United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Abingdon Division
Richard F. Hawkins, III, The Hawkins Law Firm, PC, Richmond,
Virginia, for Plaintiff.
B. Flood, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.,
Washington, D.C., for Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. Jones United States District Judge.
civil action, plaintiff Shelia Holmes claims that her former
employer failed to reasonably accommodate her disability and
terminated her because of her disability in violation of the
Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42
U.S.C. §§ 12112-12117. The defendant employer has
moved for summary judgment, asserting that Holmes was unable
to perform the essential functions of her job and that her
proposed accommodation was unreasonable. For the reasons that
follow, I will grant the defendant's motion.
following facts taken from the summary judgment record are
either undisputed or, where disputed, are stated in the light
most favorable to Holmes, the nonmoving party.
has a condition called brachymetatarsia, which means she has
several abnormally short and overlapping toes. She also has
diabetes. Wearing protective footwear causes friction and
ulcers on her feet, which is very dangerous because of the
diabetes. Wearing such shoes also causes her feet to swell
and can create circulation problems, putting her at risk of
requiring amputation. Holmes's brachymetatarsia and
diabetes interfere with her major life activities of walking
began working for General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical
Systems, Inc., at its manufacturing plant in Marion,
Virginia, in 1998 and was employed there for approximately 18
years, mostly as a Shelter Fabricator. In that role,
Holmes was exposed to a number of hazards. Shelter
Fabricators work on the production floor around heavy objects
that could fall or roll onto their feet, and there is also
some risk of injury from electrical shocks or sharp objects.
Although she was never injured on the job, Holmes does not
dispute the presence of these hazards or the fact that they
had the potential to severely injure her feet. The job
description for Shelter Fabricator does not include any
mention of wearing protective shoes. However, a job safety
analysis dated August 15, 2013, states that wearing personal
protective equipment, including protective footwear, is
essential to the position of Shelter Fabricator.
early as 2003, General Dynamics stated that employees working
on the production floor were required to wear steel-toed or
similar shoes. Nevertheless, Holmes was allowed to work in
tennis shoes or other loose-fitting shoes for many years. She
had a note from a doctor explaining that her medical
conditions would not allow her to wear protective shoes, and
she would show the note to her supervisor to be excused from
in 2013, however, General Dynamics stopped exempting Holmes
from the protective footwear requirement. That year, an
outside auditor found a violation of the protective footwear
policy by employee A.B. The audit finding was significant to
the company because future violations could jeopardize the
company's certifications and subject the company to other
serious ramifications. As a result, the company made an
effort to ensure full compliance with the requirement to wear
obtained another medical note explaining that her conditions
prevented her from wearing safety shoes, which she showed to
the company. She also told the company that she had seen
other employees work in the same area of the plant without
wearing protective shoes. Holmes tried to comply with the
policy by wearing protective footwear, but whenever she did
so, the shoes caused problems for her feet, so she removed
them. When she saw a human resources representative coming
her way, she would donn them again in order to appear
compliant with the policy.
resources representative Brent Theriault spoke with several
outside vendors to obtain safety shoes and shoe covers. None
of the brands or varieties the company ordered for Holmes
were acceptable to her. In November 2013, after reviewing a
note from Holmes's doctor indicating that she could not
wear protective foorwear, the company placed Holmes on an
excused absence to allow her to find appropriate safety
shoes, for which it would reimburse her. The company
suggested that perhaps she could have safety shoes
custom-made for her needs, but there is no indication that
Holmes pursued that option.
production-area employee, G.A., was for some period of time
excused from wearing steel-toed or similar shoes because he
had a hammer toe. G.A. was eventually required to wear such
shoes as well, but not for some time after the requirement
was imposed against Holmes. When Lisa Greenway, the
plant's Environmental, Health and Safety Manager, learned
that G.A. was not wearing safety shoes, she informed G.A.
that he was required to wear such shoes and he assured her
that he would do so going forward.
Collective Bargaining Agreement governing workers at the
Marion, Virginia, General Dynamics plant generally requires
employees to wear safety equipment. Regulations promulgated
by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(“OSHA”) typically require employees working
around heavy equipment to wear protective footwear. However,
OSHA has suggested that “non-metallic toes caps”
may be a reasonable alternative to steel-toed shoes for
diabetic employees. Pl.'s Mem. Opp'n Mot. Summ. J.
Ex. N, ECF No. 49-14. General Dynamics ordered several types
and sizes of protective footwear for Holmes to try, including
covers that would fit over her tennis shoes. Holmes does not
suggest that a ...