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Jacqueline M. Taylor v. State of California Employment Development Department

March 22, 2013

JACQUELINE M. TAYLOR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STATE OF CALIFORNIA EMPLOYMENT DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff Jacqueline Taylor, proceeding without counsel, originally filed this action on March 4, 2011. (Dkt. No. 1.)*fn1 Although plaintiff's original complaint named numerous defendants, her operative second amended complaint lists the State of California Employment Development Department ("EDD") as the only named defendant. (Dkt. No. 18.) The second amended complaint seeks money damages for defendant EDD's alleged violations of Title I of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and California's Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"), and thus invokes the court's federal question and supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 28 U.S.C. § 1367. (Id.)

Presently pending before the court is defendant EDD's motion for summary judgment, or in the alternative, summary adjudication, which was filed on February 15, 2013, and noticed for hearing on March 21, 2013. (Dkt. No. 40.) On March 7, 2013, plaintiff filed a timely opposition to defendant EDD's motion, and on March 12, 2013, defendant EDD filed a reply brief. (Dkt. Nos. 45, 46.) At the March 21, 2013 hearing, plaintiff Jacqueline Taylor appeared without counsel and attorney Noreen Skelly appeared on behalf of defendant EDD. (Dkt. No. 49.)

After considering the parties' briefing, the parties' oral argument, appropriate portions of the record, and the applicable law, the undersigned grants defendant EDD's motion and dismisses plaintiff's claims without prejudice.

BACKGROUND

The background facts, disputed and undisputed, are primarily taken from plaintiff's operative second amended complaint. (See Second Amended Complaint for Damages, Dkt. No. 18 ["SAC"].)*fn2 Plaintiff was originally employed by defendant EDD as a Program Technician II ("PT II") in EDD's Tax Branch in Sacramento, California. (Id. at 1.) In December 2007, plaintiff applied for and received a Disability Insurance Program Representative ("DIPR") position in defendant EDD's Fresno, California office. (Id.) Plaintiff began working as a DIPR in Fresno around January 7, 2008. (Id.)

Shortly after plaintiff started working in Fresno, she began to experience medical symptoms "correlated to her presence in Fresno." (SAC at 2.) In particular, plaintiff stated that the bad air and allergens in the area exacerbated her asthma and hypertensive condition, which resulted in difficulty breathing and anxiety/panic attacks. (Id.) Around January 15, 2008, plaintiff requested to be transferred to an EDD Disability Insurance Office closer to her home in Vallejo, California, and submitted medical documentation in support of her request. (Id.) Around April 18, 2008, defendant EDD denied plaintiff's request and presented her with two options: (a) to resume her work as a DIPR in Fresno or (b) to return to work in Sacramento in a PT II position. (Id.) Plaintiff ultimately agreed, "under duress," to return to Sacramento to work in the PT II position. (Id.) According to plaintiff, she was also given a personal air purifier, but it proved to exacerbate her symptoms. (Id. at 2, 4.)

Subsequently, around August 19, 2009, plaintiff again requested a transfer to an EDD office closer to her home in Vallejo, California, as well as an ergonomic work station. (SAC 2-3.) As grounds for the request, plaintiff stated that the "[s]edentary position and bus ride, causes excruciating pain and swelling of my ankles, and legs. Tingling and stiffness, pain causes blood pressure elevation." (Id.) Plaintiff claims that even with relevant medical documentation, including a diagnosis of lumbar radiculopathy and a physician's statement that the commute from Vallejo to Sacramento was exacerbating plaintiff's lower back pain and other symptoms, defendant EDD denied plaintiff's request. (Id. at 3, 5.) According to plaintiff, defendant EDD did offer to provide plaintiff with the requested ergonomic equipment and to allow her to work in a sitting or standing position, but plaintiff believed that EDD's offer was nothing but an attempt to avoid litigation. (Id. at 6-7.) Plaintiff contends that she was effectively forced to retire, because she was unable to keep working due to defendant EDD's failure to reasonably accommodate her disability. (Id. at 7.)

Plaintiff appealed denial of her accommodation requests to the State Personnel Board ("SPB"), but those appeals were ultimately denied around January 4, 2011. (SAC at 2; Dkt. No. 42 at 11, 18; Dkt. No. 44, Ex. 2 [copy of SPB decision]*fn3 ; Dkt. No. 45-1.) Consequently, on March 4, 2011, plaintiff filed the instant action in federal court. (Dkt. No. 1.) As noted above, plaintiff's operative second amended complaint, filed on March 12, 2012, alleges that defendant EDD failed to reasonably accommodate plaintiff's disabilities and raises claims for violation of (1) Title I of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq. and (2) California's FEHA, Cal. Gov't Code §§ 12940 et seq. (Dkt. No. 18.) Defendant EDD answered the complaint on March 22, 2012. (Dkt. No. 23.)

On May 25, 2012, the court entered a pretrial scheduling order requiring all discovery to be completed by March 15, 2013, all law and motion to be completed by May 16, 2013, and setting a pretrial conference and jury trial for August 22, 2013 and September 16, 2013, respectively. (Dkt. No. 31.) Thereafter, on February 15, 2013, in accordance with the scheduling order, defendant EDD filed the instant motion for summary judgment, or in the alternative, summary adjudication. (Dkt. No. 40.)

DISCUSSION

Summary Judgment Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that "[a] party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense--or the part of each claim or defense--on which summary judgment is sought." It further provides that "[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).*fn4 A shifting burden of proof governs motions for summary judgment under Rule 56. Nursing Home Pension Fund, Local 144 v. Oracle Corp. (In re Oracle Corp. Sec. Litig.), 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010). Under summary judgment practice, the moving party always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any," which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting then-numbered Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). "Where the non-moving party bears the burden of proof at trial, the moving party need only prove that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." In re Oracle Corp. Sec. Litig., 627 F.3d at 387 (citing Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 advisory committee's notes to 2010 amendments (recognizing that "a party who does not have the trial burden of production may ...


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