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Steenmeyer v. The Boeing Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington

March 12, 2015

AMY STEENMEYER, Plaintiff,
v.
THE BOEING COMPANY, Defendant

For Amy Steenmeyer, Plaintiff: Jeffrey Lowell Needle, LEAD ATTORNEY, SEATTLE, WA.

For The Boeing Company, a Delaware corporation, Defendant: Deidra A Nguyen, Ryan Paul Hammond, LEAD ATTORNEYS, LITTLER MENDELSON (WA), SEATTLE, WA.

Page 1025

ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Marsha J. Pechman, Chief United States District Judge.

THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant The Boeing Company's (" Boeing's" ) Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. No. 21.) Having considered the Motion, Plaintiff Amy Steenmeyer's Response (Dkt. No. 23), Boeing's Reply (Dkt. No. 26), and all related papers, the Court hereby DENIES the Motion.

Background

Ms. Steenmeyer was hired into a permanent project manager position at Boeing in December 2011, after she had worked as a Boeing contractor for about six years.

Page 1026

(Oraze Dep., Dkt. No. 21-2, Ex. A at 47:15-20; see Steenmeyer Dep., Dkt. No. 24-1, Ex. A at 117-135.) Ms. Steenmeyer's most recent contract position was under the supervision of Mr. Oraze, and he was also the person to hire her on a permanent basis. (Oraze Dep., Dkt. No. 24-1, Ex. B at 34:14-25, 35:1-4, 39:8-10.) The contract position under Mr. Oraze did not require her to work away from the Everett work site, though she had been required to travel to sites within the Seattle metro area during previous stints as a contractor. (Oraze Dep., Dkt. No. 24-1, Ex. B at 46:15-19; Steenmeyer Dep., Dkt. No. 24-1, Ex. A at 120:25-125:8.) She was not required to work away from the Everett site as an employee. (Id. at 48:4-10.)

Ms. Steenmeyer had been seated in Row 1 of the workspace (the closest row to the restroom) during much of the time she worked under Mr. Oraze, including the months of September 2011, February, April, and May of 2012. (Steenmeyer Decl., Dkt. No. 25 at 2.) Ms. Steenmeyer believed her desk in Row 1 to be less than 30 seconds from the restroom. (Id.) On May 3, 2012, Mr. Oraze asked Ms. Steenmeyer to move to Row 3, farther from the restroom, to be seated near coworkers. (See Dkt. No. 22-4, Ex. R at 42.) She objected to the move by voicing concerns about those coworkers rather than referring to medical issues. (Id.) Mr. Oraze accommodated her request to stay in Row 1 at that time. (Id.)

Tensions flared between Ms. Steenmeyer and Mr. Oraze after he found out on May 8, 2012, that she had applied for another position at Boeing under a different supervisor. (See Oraze Dep. Dkt. No. 22-1 at 56:8-57:14; Steenmeyer Dep., Dkt. No. 22-1 at 194:3-10.)

During the month of June, Mr. Oraze required Ms. Steenmeyer to move to Row 3 by the beginning of July. (See Dkt. No. 22-4, Ex. S.) She again protested, referring to conflicts with coworkers, but was overruled. (Id.)

On July 18, Mr. Oraze gave Ms. Steenmeyer a negative performance review. (See Dkt. No. 22-4, Ex. R.)

On July 26, she asked to be moved back to Row 1, citing its closer distance from the restroom. (See Steenmeyer Decl., Dkt. No. 25 at 2.) Although this may have been the first time Ms. Steenmeyer requested an accommodation for a specific medical condition, Defendant Boeing concedes that she had a ten-year history of chronic urinary tract infections. (Dkt. No. 21 at 6; see Dkt. No. 25 at 2.) In addition, Mr. Oraze had been made aware of at least one prior " bladder issue" in February 2012 that had disrupted Ms. Steenmeyer's workday. (Dkt. No. 24-3, Ex. J at 25.) Ms. Steenmeyer's first request for an accommodation was accompanied by a health care provider's note that stated " Due to serious medical condition patient requires frequent visits to the bathroom and needs to be seated near the bathroom." (Dkt. No. 22-5, Ex. W at 2.)

Mr. Cannistraci, a physician's assistant with Boeing Medical, found the note to be ambiguous and requested additional documentation from Ms. Steenmeyer's health care provider. (See Cannistraci Dep., Dkt. No. 22-2, Ex. F at 32:22-44:7.) Specifically, he sought information about the frequency of the need to urinate and within whet distance from the restroom her seat should be located. (See id. at 45:7-23.) Ms. Steenmeyer then provided Boeing with a " Reasonable Accommodation and Health Care Provider Information Form" on Boeing letterhead which noted, " Patient needs to be within 30 seconds of the bathroom needs to urinate every hour to prevent future urinary tract infections." (Dkt. No. 24-3, Ex. N at 33.) Boeing points out that Ms. Steenmeyer had suggested the 30-second limitation to her

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health care provider. (Dkt. No. 21 at 7; Dkt. No. 22-2, Ex. E at 37:15-21.)

The reasonable accommodation process at Boeing segregates the medical restriction and the people implementing the restriction from the medical records supporting the restriction and medical staff familiar with those records. (See Lashua Dep., Dkt. No. 22-3, Ex. G. at 30:4-31:25.) Here, the information that reached the Disability Management Representative and Reasonable Accommodation Focal, Katie Lashua, substituted the phrase " work location needs to be within 30 seconds of bathroom" for Ms. Steenmeyer's medical provider's original phrase " needs to be seated near the bathroom." (See Boeing Injury & Illness Report, Dkt. No. 22-5, Ex. CC (" Work location needs to be within 30 seconds of bathroom. Employee needs bathroom break every hour." ).) Although " work location" is arguably ambiguous, Ms. Lashua and Mr. Oraze both initially assumed the phrase meant the placement of Ms. Steenmeyer's desk. (See Dkt. No. 24-2, Ex. D at 75:7-10; Dkt. No. 24-1, Ex. B at 135:2-14.)

After receiving Mr. Cannistraci's written restriction, Ms. Lashua met with Ms. Steenmeyer and Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Ken Eriksen, and helped Ms. Steenmeyer to move temporarily back to Row 1. (See Dkt. No. 22-5, Ex. AA at 19; Dkt. No. 24-2, Ex. D at 65:7-66:18.) The move was temporary because Mr. Oraze was on vacation. (Steenmeyer Decl., Dkt. No. 25 at 3; Dkt. No. 22-5, Ex. AA at 19-21.)

Upon Mr. Oraze's return, a meeting between Ms. Steenmeyer, Ms. Lashua, Mr. Oraze, Mr. Eriksen, and human resources representative Carol Hawthorne was convened. (Dkt. No. 22-5, Ex. AA at 22.) Mr. Oraze objected to Ms. Steenmeyer being moved to Row 1 and indicated the reason she was placed in Row 3 was not related to her medical condition. (Dkt. No. 24-1, Ex. B at 111:11-112:18; Dkt. No. 22-5, Ex. AA at 22.) Ms. Steenmeyer then ended ...


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