United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PATRICIA L. COHEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant St. Louis County
Government's motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 49).
Plaintiff Theoda Mills opposes the motion. (ECF No. 52).
a restaurant inspector for St. Louis County's Department
of Public Health (“the Department”), filed a
three-count petition against St. Louis County, Steven
Stenger, and several employees of the Department, namely,
Sharon Gardner, Donald Edwards, and Joyce Theard, alleging
disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA) and age and disability discrimination
in violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA). (ECF
No. 3). In his petition, Plaintiff claimed that Defendants
discriminated him because he “had a severe allergy to
shellfish.” (Id. at ¶ 9).
removed the case to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1441, et seq., and filed motions to dismiss (ECF Nos.
7 & 19). The Court dismissed with prejudice
Plaintiff's claims for discrimination based on age and
disability under the MHRA and Plaintiff's ADA claim
against Steven Stenger, Sharon Gardner, Donald Edwards, and
Joyce Theard. (ECF Nos. 30 & 36). Plaintiff's ADA
claim against St. Louis County is the sole remaining claim.
began working for the Department as a seasonal, part-time
vector control assistant in September 2007, and he
transitioned to the full-time position of vector control
supervisor in September 2010. (ECF Nos. 51, 51-7). During the
nine months Plaintiff worked as a vector control supervisor,
Sharon Gardner, the Department's human resources
administrator, received multiple complaints from
Plaintiff's supervisor relating to Plaintiff's
communication skills and job performance. (Id.). In
February 2011, Dr. Dolores Gunn, the health director, advised
Plaintiff by letter that his “six-month probationary
period that was scheduled to end on February 27, 2011 will be
extended three months (May 31, 2011).” (ECF No. 51-12).
meetings with Plaintiff's supervisors and a conversation
with Dr. Gunn, Ms. Gardner determined that Plaintiff
“could [not] be successful in his current position
because he was not working well with his supervisors.”
(ECF Nos. 51, 51-4). In May 2011, Ms. Gardner asked Plaintiff
if he would accept a demotion to an environmental technician
position. (Id.). Plaintiff accepted the demotion,
effective the following month. (Id.). At his
deposition, Plaintiff testified that he was
“relieved” by the offer and “more than
willing” to work as an environmental technician. (ECF
No. 51-7 at 111).
duties of an environmental technician included, among other
things, inspecting food at food pantries and food distributed
by the summer feeding program. (ECF No. 51-7 at 16, 56).
Pursuant to the Department's progression policy, when an
environmental technician successfully completed a two-year
term, he or she automatically promoted to the position of
environmental representative. Environmental representatives
inspected restaurants, swimming pools, childcare facilities,
tobacco retailers, and lodging facilities. (ECF No. 51).
2013, Plaintiff emailed Ms. Gardner inquiring about his
upcoming promotion and pay increase. (Id.). He did
not mention a food allergy or a desire not to perform
restaurant inspections. (Id.). The Department
promoted Plaintiff to environmental representative in June
2013, Plaintiff emailed Joyce Theard, the Department's
assistant environmental health director, expressing interest
in reassignment to the part-time position of special purpose
monitoring (SPM) collector. (ECF No. 51-18). In the email,
Plaintiff stated: “I would like to express my interest
in operating in the part-time position of SPM collector and
forego my fulltime position as an Environmental
Representative. I have some long standing issues working in
certain food environments and base my request on them.”
(ECF No. 51-18). Ms. Theard responded, thanking Plaintiff for
his “interest to be reassigned to the SPM program as a
part-time, term (grant) employee” and explaining that
“this position has yet to be established and is pending
approval from county administration.” (Id.).
When the Department posted the position in October 2013,
Plaintiff did not apply. (ECF No. 51).
February 2014, Plaintiff began a six-week training program in
restaurant inspection. (ECF No. 51). Plaintiff informed his
trainer, Michelle Paillou, that he “did not want to
inspect restaurants, ” but never informed her that he
was allergic to shellfish. (ECF Nos. 51, 51-3). Likewise, he
informed his manager, Carrie Dickhans, the Department's
food and environmental sanitation program manager, that he
disliked inspecting restaurants but he did not tell her about
his shellfish allergy or request accommodation. (ECF Nos.
April 1, 2014, Plaintiff assisted Ms. Paillou in the
inspection of a specialty, seafood grocery store. (ECF No.
51). In his deposition, Plaintiff testified that he began to
feel lightheaded and dizzy and asked Ms. Paillou if he could
leave work early. (ECF No. 51-7 at 23). However, Plaintiff
did not inform Ms. Paillou that he felt ill, much less that
exposure to shellfish caused his illness. (Id.; ECF
No. 51-3). Plaintiff did not tell Ms. Dickhans or Ms. Paillou
that exposure to shellfish made him sick because he did not
recognize the causal relationship between his sickness and
the shellfish exposure. (ECF No. 51-7 at 28-29).
6, 2014, Ms. Dickhans asked a different trainer, Byron
Norman, to work with Plaintiff because Plaintiff was
struggling to complete the restaurant inspection training.
(ECF No. 51-1). Mr. Norman supervised Plaintiff in the
inspection of a restaurant that served multiple types of
shellfish. (ECF Nos. 51, 51-2). According to Plaintiff's
deposition testimony, he handled shellfish during the
inspection and suffered a severe allergic reaction that
included, among other symptoms, difficulty breathing. (ECF
Nos. 51, 51-7 at 12, 17). Plaintiff also stated that he
informed Mr. Norman that “I need[ed] to get away from
the environment, ” but did not provide a reason because
“I didn't understand why.” (ECF No. 51-7 at
13). Mr. Norman, on the other hand, stated in his affidavit
that Plaintiff neither complained of feeling sick nor
exhibited signs of an allergic reaction. (ECF No. 51-2).
same day, Plaintiff sent an email, with the subject line
“Notice of Resignation, ” to Mr.
Edwards. (ECF No. 51-25). The email stated, in
Today my decision has been made. For months I have toiled
with the need to resign, after being forced into a position
clearly unsustainable and forces the closure of my tenure
here at St. Louis County.
For months, I have tried to rationalize how I have come to
this place in work and life. And have concluded that each
organization has its own culture and are sometime [sic]
unwilling or unable to accept the views and ideas of those
wishing to have a little input. This stifling of one's
freedom of expression and the under cutting of my personally
[sic] and professionally [sic] growth is a remedy [sic] for