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Dickerson v. Keypoint Government Solutions, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

November 27, 2017



         Presently pending before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff and Defendant. (D.I. 53, D.I. 55). The Magistrate Judge has filed a Report and Recommendation, which recommends granting summary judgment to Defendant. (D.I. 68). Plaintiff has filed objections, to which Defendant has responded. (D.I. 77, 78). I review the objections to the Report and Recommendation de novo. Brown v. Astrue, 649 F.3d 193, 195 (3d Cir. 2011). For the reasons that follow, I overrule Plaintiffs objections (D.I. 77) and adopt the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (D.I. 68).

         I. BACKGROUND

         From March 24, 2008, to April 16, 2014, Yolanda Dickerson, Plaintiff, was employed by KeyPoint Government Solutions, Inc., Defendant, a company that provides employment-screening services to government agencies through field investigators. (D.I. 1; D.I. 57-1, Exh. A at 29-30). Plaintiff worked as a level I field investigator. (D.I. 56 at 3). Investigators are usually assigned to work close to where they live but are on occasion asked to undertake temporary duty ("TDY") assignments outside their regular work areas. (D.I. 54 at 3; D.I. 57-1, Exh. A at 122-41). As part of her job, Plaintiff was required to to spend many hours writing and typing, and in March 2011, she began to experience pain in her fingers, hands, wrists, and arms. (D.I. 57-1, Exh. D). On March 17, 2011, she was diagnosed with work-related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in her wrists. (D.I. 56 at 3).

         During her employment, Plaintiff, an African American woman, filed a first Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on November 9, 2012. (D.I. 57-1, Exh. J). She filed a second charge on July 29, 2014, after her termination. (D.I. 58-5, Exh. NN). Then, on August 1, 2016, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant, alleging adverse actions amounting to discrimination and retaliation prohibited under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (D.I. 1).


         "The 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). When determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007); Wishkin v. Potter, 476 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2007). A dispute is "genuine" only if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 247-49 (1986).

         Claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII are evaluated under a burden-shifting analysis. Mowajy v. Noramco of Delaware, Inc., 620 F.Supp.2d 603, 611 (D. Del. 2009) (citing McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973)). First, aplaintiff must establish a prima facie case of discrimination or retaliation. Id. (citing McDonnell, 411 U.S. at 802); Krouse v. Am. Sterilizer Co., 126 F.3d 494, 500 (3d Cir. 1997). Once the plaintiff has established a prima facie case, the defendant must articulate a "legitimate, nondiscriminatory" or "non-retaliatory" reason for its conduct. Mowajy, 620 F.Supp.2d at 611; Krouse, 126 F.3d at 500-01. Then, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff, who "must demonstrate that the reasons articulated by the defendant are merely a pretext for discrimination" or "retaliation." Id. at 611-12 (quoting Fuentes v. Perksie, 32 F.3d 759, 763 (3d Cir. 1994)); see also Krouse, 126 F.3d at 501 ("If the employer satisfies its burden, the plaintiff must be able to convince the factfinder both that the employer's proffered explanation was false, and that retaliation was the real reason for the adverse employment action.").

         To establish a prima facie failure to accommodate, an employee must show: "(1) she is an individual with disability under the ADA; (2) she can perform the essential functions of her position with accommodation; (3) her employer had notice of her alleged disability; and (4) the employer failed to accommodate her." Conneen v. MBNA America Bank, N.A., 182 F.Supp.2d 370, 376-77 (D. Del. 2002).

         To establish a prima facie case of discrimination, an employee must show: (1) she was a member of a statutorily-protected class; (2) she was qualified for the position; (3) she was aggrieved by an adverse employment action despite being qualified; and (4) the adverse employment action occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of illegal discrimination. Sarullo v. U.S. Postal Serv., 352 F.3d 789, 797 (3d Cir. 2003).[1]

         To establish a prima facie case of retaliation, a plaintiff must show: (1) she was engaged in a protected employee activity; (2) adverse action by the employer occurred either after or contemporaneous with the employee's protected activity; and (3) a causal connection exists between the employee's protected activity and the employer's adverse action. Moore v. City of Phila., 461 F.3d 331, 340-41 (3d Cir. 2006).

         III. ANALYSIS

         a. Objection 1

         The Magistrate Judge concluded that all of Plaintiff s failure to accommodate claims were time-barred. (D.I. 68 at 9-12, 25). Plaintiff objects, arguing that she made a request for accommodation on March 22, 2014, to Cynthia Romero, her Field Manager (see D.I. 1, ¶ 29), and that her second charge on July 29, 2014, included the March 22 request. (D.I. 77 at 2-3). It is included. (D.I. 58-5, Exh. NN at 15).

         The briefing on the summary judgment motion was focused on the failure to accommodate claims from 2011 (see D.I. 54 at 23-24; D.I. 56 at 10-17; D.I. 57 at 10-11; D.I. 58 at 25-26; D.I. 59 at 10-13; D.I. 60 at 2-3), which were time-barred. While there was some mention of the March 22 communication as being part of the continuing violation, Plaintiff never argued that it was a stand-alone ...

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