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Matthews v. Amtrak National Railroad Passenger Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 5, 2019

LENARD R. MATTHEWS, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
AMTRAK NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION; and DOES 1 through 25, inclusive, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Troy L. Nunley, United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court pursuant to Defendant Amtrak National Railroad Passenger Corporation's (“Defendant”) Motion for Summary Judgment or, alternatively, Partial Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 27.) Plaintiff Lenard Matthews (“Plaintiff”) opposes Defendant's motion. (ECF No. 28.) Defendant filed a reply. (ECF No. 31.) The Court has carefully considered the arguments raised by both parties. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment or, alternatively, Partial Summary Judgment, is DENIED.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         A. Plaintiff Takes Two Leaves of Absence for Medical Reasons

         Plaintiff, a former employee of Defendant's, suffers from renal disease, which substantially limits his renal functions in a manner sufficient to support life. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶¶ 176-78; ECF No. 28-12 ¶¶ 1-4; ECF No. 28-4 ¶¶ 3-4; ECF No. 28-13 ¶¶ 7-13.)

         At all times during his employment with Defendant, Plaintiff was a member of the Transportation Communications Union. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 1.) As a member of the Transportation Communications Union, the hours, compensation, and working conditions of Plaintiff's employment were governed by the collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between Defendant and the Union. (ECF No. 28-6 at 2.) In about 2011, Plaintiff applied for and was elevated to the position of Relief Lead Clerk at Defendant's Stockton station. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 2.) As a Relief Lead Clerk, Plaintiff's job duties included selling tickets, assisting passengers with their baggage, and setting the priorities of the other clerks working on the shift when he was the lead. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 3.)

         Plaintiff requested and was granted two leaves of absence for medical reasons during his employment with Defendant. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 7.) Plaintiff's first leave of absence was in about 1995/1996 and lasted about nine (9) months. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 8.) In August 2013, Plaintiff requested, and Defendant granted, a second leave of absence for an issue with his kidney. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 10.) While Plaintiff's leave was initially granted through October 6, 2013, Defendant granted Plaintiff's requests to extend the leave through December 2, 2013. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 11.) During his second leave of absence, Plaintiff had a catheter inserted in his abdomen that allowed him to receive peritoneal dialysis. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 14.) Defendant was made aware of this through Plaintiff's Medical Status Report, in which Plaintiff's treating physician noted that Plaintiff had a peritoneal dialysis catheter inserted on August 9, 2013. (ECF No. 27-10 at 1.) Defendant was also in possession of Plaintiff's Supplemental Physician's Statement of Disability, which stated that Plaintiff had acute and chronic renal failure and was on chronic peritoneal home dialysis. (ECF No. 27-14 at 1.)

         Because Plaintiff's second leave lasted more than thirty days, he was required to take a return to duty physical and drug test before he was allowed to return to active service. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 15.) Plaintiff took the return to duty test between December 2, 2013, and December 9, 2013. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 16.) Plaintiff failed the return to duty test because the test showed he had cocaine metabolites in his system. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 17.)

         Plaintiff does not dispute that his return to duty test accurately showed he had cocaine metabolites in his system. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 18.) Plaintiff was given two options as a result of his testing positive for cocaine: (1) he could contest the test results by proceeding to an investigation hearing, in accordance with the procedures in his CBA; or (2) he could sign a voluntary waiver of his rights to contest the test results and enroll in a drug rehabilitation program. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 19.) Plaintiff elected to enroll in the voluntary drug rehabilitation program rather than contest the return to duty test results. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 21.)

         B. Plaintiff Signs Alcohol and Drug Waiver Agreement

         Plaintiff executed Defendant's Alcohol and Drug Waiver Agreement (“Waiver Agreement”) as part of his enrolling in the drug rehabilitation program. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 22.) The Waiver Agreement stated that Plaintiff must submit to and pass an unannounced drug and/or alcohol test by urine and/or breath sample at least four times a year for the first two years of active service following his return to duty. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 23.) The Waiver Agreement also stated that Plaintiff understood that if at any time in the future he violated Defendant's Alcohol and Drug Policy, he would be dismissed from all Amtrak service. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 23.) Plaintiff understood his employment would be terminated if he did not comply with the terms of the Waiver Agreement. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 24.)

         Plaintiff satisfied the initial requirements of his Waiver Agreement by about February 2014. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 25.) After Plaintiff satisfied the initial requirements of his Waiver Agreement, he was required to take and pass a return to work evaluation. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 26.) Plaintiff was given and passed a urine and breath test as part of his return to work evaluation and was returned to active service in February 2014. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 28.) Although he needed to combine his work breaks so that he could have a one-hour break between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. to attend to his peritoneal dialysis treatments, Plaintiff was able to perform the essential functions of his job after his rest breaks and meal period accommodation was granted. (ECF No. 28 at 20; ECF No. 27-1 at 22-25.)

         C. Plaintiff Passes July 2014 Shy Bladder Exam

         Plaintiff had a random drug test conducted as part of his Waiver Agreement in July 2014. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 29.) During this July 2014 random drug test Plaintiff could not provide a urine sample. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 30.) Because Plaintiff did not provide a urine sample, Defendant sent Plaintiff to see Dr. David Jourgensen for a shy bladder examination.[1] (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 31.)

         Dr. Jourgensen's examination included visually inspecting Plaintiff's peritoneal dialysis catheter and drawing Plaintiff's blood to test the levels of creatinine in Plaintiff's system. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 35.) Based on his evaluation, Dr. Jourgensen determined that Plaintiff likely had a medical condition that has, or with a high probability could have, precluded him from providing a urine sample during his July 2014 random drug test. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 36.)

         D. Plaintiff Fails October 2014 Shy Bladder Exam

         Plaintiff had another random drug test in about October 2014. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 39.)

         Plaintiff was again not able to provide a urine sample during this October 2014 test. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 40.) Defendant referred Plaintiff to Dr. Steven Friend to perform another shy bladder examination after he failed to provide a urine sample during his October 2014 random drug test. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶¶ 41, 42.)

         The parties agree that Plaintiff was directed to fill out intake paperwork on arrival and the nurse performed standard intake examinations, i.e. testing blood pressure, color blindness, etc. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 44.) The parties also seem to agree that Plaintiff asked Dr. Friend what the examination of his abdomen would entail and allegedly stated he needed to take precautions such as having a mask and gloves and a clean atmosphere because of his catheter. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 45.)

         However, many of the events that occurred in the examination room are in dispute. According to his declaration, Plaintiff was concerned about reinfection, due to his history of peritonitis, if Dr. Friend did not follow certain sterilization procedures during Plaintiff's exam. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 226; ECF No. 28-4 ¶¶ 23-26.) Plaintiff also stated that he showed his catheter to Dr. Friend and told Dr. Friend that his regular doctor informed him that the catheter should be handled with gloves and mask on. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 228; ECF No. 28-4 ¶ 26.) Plaintiff stated at this point, Dr. Friend terminated the exam by saying “I don't have to put up with this . . . .” (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 229; ECF No. 28-4 ¶ 26.) Plaintiff alleges that he immediately called his supervisor, James Holland (“Holland”), and asked Holland to speak to the doctor, which Holland refused to do. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 20.) Plaintiff stated in his deposition that he would have completed the shy bladder exam if Holland had called Dr. Friend. (ECF No. 28 at 12; ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 235; ECF No. 28-4 ¶ 27; ECF No. 27-4 at 106-07.) Plaintiff further alleges that on or about October 16, 2014, he asked his supervisor, Holland, if he could take a blood test to confirm that there were no drugs in his system, but his request was denied. (ECF No. 28-4 at 5-6.)

         In contrast, Dr. Friend, in his deposition, stated that Plaintiff never showed him his catheter, or informed him about his peritoneal dialysis or end stage renal disease. (ECF No. 27-6 at 8.) In his declaration, Holland did not mention Plaintiff asking for a blood test. (See ECF No. 27-33.)

         E. Defendant Terminates Plaintiff

         On November 4, 2014, Defendant sent Plaintiff a letter stating that Plaintiff refused to be tested on October 16, a test required under the conditions of Plaintiff's Waiver Agreement. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 22; ECF No. 27-21 at 1.) It is undisputed that Defendant terminated Plaintiff's employment the same day. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 49.) After his employment was terminated, Plaintiff complained to the head representative for his Union, Jack Dinsdale, and contested his termination through the Union grievance procedures. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 50.) Plaintiff told Dinsdale that Defendant terminated his employment because it found he refused to take the required test, but he disputed this finding. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 51.) The Union acted on Plaintiff's request to contest Defendant's termination decision and appealed the decision. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 52.) Following the Union's appeal of Defendant's decision to terminate his employment, the termination was upheld. (ECF No. 28-1 ¶ 53.)

         Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit on May 5, 2016. (ECF No. 1.)

         II. ...


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