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Grant v. May Department Stores Company

December 06, 2001


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CA-9332-97) (Hon. Reggie B. Walton, Trial Judge)

Before Reid and Glickman, Associate Judges, and Newman, Senior Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Newman, Senior Judge

Submitted October 25, 2001

Alyson D. Grant (Grant) contends that the trial court committed error by granting May Department Store's (Hecht's) motion for summary judgment dismissing her claims for denial of reasonable accommodations due to a disability and retaliation, both alleged to be in violation of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act (DCHRA). We affirm in part, and reverse in part.


A. Facts

In October 1996, Grant began working for Hecht's at Metro Center. Initially she worked in the cosmetic department as a "floater," where she would substitute for employees who were absent. After being employed for a few weeks, Grant was promoted to a position at the Chanel cosmetic counter.

Grant was diagnosed with diabetes in 1993 and she became pregnant in late 1996. In January 1997, Grant was hospitalized for two days to begin receiving insulin. Around the time she was hospitalized, Grant informed her supervisor, Shelly Dean (Dean), and other Hecht's employees that she had diabetes and was taking insulin. In Grant's deposition she described her diabetic condition as causing highs and lows in her blood sugar, which in turn could affect walking, vision, speech and her ability to work. Through diligent monitoring, diet, and insulin use, Grant was able to control her blood sugar levels.

On May 3, 1997, Grant had her first performance evaluation. She received an unacceptable rating, was criticized for dress code violations, and was placed on probation. According to Walter Risser, the regional retail manager for Chanel, all the personnel at the counter received unfavorable reviews and were placed on probation because counter sales were down.

On or about June 12, 1997, following a consultation with Dr. Mims, Grant requested a schedule change to day shifts only. Grant first approached Dean, who told her to speak with the Human Resources Manager, E.J. Gonzalez (Gonzalez), as Dean did not have the authority to change her schedule. All the positions in the cosmetic department required that employees work two evenings a week as well as two Saturdays and one Sunday every three weeks. Grant approached Gonzalez for a schedule change; Grant alleges that Gonzalez said the only way he could change her schedule was if she worked part time. On June 17, 1997, Grant talked with someone at the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) to "check the law" on schedule accommodations. Grant told Dean that she had talked with someone at the EEOC. Dean testified via deposition that Grant stated that she felt discriminated against based on her diabetes. Grant testified in her deposition that shortly after she spoke with Dean, Gonzalez called her, stating that he never said she could not have a schedule change, just that he needed a doctor's note to grant the change.

On or about July 8, 1997, Grant submitted a doctor's note to Gonzalez. Gonzalez faxed the note to Jeff Lindeman (Lindeman), the Manager of Labor and Employee Relations for Hecht's. Lindeman and Gonzalez together concluded that Grant's request needed further clarification, according to Gonzalez. Gonzalez called Dr. Mims, Grant's doctor, seeking this clarification. Following the conversation with the doctor, Gonzalez offered Grant the use of a refrigerator, to store her insulin at work. Gonzalez believed access to a refrigerator eliminated the need for the requested schedule change. Grant rejected this proposal. Grant cancelled an appointment with the EEOC because she believed Gonzalez was going to accommodate her schedule change after receiving a doctor's note. When this did not occur, Grant filed a formal complaint of discrimination with the EEOC on July 10, 1997.

Gonzalez informed Grant that she needed to fill out the Family and Medical Leave Act form. Grant refused to sign the form, asserting that she was not applying for family medical leave, but a modified work schedule under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Grant also was asked to have her doctor fill out a certification form. Dr. Mims completed the medical certification form on August 7, 1997, and Grant submitted the certification to Hecht's on or about August 12, 1997. A few days later, Gonzalez informed Grant that her schedule had been modified to days only. Grant maintained a modified schedule until her last day at work, August 22, 1997, before she took maternity leave.

On or about August 16, 1997, Grant had her second performance evaluation. In this evaluation Grant showed improvement; she received a raise, and the personnel at the counter were taken off probation. Grant also received two dress code violation notices. A co-worker of Grant's, Lydelle St. Jules, testified via deposition that management changed its attitude toward Grant during her pregnancy and Cheryl Claus, a supervisor of Grant's, stated that Hecht's management was "looking for a way to intimidate her or get rid of her given that she filed a complaint."

On August 21, 1997, Michael Lawson and Avis Hayes, members of Hecht's security staff, conducted a one hour long interview of Grant. Her name had appeared on a computer database used by Hecht's to track employees' purchases and returns. The database only retained records for a few months. The report indicated that Grant had returned items she had not purchased, or had not purchased within the time of the ...

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