United States District Court, District of Columbia
L. FRIEDRICH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Brian Coady brings this action against his former employer,
the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT),
under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Coady alleges that DOT
discriminated against him based on his sex and disability,
retaliated against him, and subjected him to a hostile work
environment. Compl. ¶¶ 49–84, Dkt. 1. Before
the Court is DOT’s Motion for Summary Judgment, Dkt.
24. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the
Coady began working at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Administration, a subdivision of DOT, in 2009. Coady Decl.
¶ 1, Dkt. 26-2. His first year of employment passed
without any apparent misconduct or problems. See Id
. ¶ 2. But Coady’s relationships with his
supervisors began to deteriorate in summer 2010 when he was
diagnosed with spondylolisthesis, lumbar disc herniation, and
other serious back conditions. Id. ¶ 4.
2010, Coady’s physician warned him that he could become
substantially disabled if he failed to undergo a fusion
surgery on his back. Id. To be eligible for the
procedure, the doctor required Coady to attend three physical
therapy appointments per week for six consecutive weeks.
Id.; see also DOT’s Statement of
Material Facts ¶ 6, Dkt. 24-1. Coady agreed with that
treatment plan and scheduled the surgery for September 2010.
demands of Coady’s work prevented him from complying
with the treatment plan. Coady alleges that he was forced to
cancel a number of physical therapy appointments to avoid
missing difficult-to-predict meetings because his supervisor,
Kelly Leone, “harassed” and
“reprimanded” him for missing meetings. Coady
Decl. ¶ 6. He also alleges that when he described his
diagnosis, the restrictions on his movement, and his need to
take time off of work, Leone responded in an “annoyed,
” “dismissive, ” and
“aggressive” manner. Id. ¶ 9;
see, e.g., Id . ¶ 8 (recounting an incident in
which Leonne described a hospital visit as a
“stunt”). Coady further asserts that his
promotion in August 2010 to Information Technology
Development Chief led to increased work responsibilities that
made it even more difficult to attend physical therapy
appointments three times each week. Coady’s Resps. to
DOT’s First Set of Disc. Reqs. at 21, Dkt. 26-3.
Eventually, Coady had to cancel the September surgery. Coady
Decl. ¶ 6.
ensuing months, Coady’s condition worsened, and he
rescheduled the surgery for January 2012. Id. ¶
10; see also Coady’s Resps. to DOT’s
First Set of Disc. Reqs. at 23. Coady made a series of
medical appointments to prepare for the procedure, but when
he requested sick leave, his new supervisor, Mary Clapp,
repeatedly objected to the documentation provided in his
doctor’s notes. Coady Decl. ¶¶ 10–20.
For example, in late November 2011, she demanded that he
provide both pre- and post-appointment doctor’s notes
specifying the date and time of any appointment, his
diagnosis, and the treatment plan. Id. ¶ 12.
His doctors, however, would not sign pre-appointment letters.
November 2011, Coady requested permission to telework until
his surgery. Id. ¶ 15. In support of his
request, Coady provided Clapp with a brief note from the
Virginia Spine Institute stating that he “should
telework until his spine surgery on 1/9/12” because of
an “ongoing medical condition.” First Virginia
Spine Institute Letter, Dkt. 24-5. But Clapp objected that
Coady’s doctor could not specify how DOT should
accommodate his condition, and she requested another letter
detailing his diagnosis and limitations. Coady Decl. ¶
15. Coady then submitted two additional letters. First, he
submitted a Department of Veteran’s Affairs letter
stating that he could return to work as early as December 5,
2011 with the following “reasonable accommodations: no
lifting > 20 lbs., [and] no extended periods of walking or
standing.” Veterans Affairs Letter, Dkt. 24-6; see
also Coady Decl. ¶ 16. Second, he submitted
another, more detailed letter from the Virginia Spine
Institute that stated, “[Coady] feels that he is unable
to continue commuting to work and that this is causing him
too much pain and discomfort to function. Based upon his
diagnostic studies and his physical examination, I feel that
it is reasonable for him to telework as opposed to driving to
the office.” Second Virginia Spine Institute Letter at
1, Dkt. 24-6. According to the Virginia Spine Institute,
although “sitting for one-hour duration aggravates
[Coady’s] pain severely, ” he can “produce
an eight-hour work day over an extended period of time”
with the ability to change positions, stretch, and relax.
Clapp requested a specific explanation for why Coady could
not change positions at the office rather than at home, how
long Coady needed to relax in between breaks, and what the
length of the extended work day would be. Coady Decl. ¶
16; Email Re: Request for Medical Documentation, Dkt. 24-8.
At this point, the Virginia Spine Institute refused to
provide any further documentation to Clapp, although it did
release a copy of Coady’s medical records to him. Coady
Decl. ¶¶ 17, 20. Coady also obtained and submitted
a January 3, 2012, letter from George Washington University
Medical Faculty Associates indicating, among other things,
that he could not perform “work requiring walking,
standing[, ] or sitting without a break every 60
minutes.” George Washington Med. Faculty Assocs.
Letter, Dkt. 24-10. But Clapp remained unconvinced that
Coady’s medical condition required him to telework
because the letter “did not clarify [Coady’s]
need for full-time telework.” Email Re: Accommodation
Request at 1, Dkt. 24-11. Clapp then formally denied his
telework request, stating, “I am unable to make a
disability determination based upon the information that you
have provided at this time. I am therefore closing your
request for [an] accommodation. If you would like to be
reconsidered or to reopen your request, please let me
know.” Id. at 2. Clapp did, however, offer
Coady other accommodations, including a standing desk, an
ergonomic chair, and a cot for his office. DOT’s
Statement of Material Facts ¶ 17; see also
Email Re: Special Seating Fitting, Dkt. 24-12.
around the same time that Coady was seeking increasingly
detailed doctor’s notes, he sought Equal Employment
Opportunity (EEO) counseling. Counselor’s Report at 2
n.2, 36, Dkt. 24-2; Coady’s Opp’n at 21, Dkt. 26.
On November 28, 2011, he informally alleged sex and
disability discrimination, and on February 22, 2012, DOT
notified Coady of his right to file a formal discrimination
complaint. Counselor’s Report at 2 n.2, 36;
Coady’s Opp’n at 21. When Coady failed to do so,
DOT closed his informal complaint. Counselor’s Report
at 2 n.2, 36; Coady’s Opp’n at 21.
Coady continued to clash with his colleagues. In December
2011, Clapp reassigned Coady to work as a Business
Intelligence Advisor. Coady Decl. ¶ 36. But according to
Coady, she repeatedly denied his requests for training
“[i]n an attempt to set [him] up to fail in [his] new
also sought reimbursement in December 2011 for three business
trips in August and September 2011. Coady Decl. ¶¶
32, 34. Although one DOT employee originally told Coady that
he could submit the requests in the following year, another
employee told him that his requests were not timely.
Id. In the end though, he received the requested
reimbursements. Id. ¶ 34.
Coady’s medical conditions continued to create
scheduling and other problems. In January 2012, Coady’s
back surgery was again canceled because he failed to complete
the required physical therapy treatment. Id. ¶
21. Coady alleges that at a January 9, 2012 pre-operation
appointment, he requested a “return-to-work” form
that would excuse his absence from work. Coady’s Resps.
to DOT’s First Set of Disc. Reqs. at 19. Because it
allegedly did not have a “return-to-work” form,
the hospital provided him with only a print out of his
appointment schedule. Id. Clapp refused to accept
this documentation and threatened to cancel Coady’s
preapproved leave for his surgery unless he provided her with
his medical records. Id. Coady does not allege that
Clapp made good on this threat.
further escalated in late February 2012, when Coady allegedly
suffered from either the flu or food poisoning. Coady Decl.
¶ 24. The illness caused Coady to sleep for nearly the
entirety of two days and to go to the emergency room on the
third day. Id. ¶¶ 24–25, 27, 29.
Clapp initially refused to accept Coady’s
documentation, which included emergency room discharge
papers, and she charged him with being away without leave
(AWOL). DOT’s Statement of Material Facts ¶
29–31; Coady’s Statement of Disputed Material
Facts ¶ 6–7, Dkt. 26-1. After Coady provided
additional documentation, however, the ...