United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
Ellis, III United States District Judge.
issue on summary judgment in this disability discrimination
case is whether the undisputed record facts reflect that
defendant is entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff's
reasonable accommodation and discharge claims. Specifically,
plaintiff claims (i) that defendant failed to accommodate her
disability by denying plaintiff the opportunity to bring her
dog, Mr. B, to work, and (ii) that she was terminated because
of her disability. Defendant counters, arguing that
plaintiff's preferred accommodation was not reasonable in
light of the allergy issues created by Mr. B's presence
in the workplace, and that defendant offered other reasonable
alternatives as part of the ADA mandated interactive process,
such as substituting a hypoallergenic dog for Mr. B or
working the day shift, both of which plaintiff refused to
consider. Defendant also contends that plaintiff was
discharged not because of any disability, but because a
psychologist evaluation concluded that she was not
psychologically suited for her position as a 911 dispatcher.
matter has been fully briefed and argued and is now ripe for
entry of summary judgment is appropriate only where there are
no genuine disputes of material fact. See Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The following
statement of undisputed material facts is based on the
defendant's statement of undisputed material facts and
plaintiff's response. The remainder of the record and the
parties' statements of additional facts were also scoured
for facts that might be viewed as in conflict with the facts
• Defendant, the City of Fairfax, employed plaintiff,
Stefanie Maubach, as a dispatcher. Plaintiff's
responsibilities including answering emergency calls,
receiving and transmitting radio and telephone messages, and
dispatching police and other emergency personnel when needed.
Plaintiff worked the night shift with another dispatcher. Lt.
Martin Nachtman (Nachtman) supervised plaintiff.
• Plaintiff worked in defendant's Emergency
Operations Center (EOC), which is a bulletproof glass
enclosed and locked space containing highly sensitive
equipment and multiple work stations. Each station contains
the necessary equipment to allow plaintiff, as a dispatcher,
to perform her duties.
• In February 2016, plaintiff asked Nachtman if she
could bring her dog to work. Plaintiff told Nachtman that
having her dog, Mr. B,  at work would help plaintiff avoid
panic attacks, which had already caused plaintiff to miss
work. Nachtman denied plaintiff's request. At that time,
Nachtman was unaware that plaintiff suffered a disability.
• A little over a month later, on April 22, 2016,
plaintiff visited a professional counselor to discuss her
emotional health. On May 11, 2016, plaintiff returned to the
counselor and reported having suffered a panic attack at a
• Later in the month, on May 23, 2016, plaintiff
returned to the counselor and this time reported having a
panic attack at work because she had seen a spider. Plaintiff
asked the counselor about the possibility of using Mr. B as
an emotional support animal. The counselor agreed to write a
letter recommending that plaintiff be allowed to bring Mr. B
to work with her to calm plaintiff when she suffered a panic
• Between May 23 and June 6, plaintiff contacted
defendant's personnel director concerning plaintiff's
request to bring her dog to work. Plaintiff told the
personnel director that Mr. B was a registered service
animal. Plaintiff also advised the personnel director that
she needed Mr. B to help her drive to and from work as a
precaution in the event plaintiff received a call from the
man plaintiff alleges molested plaintiff's daughter, and
plaintiff suffered a panic attack as a result of the call.
• The personnel director discussed the request with
defendant's Risk Manager and plaintiff was allowed to
bring Mr. B to work on a trial basis. Plaintiff provided the
personnel director with Mr. B's vaccination and service
animal registration records.
• On June 6, 2016, after taking Mr. B to her
counselor's office, plaintiff's counselor gave
plaintiff a letter recommending that plaintiff be allowed to
bring Mr. B to work as an emotional support animal.
• Plaintiff's supervisor, Nachtman, was on vacation
at the time plaintiff was discussing bringing Mr. B to work
on a trial basis with the personnel director. When Nachtman
returned from vacation, he discovered that plaintiff had
brought Mr. B to work. Nachtman also discovered that the EOC
was covered with clumps of dog fur and dander and that
plaintiff had left Mr. B's bed in the EOC. Nachtman is
allergic to dogs and began suffering allergic reactions to
Mr. B's fur and dander after entering the EOC. These
allergic reactions included sneezing, watery eyes, coughing,
• Later in June, Nachtman received an email from a
day-shift dispatcher, in which this dispatcher complained
about allergic reaction to Mr. B's fur and dander.
• Allergies were not the only problem caused by Mr.
B's presence in the workplace. The morning after one of
plaintiff's night shifts, a supervisor of patrol officers
advised Nachtman that plaintiff had allowed an inexperienced
police officer to monitor the EOC alone while plaintiff was
walking Mr. B. Although two night shift dispatchers would
ordinarily have been on duty, only one was present on the
night in question because the other night shift dispatcher
was out sick. Nachtman expressed concern that plaintiff's
need to take Mr. B on walks might create an unsafe
environment if no qualified dispatcher were present for a 911
call. Nachtman contacted defendant's personnel director
and complained that Mr. B was causing allergies in the EOC
and that plaintiff's need to care for Mr. B during her
shift might put officers or civilians at risk because
plaintiff would leave her dispatcher post in order to walk or
care for Mr. B.
• Nachtman's complaint, the personnel director
consulted with Fairfax's legal counsel. On June 29, 2016,
the personnel director asked plaintiff to submit
documentation regarding plaintiff's request to bring Mr.
B to work. Plaintiff responded by providing the personnel
director with the note from her counselor recommending that
plaintiff be allowed to bring “an emotional support
animal” to work. After a few additional email
exchanges, defendant's personnel director determined that
Mr. B was qualified as an emotional support animal, and the
personnel director requested additional information regarding
plaintiff's request for an accommodation pursuant to the
• On July 7, 2016, the personnel director confirmed
plaintiff's request for accommodation in a phone call. In
a telephone call, plaintiff informed the personnel director
that she would not return to work until and unless ...