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King v. Mestek, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 18, 2017

KATIE KING Plaintiff,
v.
MESTEK, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND MOTION TO STRIKE (DKT. NO. 55 AND 64)

          MICHAEL A. PONSOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Katie King brings suit under federal and state law against Defendant Mestek, Inc., her former employer, for discrimination on the basis of real or perceived disability, as well as for interference with her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

         On December 10, 2015, Judge Mark G. Mastroianni allowed Defendant’s motion to dismiss counts III, V, and XI. Defendant now seeks summary judgment on all remaining counts in the Amended Complaint. In its reply to Plaintiff's opposition, Defendant also asks the court to strike Exhibit 20, an affidavit by Plaintiff. For reasons set forth below, the court will allow the motion for summary judgment in part and deny the motion to strike.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The facts are drawn from Plaintiff's Statement of Material Facts (Dkt. No. 60.) and Defendant's Memorandum in Support re Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 56). They are recited in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, here Plaintiff; all justifiable inferences are drawn in her favor. See Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S. Ct. 1861, 1863 (2014). The court will first discuss Plaintiff's role at Defendant and then move to an overview of her health condition.

         A. Employment History

         Plaintiff began her employment at Defendant in July 2012 as an Assistant Controller in the Finance Department. Her supervisor, Fran Robertson, held the position of Controller, but retired in March 2013. Also around this time, another position in the department, that of Cost Manager, opened due to a retirement. Instead of filling the open positions, Defendant decided to evaluate the structure of the entire Finance Department. Defendant did not advertise or seek applicants for the job of Controller.

         For the following six to eight months, Plaintiff had no formal supervisor. At some point in this period, Defendant's CFO, Steve Shea, asked Plaintiff if she would be interested in taking the position of Cost Manager. Plaintiff declined. Around October 2013, Timothy Zambelli became Plaintiff's supervisor. Throughout this period, Plaintiff's job responsibilities remained unchanged.

         During the entire period of her employment, Plaintiff never received any formal warning that her job performance was unsatisfactory. Zambelli stated in his deposition that Plaintiff's work contained errors that required another person to double check her work. For example, in an email exchange between Jeanne Moriarty (who worked in the Accounting Department) and Zambelli, Moriarty complained about Plaintiff's work. In response, Zambelli stated that Plaintiff's work was "awful". (Dkt. No. 60 at 13.) In October 2013, Moriarty sent Plaintiff an email, copied to Zambelli, criticizing Plaintiff for failing to review statements for accuracy and to investigate and report anomalies in allocations. Despite these negative assessments, both Zambelli and Moriarty conceded in their depositions that Plaintiff was "not a bad employee." (Id.)

         B. Plaintiff’s Health Condition and Termination

         In September 2012, several months after starting her job with Defendant, Plaintiff suffered a seemingly banal injury - she stubbed her toe - that triggered a difficult medical condition called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). This condition is marked by chronic pain. For Plaintiff, this meant severe and constant pain in her foot and toes, for which she received ongoing and escalating treatment. For a short while after initially injuring her foot, Plaintiff wore a walking boot and used crutches. She continued using a crutch, particularly for descending stairs, for another six months after the injury. Plaintiff received injections in her foot to alleviate her discomfort. Additionally, she took medication for the pain, had great difficulty sleeping, and struggled with walking, in particular downstairs.

         Shortly after first injuring her foot, Plaintiff asked Shea if she could have an accommodation in the dress code (specifically, regarding footwear) and use a parking spot nearer to the office. Though Plaintiff cannot recall what answer she got to her requests, she admits that she did wear comfortable shoes on her injured foot and did park closer to the building in a spot that did not require crossing the street.

         About a year later, in October 2013, Plaintiff received a request from Human Resources for a note from her medical provider in support of her continuing need for accommodation. Plaintiff characterizes the request as a demand with only a one-day notice. Although Defendant disputes whether Plaintiff ever provided the note, the court, accepting Plaintiff’s version of the facts, must conclude that she did provide a note from the Baystate Pain Management clinic. In any event, Plaintiff ...


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