United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
TERESA A. MANNING, Plaintiff,
ABINGTON ROCKLAND JOINT WATER WORKS, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
DOUGLAS P. WOODLOCK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff, Teresa Manning, brings this action against her
former employer, Abington Rockland Joint Water Works,
claiming the Water Works failed to provide her reasonable
accommodations for her disabilities and chose instead to
terminate her employment because of those disabilities.
Water Works has moved for summary judgment both because Ms.
Manning failed to exhaust her administrative remedies and
because she cannot establish that the Water Works failed
reasonably to accommodate her disabilities. I will grant the
Water Works' motion for summary judgment.
Manning began working at the Water Works in 1999 as an office
clerk. She was terminated from her employment with the Water
Works on August 26, 2014. During the course of her employment
with the Water Works, Ms. Manning reported to the same two
supervisors: Dan Callahan, the Superintendent, and Mr.
Callahan's assistant, JoAnne Hall.
clerks perform a variety of tasks, many of which require the
clerk to be present in the office on a daily basis. Their
responsibilities are specialized and include billing
individual customer accounts, answering phone calls,
resolving customer concerns, receiving payments at the office
window, scheduling service calls. It is unlikely that any
temporary replacement employee without prior work experience
at the Water Works or a similar entity would be able to
perform these duties effectively unless that employee had
weeks or months of on the job training.
most of Ms. Manning's employment with the Water Works,
she had a good attendance record. In fact, Ms. Manning took
no sick leave during the 2013 fiscal year, and she was
therefore given additional personal days for the 2014 fiscal
year. But Mr. Callahan and Ms. Hall had longstanding concerns
about Ms. Manning's work performance, including frequent
mistakes, and her tendency to respond to criticism of her
work performance with a contentious attitude.
Manning's alleged disabilities, a heart condition and a
proclivity to panic attacks, surfaced in 2013. Her heart
condition resolved quickly and has not reappeared since. The
heart condition consisted of a single hospitalization with
viral congestive heart failure on September 8, 2013. Ms.
Manning took a paid medical leave of absence from September
9, 2013 until October 8, 2013. The Water Works did not object
to Ms. Manning's leave of absence, and it accommodated
her follow up medical appointments.
to Ms. Manning, her proclivity to panic attacks became a
disability in October 2013 and ended when her employment was
terminated. The first instance of this type of disability
occurred on October 23, 2013, the day after she had an
argument with Mr. Callahan about taking work papers home.
During that argument, Mr. Callahan told Ms. Manning that the
Water Works policy did not allow documents to leave the
office, and Ms. Manning became upset. She had taken Water
Works documents home many times before this incident,
including prior to the 2013 fiscal year.
October 23, 2013, Ms. Manning experienced chest pain at work
and left the office early to go to the hospital. Ms. Manning
emailed her supervisors that she was not well; at the
hospital she was diagnosed as likely having had
stress-induced pain and discomfort. After this episode, Ms.
Manning did not return to work until November 18, 2013,
providing the Water Works with notes and documentation from
her doctors that verified her condition. Ms. Manning was paid
her full salary during this leave of absence.
early November 2013, before she returned to work, Ms. Manning
called Richard Muncey, one of the members of the Water Works
Board of Commissioners (“the Board”), and she
told him about her argument with Mr. Callahan on October 22.
Ms. Manning told Mr. Muncey that she had been mistreated, and
Mr. Muncey told Ms. Manning to bring her concerns before the
November 6, 2013, Ms. Manning and her attorney appeared
before the Board, and Ms. Manning explained the circumstances
surrounding the October 22 incident and complained that she
had been mistreated. Ms. Manning told the Board that she was
on medical leave and would soon return to work, but she did
not say that she had any disabilities or that she was seeking
an accommodation. The Board did not take action against Mr.
December 12, 2013, Mr. Callahan and Ms. Hall met with Ms.
Manning to discuss her uncooperative attitude and the strain
it was placing on the work environment. Thereafter, Mr.
Callahan felt that Ms. Manning continued to make careless
mistakes and exhibit an uncooperative attitude. In January
2014, he informed the Board that he wanted to terminate Ms.
Manning's employment. The Board held a hearing in late
January or early February of 2014 at which Ms. Manning,
accompanied by her attorney, testified and presented
supporting witnesses. Although Ms. Manning complained of
unfair treatment by Mr. Callahan, she did not discuss her
alleged disabilities and did not request any accommodations.
The Board chose not to support Ms. Manning's discharge.
February 2014, after the hearing, Ms. Hall sent Ms. Manning
an email telling her that they should communicate with each
other on work-related matters solely in writing. Ms. Hall
instituted this policy in order to help prevent disputes.
Over the next month, Ms. Manning continued to make mistakes
at work, and Ms. Hall sent Mr. Callahan an email on March 5,
2014 that documented those mistakes.
March 7, 2014, Ms. Manning took a medical leave of absence.
Ms. Manning's psychologist, Dr. Vicki Beggs, PhD,
prepared a note on March 11, 2014 that indicated Ms. Manning
was being treated for depression and was unable to work. This
was the first point at which Mr. Callahan was aware that Ms.
Manning suffered from depression. The note did not indicate
when Ms. Manning would return to work. Ms. Manning's
leave was left open-ended. The leave of absence presented
difficulties for the Water Works because of its open-ended
nature. The Water Works fell behind on its work.
April 4, 2014, Mr. Callahan sent Ms. Manning a letter
enquiring when she would be returning to work. Ms.
Manning's psychologist, Dr. Beggs, sent back a note that
Ms. Manning would be reevaluated in May for a possible return
to work. Then, on May 8, Dr. Beggs prepared a note indicating
that Ms. Manning would be able to return to work on May 19,
which she did. For the duration of her leave, Ms. Manning was
paid her full salary.
Ms. Manning returned on May 19, she took 15 days of vacation
and three personal days between May 21 and August 8. This was
time that Ms. Manning was entitled to under her employment
contract. Nevertheless, the time off put additional
pressure on the other office staff and caused the Water Works
to continue to fall behind. Even so, Mr. Callahan and Ms.
Hall did not oppose or reject any of Ms. Manning's
requests for time off.
July, Ms. Hall notified Ms. Manning of a number of errors she
had made that needed to be corrected. Ms. Hall also notified
Mr. Callahan of these mistakes and her frustration. For his
part, Mr. Callahan exchanged emails with Ms. Manning, seeking
an explanation for the mistakes. Mr. Callahan informed Ms.
Manning that he found her mistakes, her excuses, and her
defensive responses troubling.
August 4, 2014, Ms. Manning began a week-long vacation, which
was followed immediately by an open-ended medical leave of
absence. On August 7, Dr. Beggs prepared a note indicating
that Ms. Manning was being treated for depression and anxiety
and that she was unable to work. The note indicated that Ms.
Manning would be reevaluated on August 29. This was the first
time Mr. Callahan learned that Ms. Manning was being treated
for anxiety. Ms. Manning sent Mr. Callahan an email informing
him of her medical leave of absence on August 10.
on August 26, 2014, Mr. Callahan sent Ms. Manning a letter
terminating her employment on the basis of her inability to
perform the job duties of an office clerk and excessive
absenteeism. By this time, Ms. Manning had not been present
at work for 81 out of the 124 work days in her last six
months of employment, and she was not present for 129 of 249
total work days during her last 12 months of employment. Of
the 129 days missed, 98.5 of the days were due to medical
leave. Manning never requested an accommodation for her
disabilities from the Water Works except to the degree her
medical leave requests may be construed to be accommodation
21, 2015, Ms. Manning filed a Complaint with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). The
Complaint did not mention that the Water Works failed to
accommodate her disabilities, nor does it address the
contention that Ms. Manning took work papers home in an
attempt to accommodate her disabilities. In fact, Ms. Manning
alleged that she took work papers home over the course of her
time with the Water Works — long before either of her
stated disabilities manifested themselves.
EEOC issued Ms. Manning a notice of right to sue on June 28,
September 16, 2016, Ms. Manning filed the three-count
Complaint in this case alleging wrongful termination, sexual
harassment and sex discrimination, and a violation of ...