United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
M. HILTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion for
case arises from the termination of Plaintiff Mohamad
Mastou's employment by Defendant Middle East Broadcasting
Networks, Inc. ("MBN"}. MBN is a U.S.
government-funded news organization that focuses on reporting
news to the Middle East. Plaintiff was a reporter for MBN
from February 2013 until his termination in December 2015.
MBN's stated reason for the termination was that
Plaintiff committed plagiarism.
was diagnosed with PTSD in December 2014, as a result of
personal traumatic experiences in Syria and witnessing by
video a bombing incident in Syria that resulted in the death
of his father and brother. Plaintiff did not inform MBN of
his PTSD diagnosis until March 2015, at which time he
requested and was granted twelve weeks of leave pursuant to
the Family Medical Leave Act to seek treatment for his PTSD.
Plaintiff returned to work in June 2015, he was initially
assigned the overnight shift and later the afternoon shift.
However, in September, he was reassigned to work the morning
shift, beginning at 4 AM. Plaintiff alleges that the shift
change was difficult for him to comply with due to his
difficulty sleeping as a result of his PTSD and the fact that
his medications caused him to have difficulty waking and
resulted in grogginess. Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that
the morning shift exposed him to more news regarding the then
ongoing civil war in Syria, which triggered his PTSD
before Plaintiff's shift was changed (and before he was
diagnosed with PTSD), Plaintiff exhibited deficiencies in his
job performance. Appraisals of his performance included
allegations of repeated tardiness, failure to communicate
with management, and poor work quality. He was disciplined in
January 2015 for tardiness, at which time it was documented
that he had arrived late to work on more than 50 occasions.
his shift change, Plaintiff requested as an accommodation to
be reassigned to a later shift. This request was followed by
a documented interactive process during which MBN explored
options for an accommodation and attempted to communicate
with Plaintiff's health care providers. One month after
Plaintiff requested the accommodation, while the interactive
process was still ongoing, Plaintiff filed a charge of
discrimination against MBN with the EEOC. On December 14,
2015, after receiving information verifying Plaintiffs
condition from Plaintiff's health care providers, MBN
decided to grant Plaintiff's accommodation request.
However, a few days after the decision was made, Plaintiff
was terminated for plagiarism.
plagiarism incident arose when Plaintiff was assigned to
research and write a news story for the technology section of
MBN's digital platform. Plaintiff put together a story by
cutting and pasting portions of two Arabic-language articles
he found on the internet. He submitted the article to his
editor and did not identify the two websites from which he
had copied the paragraphs. After investigating,
Plaintiff's editor discovered that the article was
plagiarized. Plaintiff was then terminated on December 21,
2015, and told that the reason for the termination was
filed this suit against MBN in February 2017, alleging that
MBN violated provisions of the Americans with Disabilities
Act by discriminating against Plaintiff on the basis of his
disability. Plaintiff alleged that his conduct with regard to
the article he submitted in December was "a common
occurrence among reporters ar MBN" and therefore that
the plagiarism charge was pretextual. On October 6, 2017,
after completion of discovery, MBN filed its Motion for
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, a court should grant
summary judgment if the pleadings and evidence show that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that
the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). In reviewing a motion for summary
judgment, the court views the facts in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party. See Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). Once a
motion for summary judgment is properly made, the opposing
party has the burden to show that a genuine dispute of
material fact exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v.
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). The
Court finds there is no genuine dispute of material fact and
this case is ripe for summary judgment.
did not specify in his complaint what theory of
discrimination he is pursuing under the ADA, listing as his
only count that MBN "discriminated against Plaintiff
based on his disability in violation of the Americans with
Disabilities Act." In his Opposition to MBN's Motion
for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff argued three theories to show
that MBN violated the ADA: discriminatory termination,
retaliation, and discriminatory failure to accommodate his
disability. The Court holds that each of these theories fail
as a matter of law.
order to establish a prima facie claim of discriminatory
termination under the ADA, a plaintiff must establish four
elements: (1) that the plaintiff qualifies under the ADA as
an individual with a disability; (2) that the plaintiff was
discharged; (3) that the plaintiff was meeting his
employer's legitimate performance expectations at the
time of the discharge; and (4) that the circumstances
surrounding the discharge lead to a reasonable inference of
discrimination. Reynolds v. American Hat. Red Cross,
701 F.3d 143, 150 (4th Cir. 2012).
case, Plaintiff has failed to present evidence to establish
that he was meeting his employer's legitimate performance
expectations or that his termination occurred under
circumstances that would lead to a reasonable inference of
discrimination. The record in this case shows instead that
Plaintiff's employment was marked with multiple instances
of poor performance. Plaintiff was cited by supervisors for
tardiness, insubordination, and failure to communicate with
management on multiple occasions, and was disciplined for
tardiness in January 2015, more than two months before he
reported his disability. Additionally, the record shows that
Plaintiff violated MBN's policy against plagiarism by
submitting an article that he had created by combining
portions of two other articles he found on the internet. Due
to these documented examples of poor performance, Plaintiff
has not established that he was meeting his employer's
legitimate expectations at the time of his discharge.
Plaintiff has not established that the circumstances of the
discharge permit a reasonable inference of discrimination.
The mere fact that Plaintiff had requested an accommodation
and MBN had been engaged in the process of approving an
appropriate accommodation for two months prior to the
discharge does not establish a reasonable inference of
discrimination. This is particularly true in light of the
fact that MBN had decided to grant Plaintiff's
accommodation request on December 14, one week ...