United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Catherine C. Eagles, District Judge.
plaintiff, Jana Churchwell, has sued the City of Concord
alleging that it did not accommodate her disability and
discharged her because of her disability, both in violation
of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The City moves for
summary judgment and Ms. Churchwell moves for partial summary
judgment. The motions will be denied.
Churchwell worked as a project engineer for the City of
Concord from 2001 until her termination in July 2015. Doc.
14-4 at ¶ 2. Her direct supervisor was Rick Blat, the
Deputy City Engineer, and her second-line supervisor was Sue
Hyde, the City's Engineering Director. Doc. 14-1 at 7-8;
Doc. 14-2 at 8; Doc. 20-1 at ¶ 2.
Churchwell was diagnosed with chronic autoimmune urticaria in
2001. Doc. 14-1 at 8-9. By 2007, she was unable to work for
short periods of time because of her symptoms. Docs. 14-1 at
8-9; 14-4 at ¶¶ 3-4. In 2013, she was also
diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome and chronic migraine
headaches. Doc. 14-1 at 10-11; Doc. 17-2 at 4-5. She sought
and was granted FMLA leave, as well as certain
accommodations, at various times between 2007 and 2015. Doc.
17-2 at 3-5; Doc. 14-1 at 12.
2015, Ms. Churchwell was intermittently out of work due to
migraines and IBS symptoms. Doc. 17-2 at 8; Doc. 14-4 at
¶ 4. From June through her termination, she was out of
work nearly continuously. Doc. 17-2 at 8, 10-11. She used a
combination of sick days, vacation days, and FMLA leave to
cover her work absences. Doc. 17-14.
5, a Benefits Specialist with the HR Department sent Ms.
Churchwell a letter advising her that she would soon exhaust
her FMLA leave and enclosing a copy of the City's ADA
reasonable accommodation request form. Doc. 17-12. The
Benefits Specialist also told Ms. Churchwell the City would
“assume [she] ha[d] resigned [her] position” if
she did not return the form by June 20. Doc. 17-12.
Churchwell exhausted her FMLA leave on Friday, June 12. Doc.
17-13. She “tried [going] back” to work on
Monday, June 15, but she was able to work for only half a day
before returning home. Doc. 17-2 at 11. She was absent from
work on unauthorized leave for the remainder of June through
her termination. Doc. 17-2 at 11.
16, Ms. Churchwell submitted a reasonable accommodation
request to the City's HR Department. Doc. 14-15 at 1-3.
As accommodations, she requested:
1. If in the office and come down with symptoms, may need to
2. If at home and have symptoms or medication side effects,
may need to stay home and away from office;
3. I may need to leave office for doctors appointments or
treatment therapies, or for medication at pharmacy;
4. I may need to avoid being in extreme temperatures for
extended lengths of time.
Doc. 14-15 at 3. Her primary care physician submitted
paperwork indicating that no accommodation would enable Ms.
Churchwell to perform her job's essential duties while
she was suffering from a migraine. Doc. 17-9 at ¶ 4. He
also asserted that she might need medical leave of “1
day per every 2 weeks or less.” Doc. 17-9 at ¶ 5.
next day, Ms. Churchwell also sent an email to Ms. Hyde
asking for thirty days of unpaid leave, from June 17 to July
Doc. 14-7 at 1-2. Ms. Hyde denied Ms. Churchwell's
request via a June 17 email, on which she copied the
City's HR Director, Rebecca Edwards. Doc. 14-7 at 1. Ms.
Hyde said she denied the request because the Engineering
Department had 3.5 full time engineers, 48 active projects,
and “[l]osing one full-time engineer staff person would
put [the Engineering Department's] projects even further
behind schedule.” Doc. 20-1 at ¶¶ 6-7. ...