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Hobbs v. Mahoning County General Health District

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

February 22, 2018

KIMBERLY HOBBS, Plaintiff,
v.
MAHONING COUNTY GENERAL HEALTH DISTRICT, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER [RESOLVING ECF NO. 16]

          Benita Y. Pearson United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 16. Plaintiff responded in opposition. ECF No. 17. Defendant replied. ECF No. 21. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion is granted.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Kimberly Hobbs, a former Registered Sanitarian (licensed health inspector) for Defendant Mahoning County General Health District (the “Health District”), sued the Health District for disability discrimination under Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12112, and Ohio Revised Code § 4112.02, and wrongful discharge in violation of Ohio public policy. ECF No. 1. At all relevant times, Plaintiff suffered from several medical conditions, including arthritis of the knees, anemia, and lymphedema. Id.

         The Canfield Fair is an annual event that features myriad mobile food vendors. The Health District is required to conduct inspections of the mobile food units before the Fair begins.ECF No. 16 at PageID#: 99. These inspections were performed by Sanitarians who worked under a union contract. Id. The contract in effect in 2012 required that all Sanitarians participate in the food inspections. Id. The Fair Board's policies allowed only two golf carts to be used, by the Health District, the Tuesday of the Fair through Friday morning. Id. at PageID#: 100. Use of the carts was specifically permitted by individuals assigned to license and inspect the plumbing at all facilities. Id.; ECF No. 16-3 at PageID#: 235. Plaintiff's job at the Fair did not fall under either category. Id. at PageID#: 100. Plaintiff was a Sanitarian responsible for conducting health inspections of restaurants and mobile units (i.e. food vendors). ECF No. 17 at PageID#: 276.

         In 2012, the Fair was scheduled to take place August 28 through September 3. ECF No.16 at PageID#: 99. In anticipation of the Fair, on July 16, 2012, Plaintiff sent the following email to her immediate supervisor, Mary Helen Smith, requesting that she be permitted to use a golf cart, while conducting inspections of mobile units at the Fair. ECF No. 16 at PageID#: 99.

Good Morning Mary Helen,
The fair is coming up and I was wondering if you would be able to give me the company name, phone number, email address and a contact person if possible for the company where we order the golf carts from. I would like to rent a cart for myself for the entire time I'll be at the fair. Also, do you remember how much a cart would cost from Tuesday - Friday? Please let me know at your earliest convenience so I can contact them.
Thank you,
Kim

Id.

         On July 17, 2012, Smith, seeking upper management's assistance on Plaintiff's request, emailed the Health District's Commissioner, Patricia Sweeney. ECF No. 16-3 at PageID#:235-36. Although Smith believed that “the staff ha[d] been enabling [Plaintiff's] obesity problem, ” she informed Sweeney that Plaintiff's request was likely a labor management issue because it required that the Health District write a formal letter to the Fair Board, requesting permission to use the golf carts. ECF No. 17-6 at PageID#: 322 (alterations added); see also ECF No. 16-3 at PageID#: 236. Although Plaintiff's email did not articulate her request for a golf cart, Sweeney informed Smith that what Plaintiff may be seeking was a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. ECF No. 17-6 at PageID#: 322.

         While her request to use a golf cart at the Fair was pending, Plaintiff sent the Health District a medical slip from her doctor indicating she would not be able to attend the Fair due to health reasons. ECF Nos. 16 at PageID#: 100; 16-1 at PageID#: 132; 16-3 at PageID#: 243. Plaintiff's medical slip was dated July 20, 2012, four days after Plaintiff had requested to use a golf cart at the Fair. ECF No. 16 at PageID#: 100. Plaintiff then sent the Health District a second medical slip dated July 25, 2012 from another physician, again indicating she would not be medically fit to attend the Fair. Id. Upon receipt of Plaintiff's medical slips, the Health District acknowledged in an email that Plaintiff would not be required to attend the Fair, therefore, rendering Plaintiff's golf cart request moot. Id.

         Thereafter, the Health District elected to attend field inspections with Plaintiff. Id. On August 2, 2012, Plaintiff's immediate supervisor, Smith, accompanied Plaintiff to her scheduled field inspections for the day-a restaurant inspection and a mobile unit inspection. Id. Smith concluded that Plaintiff inspected the restaurant without incident but could not complete the inspection of the mobile unit because of her physical limitations. Id. At the time Plaintiff was to conduct the mobile unit inspection, she indicated to Smith that, because of her physical limitations, she was unable to enter the mobile unit and properly complete the inspection. Id.; ECF No. 16-3 at PageID#: 244. Plaintiff then informed Smith that she had not been able to properly complete mobile unit inspections for some time, and that her mobile units inspections, prior to August 2, 2012, had been performed below Health Department standards because of her physical limitations. ECF Nos. 16 at PageID#: 101; 16-1 at PageID#: 125-26. As a result, Smith verbally reprimanded Plaintiff, and subsequently, made a written record of her verbal instructions and cautioning to Plaintiff. ECF Nos. 16 at PageID#: 101; 16-3 at PageID#: 245-46.

         After the observed inspections, the Health District held several meetings to determine how it could adjust Plaintiff's employment duties to accommodate her physical limitations and inability to properly inspect mobile units. ECF No. 16 at PageID#: 101. Based on Plaintiff's continued ability to conduct restaurant inspections, the Health District offered Plaintiff an accommodation of foregoing all mobile unit inspections and assuming more restaurant inspections. ECF Nos. 16 at PageID#: 101; 16-3 at PageID#: 247. In response to the Health District's offer, Plaintiff stated that “she could not physically handle any more restaurant inspections at that time.” ECF No. 17 at PageID#: 284-85. On August 27, 2012, Plaintiff presented the Health District with her third physician's note stating that Plaintiff was unable to perform her duties as a Sanitarian because of her disability. ECF Nos. 16 at PageID#: 101; 16-1 at PageID#: 134. On August 28, 2012, Plaintiff voluntarily resigned from her sanitarian position. ECF Nos. 16 at PageID#: 101; 16-1 at PageID#: 186. Plaintiff later applied for Ohio Public Employees Retirement Systems (“OPERS”) Disability. ECF No. 16-1 at PageID#: 126-27. She was awarded benefits on or about December 2, 2012. Id.

         After receiving her right-to-sue letter from the EEOC, Plaintiff brought suit against the Health District for violations of the ADA, Ohio Revised Code § 4112.02, and Ohio public policy.[1] ECF No. 1. Plaintiff alleges that the Health District wrongfully terminated her employment in violation of the ADA, Ohio Revised Code § 4112.02, and Ohio public policy by (1) discriminating against her based on her disability, and (2) failing to accommodate her disability, resulting in her constructive discharge. Id. The Health District moved for summary judgment. ECF No. 16. The matter is ripe for review. See ECF No. 17; ECF No. 21.

         II. ...


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