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Imam v. Cumberland County, NC

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

November 6, 2019

MOHAMMED IMAM, Plaintiff,
v.
CUMBERLAND COUNTY, NC, Defendant.

          ORDER

          TERRENCE W. BOYLE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This cause comes before the Court on defendant's motion for summary judgment. [DE 22], For the reasons discussed below, defendant's motion [DE 22] is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         In 2002, plaintiff began employment in defendant's Information Services Technology Department ("IT department"). DE 27-2, ¶ 1. As a Systems Programmer, plaintiff was responsible for back-end system-related functions for defendant's mainframe server, making sure server applications ran properly. DE 27-1, ¶ 5. Plaintiff was able to perform his tasks remotely, and as a result, he often telecommuted from his home in Raleigh, North Carolina. Id. ¶¶ 9-11.

         In March 2016, plaintiff met with his immediate supervisor to discuss an IT modernization plan that would move applications off the mainframe. DE 27-2, ¶ 3.

         On August 11, 2016, plaintiffs physician, Dr. David Adams, diagnosed him with deep vein thrombosis ("DVT") in his right leg. Id. ¶ 5. On August 16, 2016, Dr. Adams sent defendant a letter stating that plaintiff had been diagnosed with DVT and requesting that plaintiff be permitted to work from home for two weeks until the blood clot in his leg stabilized. DE 27-1, ¶ 19. Defendant granted plaintiffs request. Id. ¶ 21.

         On September 6, 2016-following the conclusion of Dr. Adams's telecommuting request-defendant proposed a modification to defendant's job description, adding "operational duties." Id. ¶¶ 29-30. Operational duties could not be performed remotely, but only required about one or two hours of work each day to complete. Id. ¶¶ 24, 26. This was the first time defendant told plaintiff of his new responsibilities. Id. ¶ 30. At the time of the proposed modification, two Cumberland County employees were responsible for the operational duties, and there were other employees trained on how to complete them. Id. ¶ 27-29. Plaintiff refused to accept the new responsibilities because of his workload and DVT. Id. ¶ 31.

         On September 15, Dr. Adams sent another letter to defendant advising that plaintiffs DVT had additional complications and requesting that defendant permit plaintiff to telecommute for an additional two to three months. Id. ¶ 32. Defendant refused this request, indicating that plaintiffs new job functions required him to work on-site daily. Id. ¶ 33.

         On October 20, plaintiff met with his supervisors and human resources personnel to discuss the operational duties and his objections to them. Id. ¶ 34. On October 24, defendant again denied plaintiffs request that he work remotely because of the operational duties, which defendant indicated comprised 30% of his duties. Id. ¶¶ 34, 35. Defendant's IT director informed plaintiff that he was expected to report to work on November 3. Id. ¶ 36. After plaintiff failed to do so, a pre-disciplinary conference was held on November 9, and plaintiff was terminated on November 14. DE 27-2, ¶24.

         Following plaintiffs termination, the employees who had been performing the operational duties continued to do so for an additional six months, at which point the duties transitioned to two other employees already on staff. DE 27-1, ¶ 38.

         In December 2017, plaintiff brought claims for discrimination and retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. DE 1. The Court denied defendant's motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) in October 2018. Discovery ended on June 28, 2019. Defendant now moves for summary judgment. DE 22.

         DISCUSSION

         Summary Judgment

         A motion for summary judgment may not be granted unless there are no genuine issues of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If that burden has been met, the non-moving party must then come forward and establish the specific material facts ...


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