United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division
PATRICK J. HANNA, Magistrate Judge.
Before the court is the re-urged motion for summary judgment filed by Schlumberger Technology Corporation [Schlumberger][Rec. Doc. 32] seeking dismissal of the plaintiff's claims against it under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The re-urged motion is opposed by the plaintiff, Kimberly Simon. [Rec. Doc. 34]. For the reasons set forth below and discussed at oral argument, the motion, as re-urged, is GRANTED.
Factual and Procedural Background:
Since the Court's consideration of Schlumberger's first summary judgment motion, and in response to the Court's comment that "[n]either the defendant's HR manager nor the healthcare provider were deposed in the case, " deposition testimony was taken from Schlumberger's Human Resources manager Mary Elizabeth Lackey and made a part of the record. Declarations were also submitted from Adrian Moss and Franklin David Linares Scarione, and additional evidence was submitted by Simon, including a copy of correspondence between Simon and Lackey. Having reviewed those submissions, the Court makes the following factual findings:
Simon has a college degree in chemical engineering. In July, 2012, she was hired by Schlumberger as a field engineer trainee in its drilling and measurements section. She requested no accommodations during the application and interview process.[Rec. Doc. 32-4, p. 26]. She passed a required functional capacity test before beginning her assignment; she again did not ask for any accommodation. [Rec. Doc. 18-4, p. 29]. She was sent for 8 weeks of classroom and on-the-job training in Youngsville, Louisiana.[Rec. Doc. 32-4, p. 45]. The training was led by Adrian Moss. It was designed to prepare participants to pass the entrance examination for admission to the more advanced Schlumberger Learning Center in Houston/Sugarland, Texas. [Rec. Doc. 32-6, p. 3].
During her training, Simon came to understand that Schlumberger accommodates employees in need of reasonable accommodations. [Rec. Doc. 32-4, p. 31]. Soon after arriving at the Youngsville training site, she requested a private bathroom in the company-provided housing, disclosing to Adrian Moss that she had an inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis). [Rec. Doc. 32-4, pp. 35, 41-44; Rec. Doc. 32-6, pp. 3, 6]. She did not request any accommodation regarding the training course, nor did she notify the employer that her condition impaired her ability to complete the course or pass the entrance exam. She was provided with the requested private bathroom. Also during the Youngsville training, Simon asked for time off for doctor's appointments, which were allowed, without adverse consequences. [Rec. Doc. 32-4, pp. 36-38; Rec. Doc. 32-6, pp. 3, 6-8].
At the end of the training program, the trainees, including Simon, were assigned to Schlumberger's Learning Center in Houston (Sugarland), Texas. Each was required to pass an entrance exam to continue training and employment with the company. On leaving Youngsville for Texas, Simon told her manager/instructor (Adrian Moss) that she did not feel ready for the entrance exam. She gave no other detail; she did not mention her medical condition or ask for medical leave. She did not ask for an accommodation from Moss to take or pass the entrance exam, and she did not notify Moss that her medical condition impaired her ability to complete the training course, study for the entrance exam, or pass the exam. [Rec. Doc. 32-4, pp. 50; Rec. Doc. 32-6, pp. 3-4]. Moss interpreted Simon's comments as ordinary nervousness, a common occurrence among trainees. He encouraged Simon to take practice tests which were provided online and to study her materials and told her she would be fine.[Rec. Doc. 32-4, p. 50; Rec. Doc. 32-6, p. 4].
Simon understood that the first step at the Texas Learning Center was passing the entrance exam, which was a condition of her employment and an essential function of her position. [Rec. Doc. 32-4, pp. 64, 129]. Once in Texas, Simon requested no accommodation for the taking or completing the exam; she did not notify anyone in Schlumberger management or human resources personnel that a medical issue impaired her ability to study for or complete the exam. [Rec. Doc. 32-4, pp. 64-65; Rec. Doc. 32-6, p. 4; Rec. Doc. 32-3, p.5].
Simon failed the entrance examination on her first attempt which was taken on October 29, 2012. In accordance with company protocol, she met with her instructor (Franklin Linares Scarione) to review her results, and together they identified weakness areas and topics, and they confected an action plan for the second testing, which Simon signed. [Rec. Doc. 32-3, pp. 18-19]. She was encouraged to ask for help if she had any difficulties or needed additional assistance. She asked for no accommodation, and she did not otherwise notify Scarione that a medical issue impaired her ability to complete the entrance exam. [Rec. Docs. 32-3, pp. 18-19; 32-4, pp. 67-69;Rec. Doc. 32-5, p. 3].
Trainees who failed the examination on the first try were given a single retest opportunity. [Rec. Doc. 32-4, p. 48; Rec. Doc. 32-5, p. 3]. Simon was given a written warning that scoring below the pass mark a second time would result in automatic release from the training center. She did not tell her Texas instructors that she was not ready to take the examination or that she needed time off. [Rec. Doc. 32-4, pp. 77-78; Rec. Doc. 32-3, p. 18]. According to Simon, she told no one in Texas that she had colitis and she did not tell her instructor she was on medication. She knew she was going to fail and had given up. [Rec. Doc. 32-4, pp. 70-71].
On the day of her second testing, Simon overslept, arrived one hour late for the test, and was disciplined with a warning letter. She did not request accommodations to complete the entrance exam or otherwise blame her tardiness on a medical condition or notify her instructor that a medical issue impaired her ability to complete the exam. [Rec. Doc. 32-4, pp. 71-73; Rec. Doc. 32-5, p. 3].
Simon failed the examination on her second attempt which was taken on October 31, 2012. Because she had failed the exam twice, she could not proceed in the training program, and she was released from the Learning Center to return to her training location in Youngsville, Louisiana. Simon signed an acknowledgment that she had received a Release Letter from the Learning Center due to her failure to pass the entrance exam on two attempts. She also acknowledged receipt of a Written Warning regarding her tardiness. [Rec. Doc. 32-3, pp. 16-17; Rec. Doc. 32-5, p. 3]. She met in person again with her instructor Scarione. She did not mention colitis or her medications, and she did not request any accommodations to complete the entrance exam or notify Scarione that a medical condition impaired her ability to complete the exam. [Rec. Doc. 32-4, p. 75]. She was told she would be terminated. [Rec. Doc. 32-4, p. 77].
After her release from the Texas Learning Center, Simon sent an email to Scarione, at 12:24 a.m. on November 2, 2012. She expressed her sadness and disappointment at her failure. She described her attempt to think what she had done wrong, what she had forgotten to study, and what she could have done better to be more successful on the exam. She expressed her belief that "my downfall at Eng-1 was my lack of rig time. I'm a hands-on learner and I think most of the questions I missed, I probably would have not if I had been given the proper pretraining on a rig." [Rec. Doc. 32-5, p. 6]. She expressed her understanding that she would be terminated in a meeting November 2, 2012 at 3:00 p.m., and she asked for Scarione's help, explaining that "when someone fails they are fired, no exceptions." [Rec. Doc. 32-5, p. 6]. Throughout her communications with Scarione, Simon made no mention of a medical issue as an impairment to her ability to complete the entrance exam or a reason for her failure.
Schlumberger's Human Resources manager in Youngsville, Mary Elizabeth Lackey learned of Simon's second failure on November 1, 2012 (she also received notice of another trainee's failure). Pursuant to Schlumberger policy and practice, she scheduled a meeting with Simon for the next day, with the intention to terminate her employment with the company. Adrian Moss was also present at the meeting. Lackey confirmed with Simon that she had enjoyed access to the company's on-line cards and documentary training materials to prepare for the entrance exams, and Lackey otherwise solicited Simon's thoughts on the training program and the exam and why she thought she had failed. [Rec. Doc. 32-4, pp. 107, 109-110, 112; Rec. Doc. 32-3, p. 5]. Simon responded that she didn't feel prepared for the exams and that she didn't have enough rig time. [Rec. Doc. 32-7, p. 42].
Simon was excused from the room while Lackey and Moss conferred. They agreed that Simon's failure of what they considered to be a basic test' was a disappointment, but since passing the entrance exam is a necessary qualification for moving forward at the Learning Center and in Schlumberger employment, they proceeded with the termination process. Simon was invited back into the meeting, and she was told by Adrian Moss that she would be terminated. [Rec. Doc. 32-7, p. 43]. It was at that point that Simon notified the managers for the first time that she had a medical condition that had prevented her from passing the exams. She requested accommodation-additional time to take the exam a third time after she controlled her medical condition. [Rec. Doc. 32-4, pp. 53-54, 56, 107, 114-115; Rec. Doc. 32-7, pp. 43-44]. When asked why she had not brought the subject up before, Simon responded that she "didn't think about it." [Rec. Doc. 32-7, p. 45]. She offered no other explanation why she had not requested accommodation prior to going for the exams. [Rec. Doc. 32-7, p. 45].
Excusing Simon from the meeting again, Lackey confirmed with Adrian Moss that he had no prior knowledge of a medical condition impairing Simon's ability to perform in school. [Rec. Doc. 32-7, p. 46]. The termination process was "suspended" at that point. According to Lackey:
She had been terminated. We told her she was terminated, but because she brought this information so late in the game, I wanted to make sure we had not missed something. So we suspended her with pay pending further investigation of her discussion that she needed an accommodation. I needed time to find out what had happened. [Rec. Doc. 32-7, p. 48].
Lackey contacted the Texas Learning Center to find out if Simon had raised the medical issue at the Center, and confirmed that Simon had not. Learning Center personnel confirmed that Simon's debriefing responses made no mention of a medical condition as a reason for failing the exams. [Rec. Doc. 32-7, pp. 48-49]. Lackey also confirmed with Moss that the only accommodation sought by Simon at the Youngsville location was the private restroom request which had been granted. She then commenced Schlumberger's protocol relative to the Americans with Disabilities Act. [Rec. Doc. 32-7, p. 46].
Simon was suspended with pay so that she could access and complete Schlumberger's ADA accommodation paperwork, including documents to be completed by her healthcare provider. Lackey provided forms to Simon, explaining that she should take the forms to her doctor, have them completed and returned to Lackey so that a decision could be made about her employment. [Rec. Doc. 32-3, pp. 21-26; Rec. Doc. 32-7, pp. 46-47]. The document packet intended for Simon's healthcare provider included a cover letter to Simon with the following instruction:
A statement from your medical provider. Please take the enclosed Clarifying Accommodations Form and your job description to your medical provider and review how your medical condition may affect the essential functions of your job. Ask your medical provider to indicate in writing what major life activities are limited and to offer suggestions, if any, for the type of accommodation(s) that would assist you with being able to perform your essential job functions. [Rec. Doc. 32-7, p. 104].
Another explanatory letter was provided for Simon to give to her doctor, along with a Functional Job Description and a form entitled Clarifying Accommodations.' [Rec. Doc. 32-7, pp. 104-114]. Lackey discussed with Simon getting the completed forms back by November 7. [Rec. Doc. 32-7, p. 69].
Simon testified that she never really looked at the document packet. "To be honest, I just took it, gave it to my doctor. I never read through it." ...