Jail, where she monitored security cameras. Ford continued to receive her full deputy's salary while she was on light duty.

         In March and April 2013, Ford's treating physician provided the MCSO with documentation showing that Ford had permanent restrictions due to reflex sympathetic dystrophy (“RSD”) and a permanent injury to her dominant right hand. On May 10, 2013, Ford was sent for a fitness for duty exam and placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome. Dr. Stephen Moffatt performed the fitness for duty exam and reviewed Ford's job position and her medical records. On June 7, 2013, Dr. Moffatt reported his conclusion that Ford could not perform the duties of a deputy sheriff due to a permanent injury to Ford's right hand that prevented her from carrying a firearm, an essential function of the deputy sheriff position.[6]

         On June 19, 2013, Human Resources Director and EEO Officer Angela Grider, Chief Deputy Eva Talley-Sanders, and Colonel Louis Dezelan met with Ford and informed her of Dr. Moffatt's conclusion. After a review of various open civilian positions, they offered Ford the opportunity to move to an open civilian position as a main control clerk earning significantly less pay (a decrease in base salary of $11, 647.86), resign, or be terminated. They also gave Ford a document summarizing those options and a draft letter of resignation dated that day. Ford asked if she could think about it, and they agreed. When Ford asked whether there were any other open civilian positions, she was told that the main control clerk position was the only one “where we are able to meet the limitations of your request.” Dkt. No. 70-18 at 3.

         The following day, Ford sent the following email to Grider:

I need some more time before I make any decisions about my status with the MCSO. I want to work. I think that if the department is able to make some reasonable accommodations for my complex regional pain syndrome and restrictions I may be able to work in Main Control. I already have an appointment scheduled with my family physician on Tuesday, June 25th. Please forward the ADA form that he would need to fill out to me, and I will see if he can do that. I also want to make sure that whatever decision I make does not negatively affect my claim against workers comp.

         Dkt. No. 70-11 at 1. Ford's request for an accommodation was the first that Grider and Talley-Sanders had dealt with at the MCSO. Five days later, on June 25, 2013, Grider replied to Ford:

I am not sure what specific form you are requesting? However, I have spoken with the Chief Deputy and she has indicated that you may postpone your decision regarding the offer for Civilian Status/Main Control Clerk position until you have had an opportunity to consult with your treating physician. Please indicate in writing what the accommodations you are requesting and forward to me no later than the close of business, Thursday, June 27, 2013.

Id. Ford responded the same day:

I don't know if there is a name for a form that I need from the department. I was told to ask for the “ADA form.” I spoke to my hand surgeon's assistant and she said that the employer provides the form so that he can review it. I have left her another message to see if she has a specific name for the document.
As I said before, I want to work. I do not want to resign, and I am aware that at this time the department does not have any other position available for me. As we discussed, the job of main control clerk is primarily answering the phones and looking up information, and it involves a great deal of repetitive motion. I am not comfortable making a medical decision about how that can or cannot be modified to suit my needs. My hand surgeon is at the Back to Work Center on Wednesday afternoon only. And he will not be in the office next week (July 3) due to the holiday. As I said earlier, I left a message for his assistant earlier today. As soon as I hear back from her I will let you know.

         Dkt. No. 70-12 at 1.[7] On June 28, 2013, Ford emailed Grider and asked her if she had spoken with her hand surgeon's assistant. She also indicated that she had found “a generic ADA form on the Department of Labor's website, ” and asked whether the MCSO had “a policy on accommodating ADA issues.” She further suggested that “[m]aybe if we put our heads together we can come up with something that will satisfy all of us.” Dkt. No. 70-14 at 2. Grider responded the same day:

I did receive a voicemail message which indicated that she would have the doctor review upon his return July 8, 2013. There was nothing she could tell me directly and would have to have the doctor call you once he reviews.
Again, the MCSO does not have an ADA form to be completed. We simply need something from you in writing with the requested accommodation.

Id. Ford responded by asking what the surgeon was reviewing, to which Grider responded “I can only assume the job description you provided for the position and his previous notes regarding your status/progress following treatment he provided? You would be better to ask that question to the nurse for certain though.” Id.

         On July 11, 2013, Grider sent Ford the following email: “To follow up to our phone conversations this morning at 830 am [sic], regarding a request for accommodation for the Main Control Clerk position that was offered to you on June 19, 2013; it is imperative that we receive your written request for accommodations no later than the close of business, Friday, July 12, 2013.” The next day, Ford hand delivered a letter to the MCSO that explained that her hand surgeon had “placed the limitations of no repetitive motion, no twisting or gripping, and weight restricted to no more than two pounds.” Dkt. No. 70-15 at 1. She further explained that she had helped out in main control while she was on light duty and “the job as it is currently exacerbates my complex regional pain syndrome and is outside the scope of my limitations, ” but that “I think that if the department were to provide some reasonable accommodations, I might be able to do that job.” Id. She explained that “[t]he specific job functions that would be difficult for me in their present form are answer the phone, looking up information, pressing the door buttons to let people into and out of the jail, and the overall noise of the environment.” Id. Ford requested the following accommodations, explaining, in detail, why she needed each one: a headset or hands- free phone, a voice-activated software system, an ergonomic work station, an ergonomic chair, sensitivity training for her supervisors regarding her disability, and the ability to take breaks and stand and walk when needed. She also asked for “periodic reviews” of her situation “to see if improvement could be made.” Id. at 2.

         In a letter dated September 16, 2013, Grider responded to Ford's accommodations request and asked Ford to contact her no later than September 27, 2013, to “address these issues.” Dkt. No. 70-17. The letter stated that the MCSO would “purchase a reasonably priced ergonomic chair and work station, and a headset or hands-free phone” and would “provide training to supervisors regarding [her] condition.” Id. The MCSO further agreed to make reasonable efforts to allow Ford to take breaks as necessary. The MCSO did not agree to provide Ford with a voice-activated system because Grider was informed that the programs used in the position were not technologically compatible with the available voice activated systems. Other employees at the MCSO used voice-activated systems at the time.[8]

         On Friday, September 20, 2013, Ford emailed Grider and asked whether the position she had been offered-Main Control Clerk, second shift-was the only open civilian position at the MCSO. Grider replied that it was “the only position where we are able to meet the limitations of your request.” Ford responded by again asking what other positions were open, commenting that “[m]aybe there is something else that I can do where the Department would not have to make all those accommodations.” Grider responded on Monday, September 23rd: “The Main Control Clerk position is the only available position that we are able to offer you given your limitations, ” and “if you are unable to accept this position, we will need to separate your employment from this agency.” Ford responded the following day by again asking whether the MCSO had a policy regarding the ADA (apparently not having received an answer when she asked on June 28th) and then stating:

Please provide me with a list of open civilian positions. I believe that under ADA open positions are to be offered based on qualifications, not limitations. Your response to my request for that information on Friday stated that the only available position “given your limitations” is in Main Control, yet that position is primarily one of typing, which is outside the scope of my medical restrictions.

         Dkt. No. 70-18 at 2. Having received no response, on September 27, 2013, Ford emailed Grider and stated: “Although I have concerns about my ability to do the job of Main Control Clerk without some type of accommodation to reduce/minimize the typing, I do want to work. When will I start in Main Control?” Id. at 1. Grider responded by directing Ford to report to work on Monday, September 30th. She further stated: “Because you are now returning to work in the Main Control position, I am assuming that your pending requests regarding other possible assignments is now a moot issue. Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns.”[9] Id.

         When she reported to work on September 30, 2013, Grider told Ford that she would be given a week to observe positions in the book-out process and visitation process to determine whether she could perform them. During this week, on October 3rd, Ford met with Grider and “broke down into tears” while explaining that she did not know if she could work with Carol Ladd, an employee in the visitation area, calling Ladd a “bully.” According to Grider's memo to herself memorializing the conversation, Ford “stated that Carol's strong personality along with her not providing what she felt would be adequate information regarding the job duties and that she was not sensitive to her disability made her feel stressed which would initiate pain in her arm and wrist.” Dkt. No. 71-24. Grider “informed Ford that she should take another day in Visitation to see if she possibly wanted to work in this area as it is a position we could make adjustments that were agreed upon.” Id. According to Grider's memo:

Ms. Ford again stated that she wasn't sure she could deal with the pressure and stress that she felt Ms. Ladd had made her feel since she wasn't “moving fast enough” and felt she wasn't going to get along with Ladd. I again stated that we can accommodate as we had communicated in the past, but the personality conflict is something that would need to be brought to management's attention and she would not be treated any differently than others in her permanently assigned unit. Ms. Ford agreed to give it another day and stated she would let me know tomorrow if she would take the position or not.

Id.

         Ford ultimately accepted the position as a visitation clerk. As promised, the MCSO provided Ford with an ergonomic work station, a telephone headset, an ergonomic chair, and the opportunity to take breaks as necessary. Additionally, Ford's supervisor in visitation, Lieutenant James Walterman, would frequently allow Ford to leave early-using her leave time-if she was experiencing a lot of pain.

         Ford's Experience as a Visitation Clerk

         On Ford's first day as a visitation clerk, her co-worker Carol Ladd asked her if she was going to stay in that job. When Ford responded that it depended on whether certain accommodations could be made for her, Ladd “said words to the effect of I'm smart, I went to college, I studied human resources, I know the law, and they don't have to make any accommodations for you.” Dkt. No. 75-8 at 12. Ford “immediately got up and walked and reported that conversation to Ms. Grider.” Id. Ford completed her shift with Ladd that day and did not have any other conversations with her regarding Ford's disability or accommodations.

         Ford's trouble with Ladd continued and later, when employee Eva Watts began working as a visitation clerk, she joined Ladd in harassing Ford on a daily basis.[10] Pursuant to MCSO procedure, which stated that “if any employee has any type of disagreement or conflict, etc., with any employee of MCSO . . . a supervisor shall be contacted, ” Dkt. No. 72-2 at 13, Ford informed her supervisor, Lieutenant James Walterman, of Ladd and Watts's offensive behavior toward her over twelve times between October 2013 and December 2014.

         On February 1, 2014, Ford emailed Lieutenant James Walterman to complain about Ladd not acknowledging her when Ford spoke to her. The email relates a lengthy story regarding an event that had occurred that morning that Ford characterized as showing Ladd's animosity toward Ford. She stated that “I am trying very hard not to let this stuff get to me, but it really causes me pain to have to deal with this animosity. I know you said that you would deal with it next week, and if necessary I will take a break or do whatever I need to do to keep the peace today.” Dkt. No. 71-4. The next day, Ford emailed Walterman to report that “the rest of Saturday was pretty uneventful” but that Ladd, while on a personal phone call in the work area Ford and Ladd shared, had said to the person on the phone that “she was tired of these people who pretend that they are disabled just so they can get special treatment.” Dkt. No. 71-5.[11]

         On March 13, 2014, Ford sent a lengthy memorandum to Walterman in which she detailed the following objectionable behavior by Ladd toward her that had occurred over the course of that day: (1) Ladd making many unspecified “snide remarks”; (2) Ladd commenting to Watts, whom Ford was training, that if Ladd “did not wait until her computer shut down ‘[Ford] will read everything on it'”; (3) when Ford mentioned to another employee that Ladd had made fresh coffee, Ladd “made a remark to the effect that she was a nice person who just did things like that”; (4) as reported to Ford by Watts, Ladd “shashayed [sic] her hips on out of here” after Ford passed along work-related information to Ladd; (5) Ladd making comments about how Ford was performing her job (such as leaving callers on hold too long); and (6) Ladd speaking to her while she was on work calls. Ford reported to Walterman that Sergeant Johnson had “attempted to mediate the situation” and that Ladd had left the office and refused to listen when it was Ford's turn to speak. The memo concluded:

Lt., as I have said before, the situation began when I came into the section. Ms. Ladd told me on my first day that the department did not have to make accommodations for me due to my disability. She was aggressive about it, and told me that she knows the law and that MCSO does not have to make any accommodations for me. I spoke to Angela Grider about that and was told that it was a management issue. I have had her push chairs into me, put her music on speaker while I was scheduling appointments, put her phone on speaker while I was scheduling appointments, tell me to “be quiet” while I was talking to the Sgt., tell me to “keep your opinions to yourself, ” and many, many other hostile acts. I respectfully request that the situation be addressed. Thank you for your patience and assistance.

         Dkt. No. 71-6. Walterman sat down with Ford and Ladd and discussed the situation, after which the situation improved for a couple weeks, but then Ladd resumed her hostile acts. For example, Ladd would put her phone on speaker while Ford was scheduling appointments and push a chair into Ford. In an email dated April 24, 2014, Ford reported to Walterman that “Ladd is creating a hostile work environment and she is making it miserable for me during the hours that she is here. Sgt. Johnson has spoken to her about the comments that she is making, but she is continuing to do it in spite of being talked to by you and Sgt. Johnson.” Ford asked that the situation be addressed by Walterman again. Dkt. No. 71-7. Walterman met with Ford and Ladd many times to discuss the situation.

         Per MCSO policy, in March 2014, Ford submitted documentation to the MCSO regarding a change in her pain medication. The MCSO sent Ford's job description and her reported medication list to Dr. Moffatt for his evaluation of whether it would inhibit her ability to do the job safely. Dr. Moffatt determined that Ford should not take the medication within eight hours of reporting to work. Based on Dr. Moffatt's determination, the MCSO informed Ford that she could not take the medication within eight hours of reporting to work.[12]

         On April 30, 2014, Ford emailed Walterman and related an incident in which Watts had created a scene when Ford had informed her that she could not take certain training materials home with her. Dkt. No. 71-8.

         On May 10, 2014, Ford emailed Walterman to share some observations regarding mistakes that had been made with visitation scheduling. Dkt. No. 71-10.

         On June 21, 2014, Ford emailed Walterman again documenting visitation scheduling mistakes that had been made. She also thanked Walterman for “letting me leave Thursday, ” which was “a very bad pain day” that was made worse by the fact that Ladd and Watts “kept the phones on speaker.” Dkt. No. 71-11. A few days later, [13] she forwarded an email exchange to Walterman in which she had told Ladd and Watts that she “could not figure out what you did, so rather than messing it up further I opted for letting you guys fix it” and Ladd had replied “[f]igure it out.” Dkt. No. 71-12.

         On July 8, 2014, Ford emailed Walterman and complained that Ladd did not respond when Ford said good morning to her, and that Ladd said that Ford's yogurt smelled “like vomit and was making her sick.” Dkt. No. 71-13. On July 23, 2014, Ladd remarked in Ford's presence that “people who claim to have medical problems often have mental disabilities and need to get medication for that instead of expecting everybody else to deal with their so-called medical problems.” Dkt. No. 75-8 at 17. Following that comment, Ford sent Walterman an email that read: “The remark was made a short time ago by Carol Ladd that people need to get help instead of expecting everyone else to deal with their medical problems. I take that personally as a slight against my disability. I am going to try to ignore her for the rest of the day, but I am understandably upset.” Dkt. No. 71-14.[14] On July 30, 2014, Ford emailed Walterman and reported the following:

Shortly after she arrived this morning, Carol slammed her chair into me. It hit me hard enough to push me several inches. I got up and said “that hurt. I'm tired of you slamming your chair into me. The next time that you do it I'm going to file an EEO complaint against you.” Deputy Shephard was in the room when it happened as well as Eva. I don't think either of them saw it, but they certainly heard it. I am in a lot of pain right now, and I am not sure that I will be able to work the rest of the day. Please do something about this. It is becoming a huge issue.

         Dkt. No. 71-15. A few minutes later, she emailed Walterman the following:

Also, just so you know, when I came back in to the room, Carol and Eva had switched seats. Carol was sitting there telling Eva that she “was not going to be attacked.” Deputy Stinson was in there while she was talking. She continued on, talking about having the bad computer now, etc. She got up saying that she was going to leave to take care of her tire. She then walked out.

         Dkt. No. 71-16.

         A few weeks later, on August 21, 2014, Ford sent the following email to Walterman:

I put those forms on your desk. I am leaving now. Just FYI, on Tuesday, I said something to Carol three times about her bumping into me. She and Eva just laughed about it. Dep. Johnson saw most of the incidents, and by the fifth time, I no longer said anything. Just now, she did the pulling the chair out and hitting me again with it act that is starting to become routine. I know that you have addressed this issue, but I'm a little mad about it. I got up and left the room without saying anything to her. When I came back, she and Eva were both gone. Thanks for letting me leave early, and I'll see you tomorrow morning.

         Dkt. No. 71-17.

         On November 11, 2014, Ford sent the following email to Walterman:

Just FYI, I just spent the last ten minutes listening to Carol and Eva say things about me that are unacceptable. They are accusing me of being a “bully” when it comes to scheduling. Carol stated that some visitor is the only one on an inmate's list and that I am blocking the visitor from visiting. She showed Eva an e-mail about it. There was also an incident last week where a visitor came in with a large, hooded sweatshirt on. The female has a piece of medical equipment and I allowed her to wear her sweatshirt. She said that she had spoken to the other clerk (I'm guessing Carol) and was told that we would all be notified about her situation. Obviously no one was told. She was also told that she could visit twice, that she is the only adult on the visitor's list. That is also not correct.
Today my chair had been adjusted so that the bottom was tilted forward. Also, my ringer was turned off on my phone. The handset of the phone was unplugged, not enough so that you could see it, but enough so that when you tried to use it, it wouldn't work. I have no idea who did this, but this is getting old. ...

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