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Adams v. Denver Health & Hospital Authority

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 30, 2016

DENVER HEALTH & HOSPITAL AUTHORITY, also known as Denver Health, of the City and County of Denver, Defendant.


Marcia S. Krieger Chief Judge.

THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant’s, Denver Health & Hospital Authority (Denver Health), Motion for Summary Judgment (#27), Plaintiff’s, Bobby Lee Adams (Mr. Adams), Response (#30), and Defendant’s Reply (#31). Also before the Court is Defendant’s Unopposed Motion for Leave to Restrict (#29).

I. Jurisdiction

This case presents claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq. The Court exercises jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

II. Facts

The material undisputed facts (or, where disputed, the facts construed in the light most favorable to the non-movant) follow.

Mr. Adams was employed by Denver Health as a Certified Nurse Assistant and a Health Care Technician from 2009 through December of 2012. His duties included assisting charge nurses assigned to the medical/surgical department of the hospital.

Mr. Adams is a type II diabetic. During the period at issue he took insulin and needed regular eating breaks. Without regular eating breaks, his blood sugar dropped and he experienced shaking, weakness, and sweating, which lead to confusion and irritability.

Mr. Adams began his shift at Denver Health around 7:00 am and often did not get a break until 4:00 pm, a schedule that prevented him from eating on a regular basis thus causing him to feel ill. Mr. Adams told his immediate supervisor, nurse manager Kim Carroll, that he had diabetes and needed to take eating breaks to avoid hypoglycemic symptoms. Although Ms. Carroll told him she would take care of it, regular breaks remained a problem.

Denver Health employees receive annual performance evaluations from a supervisor. Such evaluations include input from coworkers (peer reviews). Peer review forms are sent to all coworkers, but there is no requirement that co-workers write reviews or complete all portions of a review form. The weight given to peer reviews in a performance evaluation is within the supervisor’s discretion. Denver Health issues an Employee Principles & Practices policy, which reflects Denver Health’s intent to afford an employee the opportunity to improve through corrective action and counseling. If satisfactory performance or behavior is not achieved and maintained after counseling or an improvement plan termination can result. This policy suggests that an employee whose performance evaluation is “unsuccessful” might be given instruction as to how to correct his performance.

Near the end of 2010, Mr. Adams received an “unsuccessful” annual evaluation prepared by charge nurse Jeanne King and Kim Carroll. The evaluation determined that Mr. Adams was hard-working and communicated well with patients, but that his interactions with fellow employees were poor. By way of example, it encouraged him to coordinate his breaks with coworkers, perform tasks when asked, and accept constructive criticism.

After his unsuccessful 2010 evaluation, pursuant to its policies, Denver Health issued Mr. Adams a verbal warning (memorialized in writing) and placed him on a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”). Mr. Adams was instructed that to avoid disciplinary action, including termination, he needed to make immediate improvements, as elaborated on in the PIP. Indeed, his PIP stated that failure to successfully complete its terms will result in termination. Mr. Adams’s performance improved, and in June of 2011, he received a mid-year “successful” performance evaluation from Ms. Carroll. At the end of 2011, Mr. Adams’s annual evaluation was again “successful, ” although it still suggested that Mr. Adams should continue to work on effective communication with coworkers.

Mr. Adams’s employment continued without further incident until summer of 2012. Indeed, during this time he received awards for model employment, and was recognized for qualities such as displaying a positive attitude, fostering excellent patient relationships, and exceeding job duties when the hospital was short-staffed. But in June of 2012, Mr. Adams contracted Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococci (VRE), an infection that caused swelling, odor, and an open wound on his scrotum. Discussions with his doctors led Mr. Adams to believe that VRE was exacerbated by his diabetes. Mr. Adams was hospitalized, then took two to three weeks of authorized medical leave during June and July.

When Mr. Adams returned to work he was treated differently by his supervisor, Ms. Carroll. She seemed displeased at his absence and was abrasive, asking how long Mr. Adams thought the VRE might last or if it would reoccur. She made it clear that she would be unhappy if he needed more time off. For a few months, he experienced no further problems with the VRE.

On November 29, 2012, however, Mr. Adams experienced re-inflammation of the VRE. He reported to work but immediately went to the ...

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