MAYRA F. PENA, Plaintiff, Appellant,
HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL, INC., Defendant, Appellee.
FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
RHODE ISLAND Hon. William E. Smith, U.S. District Judge
P. Gagliardi for the appellant.
J. McNamara, with whom Aaron F. Nadich and Nixon Peabody LLP
were on brief, for the appellee.
Lynch, Stahl, and Lipez, Circuit Judges.
Mayra F. Pena worked as a machine operator and associate
assembler for defendant Honeywell International, Inc.
(Honeywell), until Honeywell terminated her employment on
June 17, 2013, on the basis of job abandonment. Pena had not
come to work since March 8, 2013. On September 20, 2013, Pena
applied for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI)
benefits, asserting that she was totally disabled and had
been since March 8, 2013.
April 16, 2015, Pena filed this suit under the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et
seq., and under various Rhode Island laws, claiming that
Honeywell terminated her employment on the basis of her
disabilities, failed to provide her with reasonable
accommodations, and retaliated against her. After discovery
and after she consistently testified at her deposition that
she was totally disabled as of March 8, 2013, in accord with
her SSDI application statements, the district court granted
Honeywell's motion for summary judgment on all of
Pena's claims. It noted, among other things, Pena's
deposition testimony and her SSDI application. The court
correctly held that Pena had not met the requirements of
Cleveland v. Policy Management Systems Corporation,
526 U.S. 795 (1999). We affirm the district court's grant
of summary judgment in favor of Honeywell.
recount the undisputed facts, examining them in the light
most favorable to Pena. See Murray v. Kindred Nursing
Centers W. LLC, 789 F.3d 20, 25 (1st Cir. 2015). In or
about 2008, Honeywell hired Pena as a machine operator and
associate assembler at its manufacturing facility in
Cranston, Rhode Island. Pena worked (except for leave) at the
facility until March 8, 2013, after which she never returned
to work. On June 17, 2013, Honeywell terminated Pena's
employment for job abandonment.
Cranston facility's various production and assembly areas
included the respiratory department,  the molding department, the
logo department, the quicloc/cedars department, and the SCBA
area (SCBA stands for "self-contained breathing
apparatus"). Before 2012, Pena usually worked in the
respiratory department. In the molding department, unlike
other departments, the machines run twenty-four hours a day,
and emit a new part about every thirty seconds. In other
departments, the employees can control the timing of the
2012, Honeywell decided that all employees working in
production and assembly should be cross-trained so that they
could work as needed in all departments at the Cranston
facility, including in the molding department. Honeywell
believed that it was important "to move associate
assemblers to departments where customer demand was greatest
and, as a result, an employee['s] inability to work in
any particular area would burden the production
process." This was particularly true in the molding
department due to its continuous operation. Honeywell then
trained all of its employees, including Pena, to work in all
"assembly departments," including the molding
October 2012, Pena was assigned to and worked in the molding
department under this policy. Pena then took a medical leave
from November 29, 2012, until January 14, 2013. Pena
attributed this request for medical leave to her seasonal
depression. Before this leave, Honeywell had permitted Pena
to take several other medical leaves of absence totaling
twenty-three weeks, including from October 14, 2011, to
November 21, 2011; from December 16, 2011, to February 13,
2012; and from June 22, 2012, to August 6, 2012.
Pena returned to the Cranston facility on January 14, 2013,
she began working in the molding department four hours per
day, two to three times per week. She worked there without
complaint or incident for about one month. She otherwise
typically worked in the respiratory department.
February 2013, Pena complained to the Senior Human Resources
Generalist, Jose Gouveia, that one of the production leaders
had told her to go to the molding department. Pena says she
told Gouveia during that conversation that she did not want
to work in the molding department because "it was
harmful to [her] emotionally."
met with Gouveia, as well as her supervisor, Kevin Dyer, and
the Health Safety and Environmental Site Leader, Conor Ryan,
on both March 7 and 8, 2013, about her request not to work in
the molding department. At the March 7 meeting, Honeywell
personnel requested that Pena provide a letter from her
doctor. The next day, Pena provided a letter from her
physician, Dr. James Greer. Dr. Greer's letter, dated
March 4, 2013, stated:
Currently, [Pena] is reporting exacerbation of her anxiety
symptoms which are interfering with her ability to function.
She reports that these specifically occur when she is being
sent to the moulding [sic] room as opposed to the more
typical duties to which she is accustomed.
Greer "request[ed] that [Honeywell] assist her in other
placements than in this setting," and stated that Pena
"is completely capable of working in other
settings." Dr. Greer's letter relied almost entirely
on Pena's self-reported symptoms and did not contain a
specific medical diagnosis. The letter also did not explain
why the molding department, but not any other department or
area, exacerbated Pena's symptoms.
concluded that Dr. Greer's letter was inadequate to
determine what accommodations Pena was requesting and whether
Honeywell could meet those requests. On March 8, 2013, Ryan
and Gouveia told Pena that the only work available to her was
in the molding department, so if she refused to do that work,
she would have to go home. Pena decided to go home, and never
returned to work after that day.
a week, Pena had retained an attorney, Veronika Kot. Kot told
Pena not to communicate with any Honeywell personnel, as Kot
would handle all such communications.
did not know that Pena had retained counsel, and repeatedly
attempted to contact Pena to better understand her condition
and determine what accommodations, if any, would be
appropriate. In late March 2013, Gouveia sent Pena a
Reasonable Accommodations Request Form.
April 2, 2013, Honeywell's Associate Director of Health
Services, Dr. Elizabeth Jennison, wrote to Dr. Greer, asking
for "additional documentation to understand the medical
necessity for [Pena's] request." Dr. Jennison's
letter also asked Dr. Greer to "clarify how [Pena's]
anxiety symptoms could allow her to work in many areas of the
plant, while interfering with her ability to function in one
area of the plant, the molding department, for which she is
equally qualified and trained," and requested supporting
early April 2013, Pena submitted the Reasonable
Accommodations Request Form to Honeywell, which was dated
April 2, 2013. On the form, Pena stated that she was
"unable to work in molding" because "the
noise, speed and overall environment gives [her] anxiety,
palpitations." On the form, Pena also stated, "I
had been offered many permanent positions in molding while
still working through an agency and refused because I knew 11
years ago that I could not perform this job."
physician's portion of the Reasonable Accommodations
Request Form was left blank, but Pena attached a second
letter from Dr. Greer dated April 2, 2013. This letter stated
that Dr. Greer diagnosed Pena as having "Major
Depressive Disorder, Recurrent, Severe." The letter
stated that Pena "is eager to return to work in her
previous capacity," and that Dr. Greer could "state
with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that continued
assignment to the more recent work setting will result in
worsening stress and further exacerbation of her
condition." Dr. Greer's letter did not attempt to
explain why his diagnosis of Pena would allow her to work
everywhere except in the molding department.
April 8, 2013, Gouveia sent a letter to Pena stating,
"[y]ou have informed us you signed a release to give
your physician permission to send your medical records to our
medical department; however, no medical records have been
received. As a result, and at the moment, we have
insufficient information to assess your request." The
letter also stated that while Honeywell "await[ed] the
medical information required to assess [her] request,"
Pena had the following options in the meantime: returning to
work and performing her regular duties, including in the
molding department, which was "required of all employees
in [Pena's] position"; remaining on unpaid medical
leave; or using any paid time off she might have available.
sent a follow-up letter to Pena on April 22, 2013, stating
that Honeywell had not yet received any information from
Pena's physician. That same day, Attorney Kot telephoned
Gouveia. This was the point at which Honeywell became aware
that Pena had retained counsel. Honeywell's in-house
employment counsel, Jacqueline Rolfs, wrote to Kot later that
same day, asking her to review Honeywell's correspondence
with Pena to understand Honeywell's requests for
additional medical records.
April 23, 2013, Kot responded to Rolfs's letter in
writing, stating that Pena had already provided two
doctor's notes, and that Honeywell's request for a
"release of all her sensitive medical records, including
mental health records," was an "unnecessary and
prohibited intrusion upon her privacy."
April 25, 2013, Rolfs sent a letter to Kot, attaching the
prior correspondence between Honeywell, Pena, and Dr. Greer.
This letter detailed Honeywell's attempts to communicate
with Pena, and stated that Honeywell had not asked for all of
Pena's records, but rather, only those records that would
explain how her symptoms prevented her from working in the
molding department. Rolfs's letter also stated that
"Honeywell remains willing to work with
your client to assess her reasonable accommodation request.
However, without the cooperation of your client and her
physician in providing responses to Honeywell's
reasonable questions about this request, we cannot proceed
further in that process."
responded to Rolfs in a letter dated April 30, 2013, accusing
Honeywell of violating the ADA and of threatening to
terminate Pena's employment if she did not return to work
without accommodations. Kot's letter also stated that she
would provide another letter from Pena's doctor shortly.
6, 2013, Kot wrote to Rolfs again, expressing concern that
Honeywell management had not provided Pena with "the
appropriate support" and instead had "apparently .
. . urged [Pena] to quit and apply for SSI [Supplemental
Security Income]" (Honeywell disputes this). Kot's
letter enclosed a memorandum from Dr. Greer, stating that
Pena "has reported repeatedly and consistently"
that the molding room was stressful because of "a
variety of factors which included increased noise levels,
chemical odors, and the presence of robotics." Dr.
Greer's memorandum also stated, "I cannot
specifically identify particular issues there which might
exacerbate her stress, but can state with a reasonable degree
of medical certainty that there is a direct causal
relationship between her working in that setting and the
exacerbation of her symptoms." The memorandum attached
four progress notes from Pena's visits with Dr. Greer
that had taken place between March 4 and April 22, 2013.
sent a letter to Kot on May 22, 2013, stating that Dr.
Greer's most recent memorandum still did not explain the
connection between Pena's diagnosis and her ability to
work in the molding department, because all of the items
mentioned were also true of work conditions in other
departments. The letter explained that:
The noise level in molding is not appreciably different than
that in respiratory. Indeed, employees in both areas are
required to wear ear plugs. Nor is there any difference in
the chemical odors between respiratory and molding. In
addition, there are robotics in both molding and respiratory,
and all are enclosed.
letter stated that "all employees who work on the floor
at this Honeywell facility will be required to rotate into
molding as they complete the necessary training. The
rotations are as brief as 15 minutes, or as long as one
week." The letter also stated that "[r]espiratory
will remain Ms. Pena's primary assignment," but that
"Ms. Pena and the other employees will rotate among all
the areas in the facility, not just molding."
Rolfs's letter also repeated that Honeywell only sought
medical records relevant to Pena's request for reasonable
accommodation. It stated that "no one at Honeywell has
suggested that Ms. Pena quit and apply for SSI." The
letter further stated that Dr. Greer had not called
Honeywell's Associate Director of Health Services, Dr.
Jennison, as Honeywell had requested, and asked that Dr.
Greer call Dr. Jennison as soon as possible.
personnel did not hear from Kot after May 6, 2013. But the
record shows, and her counsel at oral argument affirmed, that
Pena had counsel at the time of each of the following crucial
17, 2013, after Pena had been absent for over three months
and had used all of her medical leave, Honeywell terminated
Pena's employment on the basis of job abandonment.
September 20, 2013, Pena applied for SSDI benefits. Pena was
represented by different counsel, Amanda DelFarno, for her
SSDI application. Pena's SSDI application included the
statements "I became unable to work because of my
disabling condition on March 8, 2013," and "I am
still disabled." The application also stated:
I know that anyone who makes or causes to be made a false
statement or representation of material fact in an
application or for use in determining a right to payment
under the Social Security Act commits a crime punishable
under federal law by fine, imprisonment, or both. I affirm
that all information I have given in connection with this
claim is true.
same day, Pena was given an electronic receipt for her SSDI
application, which stated, "[y]ou declared under penalty
of perjury that you examined all the information on this form
and it is true and correct to the best of your knowledge. You
were told that you could be liable under law for providing
false information." The receipt stated that Pena should
review her SSDI application and call the telephone number
provided within ten days if Pena disagreed with any of the
statements in her application. Pena does not say that she
ever contacted the Social Security Administration to change
any statements in her SSDI application.
September 29, 2015, Pena testified at a hearing before an
administrative law judge (ALJ). At the hearing, an impartial
medical expert testified that "the medical evidence of
record shows that the claimant has a 'core problem'
of a somatoform disorder while translating everything to
physical symptoms." On October 16, 2015, the ALJ granted
Pena's SSDI application in a five-page decision, ...