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Taylor v. Team Broadcast

April 23, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, United States District Judge,


This matter comes for the Court on defendant's motion [20] for summary judgment, plaintiff's second motion [16] for court-appointed counsel, and plaintiff's motion [18] to compel production of documents.

Upon consideration of these motions, the oppositions thereto, the reply briefs, the applicable law, and the entire record herein, the Court concludes that defendant's motion [20] for summary judgment will be DENIED, plaintiff's motion [16] for court-appointed counsel will be GRANTED and plaintiff's motion [18] to compel production of documents will be DENIED as moot.


I. Facts

In December 2003, plaintiff Wenzel O. Taylor was hired as a master control technician by defendant Team Broadcast Services LLC ("Team"), a television production, distribution, and rights management company. (Def.'s Statement of Material Facts ("SOMF") [20], ¶ 1,2). Plaintiff was initially assigned to work in Team's intake department where he was responsible for disseminating video signals sent to the network, to reporters, editors and others. (Def.'s SOMF [20], ¶ 7, 8). Plaintiff was then assigned to work on video shading in the master control room, a ten-foot by ten-foot room, kept completely dark to optimize the technician's ability to use the equipment. (Def.'s SOMF [20], ¶ 9). On or about March 15, 2004, plaintiff's supervisor, Mr. Michael Marcus, spoke to plaintiff regarding Marcus's observations, and the observations of other managers, that plaintiff appeared to be sleeping on the job. (Def.'s SOMF [20], ¶ 18). During that conversation, plaintiff claimed that he was not asleep but rather thinking about personal matters with his eyes closed. (Def.'s SOMF [20], ¶ 19). Plaintiff later admitted to Dr. Muhammad Shibli that he had fallen asleep at work on several occasions. (Pl.'s Opp'n [22], ¶ 21; Def.'s SOMF [20], ¶ 21). According to Team, on or about April 22, 2004, Mr. Marcus informed plaintiff that management was concerned about plaintiff's apparent sleeping on the job and instructed him to make a medical appointment to determine what was causing plaintiff to fall asleep at work. (Def.'s SOMF [20], ¶ 23). However, plaintiff stated in his deposition that he went for a medical evaluation of his volition, without being prompted to do so by Mr. Marcus. (Def.'s Mot. [20], Ex. B, 97). Plaintiff used a combination of sick leave and annual leave for the time needed to obtain a medical evaluation. (Def.'s SOMF [20], ¶ 25).

On or about May 7, 2004, plaintiff returned to work with a note from Dr. Reer Zonozi, dated May 5, 2004, that plaintiff had been diagnosed with sleep apnea and needed further sleep studies. (Def.'s SOMF [20], ¶ 27). Upon returning to work at Team, plaintiff was assigned to work in the intake department, where he was initially assigned upon being hired, because the management thought that the busier atmosphere of the intake department might be less conducive to plaintiff's falling asleep. (Def.'s SOMF [20], ¶ 34, 35). According to Team, on May 19 and May 20, 2004, plaintiff's supervisor in the intake department, Mr. Vernon Herald, observed plaintiff asleep during his shift because he saw that plaintiff's eyes were closed and heard plaintiff breathing heavily. (Def.'s SOMF [20], ¶ 36, 37). However, plaintiff asserts that he visited Dr. Zonozi's office on May 19, 2004 at 1:00pm and took off from work on May 20, 2004. (Pl.'s Opp'n [22], ¶ 37, Ex. A). Team formally terminated plaintiff on May 28, 2004. (Def.'s SOMF [20], ¶ 38).

On June 9, 2004, plaintiff went to a sleep clinic at Providence Hospital and was given a continuous positive airway pressure ("CPAP") device to treat his sleep apnea. (Def.'s SOMF

[20], ¶ 39). Plaintiff's CPAP machine temporarily relieves the symptoms of sleep apnea as long as it is used but it is a treatment, and not a cure, for the condition. (Pl.'s Opp'n [22], ¶ 40). Because the airway hose of the CPAP machine is punctured, plaintiff asserts that he no longer has use of the device. (Pl.'s Opp'n [22], ¶ 41).


I. Applicable Law

According to Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is proper if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate, in fact required, where no genuine issue of material fact exists. Id. at 323. Only facts that "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The burden is on the party moving for summary judgment to show that there is "an absence of evidence supporting the non-moving party's case." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. Once the moving party has met this burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to proffer specific facts showing that there are genuine disputed issues of fact that must be resolved at trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Matsushita Electric Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). However, a "mere scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. Opposition to summary judgment "must consist of more than mere unsupported allegations or denials and must be supported by affidavits or other competent evidence setting forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Hayes v. Shalala, 902 F. Supp. 259, 263 (D.D.C. 1995). The Court is authorized to weigh the evidence at the summary judgment stage in order to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict for the non-moving party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-250.

To establish a claim of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), a plaintiff must show that he: (1) had a disability withing the meaning of the ADA; (2) was otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation; and (3) was discharged because of his disability. See Weigert v. Georgetown Univ., 120 F. Supp. 2d 1, 6 (D.D.C. 2000). To establish a disability within the meaning of the ADA, a plaintiff must show that he: (a) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; (b) has a record of such an impairment; or (c) has been or is regarded as having such an impairment. See 42 U.S.C. ยง 12102(2)(A)-(C). The Supreme Court has held that on the issue of whether an individual is "substantially limited in performing manual tasks, an individual must have an impairment that prevents or severely restricts the individual ...

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