The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sullivan, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Jeffrey Armstrong brought this action alleging that
his former employer, the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA")
discriminated against him on the basis of his race and
disability, created a hostile working environment, failed to
provide reasonable accommodation for his disability, and
retaliated against him for filing Equal Employment Opportunity
("EEO") complaints, in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of
1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. ("Rehabilitation Act") and Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (as amended),
42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII").
Pending before the Court is defendant's motion for summary
judgment. Defendant argues the followings: first, that many of
plaintiffs allegations are barred because he failed to exhaust
administrative remedies; second, plaintiffs race and disability
discrimination and retaliation claims fail because plaintiff has
not proven that he suffered an adverse employment action; third,
plaintiffs remaining discrimination claims fail because he can
not overcome defendant's legitimate, non-discriminatory
rationale for defendant's actions; fourth, plaintiffs reasonable
accommodation claim fails because he did in fact receive the
requested accommodation once DEA was informed of the plaintiffs
medical need; and fifth, plaintiffs hostile work environment
claim fails because plaintiff was "hypersensitive" and cannot
prove the existence of objectively hostile or abusive
Upon consideration of the defendant's motion, the opposition
and reply thereto, as well as relevant statutory and case law,
defendant's motion is DENIED.
I. Plaintiffs DEA Employment History
Plaintiff Jeffrey Armstrong, a 38-year-old African-American
male, joined the U.S. Air Force in 1979 and remained active for
eight years. He was honorably discharged in 1987 following a
service-incurred injury to his knees that required surgical
repair. Doctors have assessed his disability at a rating of 30%
or more. Plaintiffs injury impairs his knees, back, and neck and
affects his ability to walk and stand. Specifically, plaintiff
experiences pain and numbness in his knees because of nerve
damage, for which he takes muscle relaxants and pain killers.
Because of his disability, plaintiff has had handicapped license
tags on his car since 1989. Pl.'s Mem. of P & A in Opp'n to
Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. (hereinafter "Pl.'s Opp'n") at 2-3.
Plaintiff claims that his disability impacts his ability to do
certain types of work. After his discharge from the Air Force,
he had to give up a position as a file clerk at the Department
of Energy because of the physical strain. Pl.'s Opp'n at 3.
The parties agree that for several years, plaintiff performed
his duties at levels consistently assessed as "excellent" and
worked his way from a G-4 salaried position to a G-12 position
as a Telecommunications Specialist in the Technical Operations
Group at the WDO. Plaintiff claims that from the beginning of
his time at DEA, he was given accommodations for his disability.
Pl.'s Opp'n at 4. Plaintiff claims that he was allowed to park
in a parking spot that minimized walking. Id. Plaintiff claims
that one of his initial supervisors, Administrative Officer
("AO") Juanita Matthews, had in place a lifting restriction for
him. Id. In addition, plaintiff claims that he was allowed to
take his lunch hour from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. so that he could use a
particular gym for his medically-required exercises. Id. Until
1995, plaintiff claims that he had no problem parking in his
desired spot or taking the late lunch. Id. Defendant contests
these facts, claiming that plaintiff never requested or received
a disability accommodation before 1995. Def.'s Br. at 2.
In 1991, plaintiff filed an EEO complaint against Assistant
Special Agent in Charge ("ASAC") Ferris, alleging racial
discrimination. While that complaint was settled, plaintiff
alleges that his filing an EEO complaint was not well received
at the WDO. Pl.'s Opp'n at 4 — 5.
In 1995, plaintiff was informed that he was being transferred
from the Technical Operations Group to the Administrative
Section under AO Alvin Jenkins. Plaintiff claims that this
transfer was improper. He claims that when he asked why he was
being transferred, Group Supervisor ("GS") Michael Burke told
him that the front office did not like plaintiff because he was
intimidating, "uppity, too cocky, and was lucky to be a GS-12."
Pl.'s Opp'n at 5. Defendant contests this claim. Defendant
explains that plaintiff was transferred because Special Agent in
Charge ("SAC") Peter Gruden conducted an analysis and determined
that the Administrative Section needed a full time Security
Specialist to handle security matters that would accompany an
upcoming office relocation. Def.'s Br. at 2-3. He consequently
decided to reclassify one Telecommunications Specialist position
to a Security Specialist, and chose plaintiff to fill that role.
Id. at 2.
In September, 1995, plaintiff was transferred to the
Administrative Section at WDO under the supervision of AO
Jenkins. Plaintiff alleges that from the start AO Jenkins
prevented him from doing his work by denying him access to
government vehicles, instructing plaintiff not to leave the
building, and refusing plaintiff adequate training for his new
position. Pl.'s Opp'n at 6. Defendant, on the other hand, claims
that plaintiff from the start became a problem for AO Jenkins by
refusing to comply with orders. Def.'s Br. at 3. Defendant
claims that plaintiff failed to meet his supervisor's
instructions and needed counseling as a result. Id.
In October 1995, plaintiffs lunch hour became an issue in
dispute between plaintiff and AO Jenkins. The parties differ as
to the order of events. Plaintiff alleges that as he had been
receiving the late lunch accommodation all along, it was AO
Jenkins who notified plaintiff that he would have to change his
lunch hours. Pl.'s Opp'n at 6. In response, claims the
plaintiff, he wrote a memo to AO Jenkins explaining the need for
the late lunch. Id.
In addition, plaintiff alleges that his coworkers were not
restricted in their lunch hours. Id. at 7. Plaintiff also
alleges that he spoke with AO Jenkins, ASAC Wilson, and SAC
Gruden about his disability, but they all denied his request.
Id. Defendant, on the other hand, contends that the October of
1995 memo was the first time plaintiff ever requested an
accommodation for his disability. Defendant's Brief at 4.
Defendant denies that SAC Gruden was made aware of this request.
Id. Defendant contends that AO Jenkins sent plaintiff a
responding memo requesting medical documentation supporting his
disability claim. Id. Defendant claims that plaintiff failed
to provide that documentation until September 1996. Id.
In December 1995, plaintiffs parking space became an issue.
Plaintiff claims that in December 1995, SAC Gruden instructed
the parking garage manager to make plaintiff move his car. Pl.'s
Opp'n at 7. Plaintiff then met with SAC Gruden and informed him
of his need for a handicapped parking space. Id. Defendant
claims that SAC Gruden noticed a car parked improperly in the
garage and questioned AO Jenkins about it. Def.'s Br. at 5.
Defendant admits that SAC Gruden spoke with plaintiff about the
parking space and requested medical documentation. Id.
Plaintiff claims that he then showed SAC Gruden his handicapped
parking permit in response to that request. Pl.'s Opp'n at 7.
AO Jenkins requested assistance in resolving the parking space
dispute from the DEA Office of Personnel. Once again, the
parties dispute what happened next. Plaintiff alleges that
Sharon Taylor Foreman investigated plaintiffs parking space
request in December of 1995. Pl.'s Opp'n at 8. Ms. Foreman
informed plaintiff that any further accommodation requests
should go through her. Id. Plaintiff claims that in early
1996, he provided Ms. Foreman with copies of his medical
records, from both the VA and his private physicians. Id.
Defendant, on the other hand, claims that SAC Gruden and AO
Jenkins were given conflicting information from the Personnel
Office with respect to plaintiff's disability. Def.'s Br. at 5.
Defendant claims that Personnel initially responded that it had
no information related to plaintiffs disability. Id. Then, on
January 30, 1996, the head of Personnel, Retha Fulmore, advised
AO Jenkins that plaintiff should be given a special parking spot
to "accommodate his disability." Id.
Defendant does not dispute the fact that after the January 30,
1996, letter from the head of Personnel, it did not provide
plaintiff with his accommodation. Id. Instead, defendant
claims that it consulted with DEA's EEO officer, Marion Moss, as
to the proper course of action. Id. Defendant claims that
plaintiffs failure to provide medical documentation until
September of 1996 prevented it from providing the parking space.
Plaintiff, on the other hand, contests this version of events.
Plaintiff claims that after receiving his medical documents, Ms.
Foreman attempted to meet with AO Jenkins to discuss the matter
from January through September 1996 but was rebuffed. Pl.'s
Opp'n at 8. Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Foreman both informed SAC
Gruden that AO Jenkins would not meet with her, and also
forwarded plaintiffs medical documents to both AO Jenkins and
another supervisor, R.C. Gramble, in April of 1996. Id.
Defendant contests this version of events, and characterizes
plaintiffs discussions with Ms. Foreman as an attempt to "bypass
the system" and blames Ms. Foreman for failing to provide WDO
management with information related to plaintiff's disability.
Def.'s Br. at 6 n. 8. Plaintiff alleges that he was unaware that
discuss his request with anyone other than Ms. Foreman until
fall of 1996, and when he was so informed, he did so promptly.
Pl.'s Opp'n at 8.
Defendant claims that accommodation requests are processed
through DEA's Medical Health Unit and the Chief Medical Officer,
Dr. Gary Schwartz. Def.'s Br. at 6. Plaintiff agrees that it was
not until September of 1996 that he approached Dr. Schwartz. Dr.
Schwartz did receive plaintiffs accommodation request for a
parking space, ergonomic chair, and a late lunch hour, along
with medical documents from the VA and plaintiffs personal
physicians. Id. Upon review of plaintiffs documentation, Dr.
Schwartz recommended that plaintiffs accommodation requests be
granted. Id. Defendant admits that one of the forms reviewed
by Dr. Schwartz was a Statement of Physical Ability for Light
Duty Work which plaintiff had completed when he was hired by DEA
1989 which discusses plaintiffs physical limitations. Id.
Defendant claims that in September of 1996, after receiving a
recommendation that plaintiff should receive the three
accommodations he requested, SAC Gruden made arrangements to
grant two of the requests, the parking space and the chair.
Def.'s Br. at 7. It is unclear when plaintiff actually received
those accommodations. Defendant claims that the late lunch