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Crow v. City of Colorado Springs

United States District Court, D. Colorado

May 5, 2014

JIMMIE R. CROW, M.D., Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS, d/b/a MEMORIAL HEALTH SYSTEM, TERRY L. HUSKINS, JEFF JOHNSON, PATRICK FARICY, M.D., and MICHAEL A. SCIALDONE, Defendants.

ORDER

R. BROOKE JACKSON, District Judge.

This case comes before the Court on Defendants Huskins', Johnson's, Faricy's, and Scialdone's (the "Individual Defendants") joint Motion to Dismiss [Doc. #12]. The Court has jurisdiction over this action under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The motion became ripe for review on February 13, 2014 upon the filing of the defendants' Reply [Doc. #17].[1] For the following reasons, the defendants' motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

The plaintiff, Dr. Crow, has been practicing medicine for 29 years. He has training and experience in General Surgery and Surgical Oncology, and he is Board certified in General Surgery. From November 1, 2002 until June 30, 2011, Dr. Crow practiced medicine as a partner with Associates in General and Vascular Surgery ("AGVS") in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In 2011, Defendant Memorial Health System ("MHS"), an enterprise of the City of Colorado Springs, acquired the AGVS practice. As a result of the acquisition, Dr. Crow entered into an employment relationship with MHS-and thereby the City of Colorado Springs-for a term of one year beginning on July 1, 2011. Under the terms of the agreement, Dr. Crow was employed to perform General Surgery and Trauma services and to render other professional and administrative services.

Shortly thereafter, Dr. Crow fell off a ladder while working at his home and ruptured two cervical discs. The injury required surgery and resulted in a physical impairment in the form of cervical radiculopathy. This impairment functionally limited Dr. Crow's right upper extremity and the use of his right hand and substantially impaired one or more of his major life activities, including the ability to perform manual tasks. Because of this injury, Dr. Crow requested a leave of absence from MHS.

On October 27, 2011, Dr. Crow received a letter stating that the Board of Trustees had approved his request for a leave of absence effective September 10, 2011. The letter stated that "no leave of absence granted shall exceed a 12-month period unless for good cause an extension of time is approved by the Board." Amended Complaint [Doc. #5] at ¶ 17. According to the MHS Credentials Manual, "[a]bsence for longer than one year shall result in automatic relinquishment of Medical Staff appointment and clinical privileges unless an extension is granted by the Chief Executive Officer." [Doc. #12-3 at § 6.F(h)]. "A single extension of a leave of absence may be considered after requesting in writing only in extraordinary cases where the extension of a leave is in the best interest of the Hospital." Id.

On March 12, 2012, Mr. Huskins, the Human Resources Manager, sent Dr. Crow a letter notifying him that his approved leave had ended on that day, and that because Dr. Crow had not yet returned to work, his employment with MHS had been terminated. Dr. Crow challenged the termination on the grounds that it was inconsistent with the October 27, 2011 letter authorizing a 12-month leave of absence, that it violated his employment agreement, and that it violated MHS policy requiring a pre-termination meeting if an employee is unable to return to work at the end of an approved leave. In a letter dated April 18, 2012, MHS informed Dr. Crow that his employment had been reinstated retroactive to March 12, 2012. The letter added that Dr. Crow was to contact Mr. Huskins by April 24, 2012 to apply for a reasonable accommodation pursuant to the MHS Americans with Disabilities Act Policy (the "MHS ADA Policy") if he wanted to return to work with accommodations.

On March 27, 2012, while Dr. Crow's challenge to his termination was still pending, his primary physician Dr. Masferrer submitted a letter to Dr. Faricy, the Chief Medical Officer at MHS. The letter provided details concerning Dr. Crow's surgery, his functional limitations as of that date, and his prognosis for recovery. Dr. Masferrer cleared Dr. Crow to return to work part time (four hours per day) as of April 1, 2012, with an expectation that Dr. Crow would be able to return to work full-time by May of 2012. Dr. Masferrer sent a similar letter to Mr. Huskins two days later. Nothing came of these letters.

On April 24, 2012, Dr. Crow submitted his application for a reasonable accommodation under the ADA to Mr. Huskins. He requested a return to work on a limited practice basis with accommodations in the form of job restructuring and a modified work schedule. His application was supported by a statement from Dr. Masferrer concerning Dr. Crow's limitations and requested accommodations.

The MHS ADA Policy contains a two-step process for handling applications for reasonable accommodation. The first step is establishing whether the applicant has a disability under the ADA-the Individual Defendants do not dispute that Dr. Crow met this requirement- and the second step requires the employer to determine whether a reasonable accommodation is available to the disabled employee.

The Accommodation Evaluation Committee ("AEC") at MHS addresses the accommodation requests. In doing so, the AEC must determine what the affected employee's functional limitations and abilities are, whether an accommodation is needed to perform the essential functions of the job, and, if so, whether reasonable accommodations are available. The MHS ADA Policy provides that if no reasonable accommodation exists for the employee in his current position, MHS must determine whether a reasonable accommodation can be made through reassignment to a vacant position for which the employee is qualified.

The next AEC meeting was scheduled for April 25, 2012, a day after Dr. Crow submitted his application. On April 24, 2012, Mr. Huskins advised Dr. Crow that his application would be considered at that meeting so long as Dr. Masferrer faxed over the requisite paperwork. Dr. Masferrer faxed the paperwork to Mr. Huskins that same day, but Mr. Huskins did not submit Dr. Crow's application to the AEC.

On May 4, 2012, Mr. Huskins sent Dr. Crow an email stating that there were inconsistencies among his application, the supporting paperwork received from Dr. Masferrer on April 24, 2012, and Dr. Masferrer's earlier letters to Dr. Faricy and Mr. Huskins in March of 2012. Mr. Huskins requested clarification of the alleged inconsistencies as a precondition to submitting Dr. Crow's application to the AEC.

According to Dr. Crow, the inconsistencies to which Mr. Huskins referred involve the nature and extent of Dr. Crow's functional limitations and abilities, as well as the accommodations he was requesting. They did not go to whether Dr. Crow was ADA-qualified and therefore eligible for consideration by the AEC. Dr. Crow insists that the MHS ADA Policy does not grant Mr. Huskins the authority to make determinations regarding an employee's functional limitations and abilities or to refuse to submit an application to the AEC for review. Instead, under the policy, Dr. Crow's application should have been submitted to the AEC, and the committee could have requested any clarification it needed for its determination. Dr. Crow argues that Mr. Huskins refused to submit his application to the AEC in retaliation for Dr. Crow's having successfully challenged Mr. Huskins' earlier attempt to terminate Dr. Crow's employment.

On May 14, 2012, Dr. Crow responded to Mr. Huskins' email, explaining that the earlier letters from Dr. Masferrer were based upon projections from a March 3, 2012 office visit, whereas the paperwork submitted in support of Dr. Crow's ADA application was from his office visit on April 24, 2012. In spite of these explanations, Mr. Huskins continued to hold Dr. Crow's application instead of submitting it to the AEC.

In May of 2012, Dr. Crow submitted his application for reappointment to the Medical, Dental, and Pediatric Staff of MHS. On May 23, 2012, Dr. Faricy notified Dr. Crow that he had been reappointed to his staff position for the period of June 1, 2012 through June 1, 2014. Dr. Faricy also ...


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