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Roness v. T-Mobile USA, Inc

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

July 9, 2019

ARTHUR RONESS, Plaintiff,
v.
T-MOBILE USA, INC., a Delaware Corporation, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant T-Mobile USA, Inc. (“T-Mobile”)'s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, Dkt. #29. T-Mobile seeks summary judgment on whether Plaintiff Arthur Roness, as a matter of law, was qualified to perform the essential functions of his Senior Technician, Data Center position. Plaintiff opposes T-Mobile's Motion in its entirety. Dkt. #40.

         Having reviewed the Motion, Plaintiff's Response, Defendant's Reply, and all documents submitted in support thereof, the Court GRANTS T-Mobile's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff started working for T-Mobile around September 2000 and currently holds the position of Senior Technician, Data Center at the Snoqualmie Data Center. Dkt. #23 at ¶¶ 1-2. T-Mobile has two data centers in the western half of the United States, East Wenatchee and Snoqualmie, which are both located in Washington state. Dkt. #30-1 at 69-70. T-Mobile's data centers are facilities that house the company's computer servers for its telecommunications system, which routes traffic for banking, government contracts, and Enhanced 911-a system mandated by the Federal Communications Commission that is used to provide emergency dispatchers the location of 911 callers. Dkt. #32-1 at 96; Dkt. #29 at 2.

         Data technicians at Snoqualmie maintain the facilities and respond to abnormal conditions as they arise. One data technician must be “on call” at all times outside the data technicians' regularly-scheduled day shifts. Dkt. #30-1 at 14, 16-17, 19. When a data technician is on-call, he typically does not work a full day shift because of the hours he worked at night. Id. at 59. During Plaintiff's time at Snoqualmie, the on-call responsibility was assigned on a rotating basis among the three data technicians. Determining who was on-call was a “fly-by-the-night type of thing” as opposed to a set schedule, and technicians would have to cover for one another if someone was sick or on vacation. Id. at 26. On-call rotation was not a desirable task, and data technicians typically did not volunteer to take on more rotations. Id. at 34.

         Plaintiff worked at T-Mobile's Nexus Data Center (“Nexus”) until it closed around 2016, after which he moved to the Snoqualmie Data Center (“Snoqualmie”). Dkt. #30-1 at 19. The Snoqualmie Data Center distinguishes between data technicians on the “facilities” side versus the “network” side, but on-call rotation was a requirement for both sides. Plaintiff covered the on-call responsibility for both the “facilities” and “network” sides since 2006. Id. at 8. Plaintiff's work schedule was typically 5:00 or 5:30am to 2:00 or 3:00pm, but his hours shifted depending on whether he worked at night to fix a network server issue. Id. at 29-30. Plaintiff had on-call responsibilities every third week and would have to respond to an emergency almost every time he was on call. Id. at 34.

         T-Mobile has used third-party contractors to assist with “racking and stacking” of the servers, replacing switches, troubleshooting, or helping with electrical and cabling work. Plaintiff states that while he was at Nexus, contractors from third-party company Telcoprime participated in on-call rotation at the Snoqualmie Data Center. Dkt. #30-1 at 19. Once Nexus shut down, T-Mobile stopped using the contractors from Telcoprime. Now, contractors from a different third-party company, BlueStream, cover excess work on an as-needed basis, but they only perform physical labor and are not given internal access to the T-Mobile network. Dkt. #30-1 at 62. Supervisor, Robert Okrie, relies on his staff to handle the emergency work at night and would only use contractors “if there was more work than what [his] staff could do.” Id. at 64. Plaintiff is not aware of any current or former T-Mobile data technicians at Snoqualmie who have been “permanently” relieved from their on-call responsibilities. Dkt. #32-1 at 22-23.

         On March 22, 2018, Plaintiff provided T-Mobile with a letter from his doctor, Dr. Randip Singh, which states that he diagnosed Plaintiff with Obstructive Sleep Apnea and requests that T-Mobile allow Plaintiff to “work Monday thru Friday 05:00am - 03:00pm excluding weekends.” Dkt. #30-1 at 45. The week after Plaintiff provided his doctor's letter to T-Mobile, T-Mobile placed Plaintiff on unpaid leave of absence. Dkt. #16-1 at ¶¶6-7. On the basis that Plaintiff's medical documentation indicated his work restrictions were “permanent, ” and because Plaintiff represented the same, T-Mobile's Accommodations Manager determined that T-Mobile could not reasonably accommodate Plaintiff in his current position as a Senior Technician at the Snoqualmie Data Center due to mandatory on-call rotation responsibilities. Dkt. #33 at ¶¶10-11. Starting May 9, 2018, T-Mobile placed Plaintiff in its Alternative Placement Program where he would meet regularly with an Accommodation Manager for ninety days to help find him alternative employment with T-Mobile. Id. at ¶¶11-12.

         On June 13, 2018, Plaintiff filed this action in King County Superior Court. Dkt. #1-1. Plaintiff claims that T-Mobile violated his rights under the Washington Family Leave Act (“WFLA”), the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), and the Washington Law Against Discrimination (“WLAD”) by placing him on continuous unpaid leave of absence rather than accommodate his disability or allow him to use intermittent leave. Dkt. #1-1. On July 13, 2018, T-Mobile timely removed the action to this Court. Dkt. #1.

         T-Mobile now moves for summary judgment on whether Plaintiff, as a matter of law, was qualified to perform the essential functions of his Senior Technician, Data Center position. Dkt. #29.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate where “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). Material facts are those which might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In ruling on summary judgment, a court does not weigh evidence to determine the truth of the matter, but “only determine[s] whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Crane ...


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