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Ruddell v. Triple Canopy, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

August 29, 2016



          Leonie M. Brinkema United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Dustin R. Ruddell ("plaintiff or "Ruddell") has filed this civil action under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., against defendant Triple Canopy, Inc. ("defendant" or "Triple Canopy"), a defense contractor that provides security services to various government agencies, including the Department of State (DOS), for employment discrimination and failure to reasonably accommodate plaintiffs disability. First Am. Compl. (Compl.), [Dkt. 5] ¶ 3; Written Stip. of Uncontested Facts (Stip.), [Dkt. 60] ¶ 4. Although the complaint included a claim under the "Louisiana Employment Discrimination Act, " Compl. ¶ 3, plaintiff has abandoned that claim.

         Discovery has been completed and the parties have filed and argued their cross-motions for summary judgment, which are the subject of this memorandum opinion. For the reasons that follow, defendant's motion will be granted and plaintiffs motion will be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The majority of facts in this record are not disputed. Before joining Triple Canopy, plaintiff served two tours of duty in the Navy. Stip. ¶ 3. During that period, Lt. Commander Jessica Plichta Wilson diagnosed plaintiff with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). Ruddell Dep., [Dkt. 70-7] at 19:9-21. To manage that disorder, Ruddell was prescribed Adderall XR. Ruddell Dep., [Dkt. 79-1] at 13-30. Adderall XR is an amphetamine, meaning it is a central nervous system stimulant. Ruddell Dep., [Dkt. 70-7] at 140:5-8; "Amphetamine, " Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary (26 ed., John P. Friel ed., 1981). Without Adderall, Ruddell becomes "moody, " experiences "depression, " and his mind is "all over the place." Ruddell Dep., [Dkt. 74-1] at 97:21. From November 30, 2012, until June 22, 2015, Ruddell was under the care of Diane Davis, a nurse practitioner. Stip. ¶ 18. During those years, Nurse Davis reauthorized Ruddell's Adderall prescription several times. Ruddell Dep., [Dkt. 79-1] at 13-30.

         Triple Canopy is a prime contractor on the Worldwide Protective Services (WPS) Contract for DOS. Stip. ¶¶ 1, 4. One portion of the WPS Contract is Task Order 5 (TO-5), under which Triple Canopy provides security services in Baghdad, Iraq. Stip. ¶¶ 1, 4. Plaintiff was deployed on this contract in April 2011 as an explosive detection dog (EDD) handler. Stip. ¶¶ 6-7. "As an EDD Handler on TO-5, many of Plaintiff s missions were on 'ambassador's detail, ' providing mobile security. As part of this detail, Plaintiff served on an advance team and (using a trained bomb-sniffing dog) cleared the area of explosives if a diplomat or an ambassador had a meeting to ensure the safety of the dignitary." Stip. ¶ 8. While deployed, Ruddell had to carry a firearm at all times. Stip. ¶ 10. The job also "required him to: (1) provide emergency response in .. . life threatening situations; (2) summon professional assistance and render first responder first aid ...; (3) explosive ordnance detection; (4) prevent the unauthorized introduction of explosive devices or matter; and (5) protect life and property." Stip. ¶ 11. Defendant concedes that "Ruddell's performance was 'steadily consistently good."' Def Opp. to PI. Mot. for S.J. (Def. Opp.), [Dkt. 75] at 3.

         The WPS Contract contains two primary provisions on contractor use of prescription medication. [Dkt. 70-11] at 3. Section 7.17 provides:

Contractor personnel who is [sic] taking prescription medication, except for the short-term antibiotics, anti-malarial prophylaxis, or oral contraceptives, which are not already a matter of record with the Contractor, shall notify his or her supervisor and submit a medical certificate or other administratively acceptable documentation of the prescription and its effect(s) to the Regional Security Officer and DS/OPO/HTP.
The Regional Security Officer with the assistance of DS/OPO/HTP shall determine whether such Contractor personnel shall be allowed to continue to carry a firearm while taking the medication. Pending written approval, Contractor personnel shall not perform [personal security] duties.

         [Dkt. 70-11] at 3. In Section 8.06(2), the contract provides:

Typically, prescription medication will be approved for use under the treatment of a qualified attending Physician in accordance with approved dosages and when the medication does not cause drowsiness or otherwise impair performance and are [sic] part of the employee's official medical record.

         [Dkt. 70-11] at 6.

         The WPS Contract also contains two relevant provisions described as "General Necessary Conditions, " which provide more information about the terms and conditions of defendant's responsibilities. The first is Section C.4.1.1, which reads:

The Contractor shall ensure that all work performed under this contract is accomplished in accordance with the applicable standards, standard operating procedures, general orders, and specific orders issued by [DOS] unless otherwise directed by the [Contracting Officer], [Contracting Officer Representative/General Technical Manager], [Regional Security Officer], [Agent in Charge], or the Program Office. Any changes in standards, standard operating procedures, or General Orders for any particular PRS or guard detail will be identified in the applicable Task Order.

         [Dkt. 70-11] at 2. Section C.4.1.2 reads in relevant part:

The Contractor, including all Contractor personnel accomplishing work under this contract, shall accomplish all work under this contract in compliance with the direction provided by the Department of State [Contracting Officer], [Contracting Officer Representative/General Technical Manager], [Regional Security Officer], Agent in Charge (AIC) or the Program Office.

[Diet 70-11 ] at 2. The WPS Contract itself is silent about what happens if a contractor violates either of these two sections, but defendant's corporate representative Jeffrey Johnson testified in his deposition that failure to adhere to requirements in letters from the Contracting Officer Representative (COR) would lead the government to "terminate the contracts and . .. put it [sic] up for rebid." [Dkt. 70-12] at 26:17-18. There is no evidence in the record contradicting that statement.

         In 2013, DOS and Triple Canopy began to correspond about the medication provisions of the WPS Contract. The first letter, which came from DOS on February 15, 2013, and was addressed not only to defendant but to "All Worldwide Protective Services (WPS) Contractors providing support in Iraq, " discussed contractors' obligation to conduct drug testing under the WPS Contract. [Dkt. 70-13.] DOS specifically observed that "[i]t is the responsibility of each WPS Contractor to remain compliant with Section 8.05 (Drug Screening) of the WPS base contract by ensuring 100% of personnel serving on the task order are screened within every 6 month time period." [Dkt. 70-13] at 1. DOS then provided a list of actions that each contractor should take to facilitate that process, including providing information to employees, sending a supervisor to accompany employees being tested, reporting "non-negative" test results, and removing "non-negative" employees from billable status and "[U.S. government]-provided housing" while follow-up takes place. [Dkt. 70-13] at 1-2.

         Defendant replied on February 22, 2013, asking for clarification on several issues related to the prescription medication policy, among diem whether "it [was] the intention of DOS that anyone prescribed prescription drugs while on task order by [Comprehensive Health Services (CHS)] shall be removed from the project and returned to home of record[.]"[1] [Dkt. 70-14] at 2. Triple Canopy then requested that DOS "publish a list of medications that would prohibit a Triple Canopy employee from performing on this contract while using one or more of those proscribed medications, along with a statement regarding why each medication . . . serves as a disqualifying factor based upon the specific job requirements[.]" [Dkt. 70-14] at 2. In its February 22 letter, Triple Canopy also informed DOS that it had "significant concerns that employees who are negatively impacted by the review process may invoke the legal protections of the ADA." [Dkt. 70-14] at 3.

         In a reply sent March 8, 2013, DOS declined to provide the requested list of medications, stating that "[DOS] is also bound by the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, and we feel that existing department guidelines allow us to comply with these regulations." [Dkt. 70-17] at 4.[2] After receiving that letter, defendant sent an email dated April 9, 2013, to all employees working on the DOS contract advising that "DOS has expanded the testing to the following list of drugs, " and providing an itemized list of medications including "amphetamine." [Dkt. 70-19.]

         On June 6, 2013, DOS followed up with another letter. This time, DOS provided a list of medications that it considers "inconsistent with working in a high threat environment." [Dkt. 70-18 at 1.] That list included "amphetamine and derivatives, " and DOS directed contractors to ensure that "no one is operating in a billable capacity on the task order while taking ... any of the above substances." [Dkt. 70-18] at 1. The June 6 letter also provided different instructions with respect to psychotropic and psychotherapeutic medications generally, concluding that they "may be inconsistent with work in a high threat environment, " directing disclosure to DOS for further evaluation, and explaining that "[i]f an individual is taking medications containing the substances listed above, the Contractor shall remove that individual from duty either temporarily until the condition requiring the use of the medication is resolved, or permanently." [Dkt. 70-18] at 2 (emphasis added).

         On June 2, 2014, almost exactly one year after receiving the itemized list from DOS, Triple Canopy sent a letter to all its WPS Contract employees identifying "prohibited medications" including "amphetamine and derivatives, " specifically listing Adderall ...

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