Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Maubach v. City of Fairfax

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

April 30, 2018

STEFANIE MAUBACH, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF FAIRFAX, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          T.S. Ellis, III United States District Judge.

         At 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.

         The matter has been fully briefed and argued and is now ripe for disposition.

         I.

         The 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.[1] 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 stated here.

• 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, [2] 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 store.
• 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 attack.
• 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, and congestion.
• 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 ADA.
• 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 ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.