United States District Court, D. Connecticut
JAMES M. CADORET, Plaintiff,
SIKORSKY AIRCRAFT CORPORATION, Defendant.
RULING DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
Bond Arterton, U.S.D.J.
James M. Cadoret, alleges against his employer, Defendant
Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation ("Sikorsky"),
discrimination in violation of Title I of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (the "ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1212
et seq. (Count One), and Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (the "Rehab Act"), 29
U.S.C. § 794 (Count Two), based upon Defendant's
failure to accommodate his disability by providing an
interpreter which would allow him equal access to the
privileges and benefits of his employment. Defendant now
moves [Doc. # 48] for summary judgment. Oral argument was
held on November 21, 2017. For the reasons that follow,
Defendant's Motion is denied.
manufactures, designs, and services aircraft for military and
commercial operators in the United States and
internationally. (Def.'s Loc. R. 56(a) 1 Stmt. [Doc. #
48-2] and Pl.'s Loc. R. 56(a)2 Stmt. [Doc. # 56] ¶ 1
(together referred to as "LR 56").) Plaintiff is a
deaf individual who has been a Sikorsky employee for over
thirty years, working as an Electrical Installer for most of
that time (including currently). (LR 56 ¶¶ 6-7,
14.) His work record, including his spotless review and
disciplinary record, is generally not in dispute.
(Id. ¶¶ 10-17, 19, 21, 23, 57, 58.)
primary and preferred language is American Sign Language.
(Ex. 1 (Pl.'s Depo.) to Pl.'s Opp'n [Doc. # 56-1]
at 31:12-13; Ex. 2 (Shepard-Kegl Report) to id.
[Doc. # 56-2] at 81-82 ("In contrast with his non-native
mastery of English, Mr. Cadoret is a natively fluent signer
of ASL and is perfectly able to achieve communicative access
via an ASL interpreter.").) He reads and writes English
at a fourth-to-sixth-grade level. (Shepard-Kegl Report at
81-82.) His ability to communicate via lip-reading varies,
depending on context. (Pl.'s Depo. at 30:8-31:11.) For
instance, union steward Warren makes sure to face Plaintiff
and speak more slowly because "[i]f he's deaf and
he's not looking at my face, then he won't be able to
read my lips." (Ex. 9 (Warren Depo.) to Pl.'s
Opp'n [Doc. # 56-9] at 26:4-27:14.) Similarly, Plaintiff
is "a reasonably good lipreader one-on-one in well-lit
and quiet settings, but cannot rely upon lipreading in the
noisy environment he encounters in his workplace when
interacting with peers and the people he was
supervising." (Shepard-Kegl Report at 81-82.) Dr.
Shepard Kegl concludes that Plaintiffs speech may be
difficult to understand, especially for individuals not
familiar with deaf speech, and may give the impression that
he is less mature than he is in reality. (Id.)
s job includes participation in company-wide "All
Hands" meetings, departmental meetings, daily
"muster" meetings, meetings with supervisors, and
various job and safety trainings. (LR 56 ¶¶ 59-61,
65, 100.) His job duties also include communication with
co-workers, which was particularly intensive when he was an
active working leader of between two and sixteen other
installers from approximately 2007 to 2014. (See LR
56 ¶ 56; Pl.'s Depo. at 163:12-64:11, 174:8-10;
189:18-90:18.) The daily muster meetings last anywhere from
10 minutes to a half an hour or longer. (Pl.'s Depo. at
141:11-13, 163:2-7.) At these meetings, "sometimes there
are people who ask questions and, [Plaintiff doesn't]
know what the answers or the questions are."
(Id. at 141:19-21.) Plaintiff testified that he
"wasn't included in [the daily muster] meeting[s]
because, again, no interpreter." (Id. at
of his communication limitations in English, Plaintiff has
repeatedly requested sign language interpreters from his
supervisors and managers at Sikorsky, as well as from human
resources. (Id. at 252:15-273:21.) While Defendant
has recently occasionally provided interpreters for
company-wide "All Hands" meetings, and at least one
training, Defendant has refused and/or failed to provide
interpreters for most departmental meetings, and has never
provided interpreters for daily "muster" meetings.
(Id. at 209:7-21, 211:5-14:21; see also Ex.
7 (Brant Depo.) to Pl.'s Opp'n. at 28:13-19
(Sikorsky's way of accommodating Plaintiff was through a
"standing policy" of providing interpreters for
meetings of 50 to 200 people, such as All Hands meetings);
id. at 27:19-28:17 (Defendant "believes"
interpreters are "not required" for meetings
involving less than 50 people).)
to Defendant, for "anything that's beyond the
job" Plaintiff "has the ability to meet one on-one
to give him a good work environment" (id. at
75:18-76:8), and that all meetings can be "done
one-on-one" after the fact (id. at 79:12-13).
Defendant came up with a list of "suggestions and
actions" to address Plaintiffs concerns, none of which
involved providing an interpreter. (Ex. 8 (Lawrence Depo.) to
Pl.'s Opp'n at 43:25-44:24.) Defendant instead
provided other "modifications" (such as
text-to-speech software, written materials, or meeting with
Mr. Cadoret one-on-one after group meetings had occurred).
(See LR 56 ¶¶ 67-73.) Since mid-to-late
May 2017-long after this lawsuit was filed-Defendant has
finally made interpreting services available to Mr. Cadoret
via a Video Remote Interpreting service ("VRI").
(Ex. 10 (Plaintiffs Declaration) to Pl.'s Opp'n [Doc.
# 56-10] ¶ 2.) However, Defendant's employees do not
always utilize this system, and when they do, they often do
so incorrectly, leaving Plaintiff without communication
is embarrassed by not being able to communicate in the
workplace, and frustrated by Defendant's long delays and
general failure to respond to his requests for accommodation.
(See Brant Depo. at 31:13-32:23; Warren Depo. at
42:18-20, 53:22-54:8.) Plaintiff testified that he "got
angry" and "got very depressed the last few
years." (Pl.'s Depo. at 330:8-11.) Defendant's
failure to accommodate Mr. Cadoret has caused him to feel
limited in the workplace and has deterred him from seeking
new responsibilities and opportunities for advancement.
(See Id. at 190:12-18; Pl.'s Declaration
and the Rehabilitation Act require employers to make
"reasonable accommodations to the known physical or
mental limitations of an otherwise qualified
individual." McBride v. BIC Consumer Mfg. Co.
Inc., 583 F.3d 92, 96 (2d Cir. 2009) (citing 42 U.S.C.
§ 12112(b)(5)(A)). "A reasonable accommodation is
one that 'enable[s] an individual with a disability who
is qualified to perform the essential functions of that
position ... [or] to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of
employment."' Noll v. Int'l Business Mach.
Corp., 787 F.3d 89, 94 (2d Cir. 2015) (citing 29 C.F.R.
§ l63O.2(o)(1)(ii), (iii)). Whether an accommodation is
reasonable is a "fact-specific" question that often
must be resolved by a factfinder. Id. However, if an
"employer has already taken (or offered) measures to
accommodate the disability, the employer is entitled to
summary judgment if, on the undisputed record, the existing
accommodation is plainly reasonable." Id.
(internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
argues summary judgment is appropriate on Plaintiffs failure
to accommodate claim because: 1) Plaintiff does not need an
interpreter to perform the essential functions of his job, 2)
Plaintiff failed to properly exhaust his claim that he was
denied equal access to benefits and privileges of employment,
3) Plaintiffs request for a full-time ASL interpreter is
unreasonable as a matter of law, and 4) in 2017 Defendant
made available a Video Remote Interpreting ("VRI")
package giving Plaintiff access to on-demand video remote
interpreters throughout his shift so there is no basis for
hiring an interpreter. These arguments are without merit.
Plaintiff Admits he can Perform the Essential Functions of
his Job but Seeks Equal Access to Meetings and
is not arguing that he is unable to perform the essential
functions of his job, and concedes he can perform them
without accommodation. (Pl.'s LR ¶ 82.) Instead, and
as discussed in more detail below, Plaintiff seeks access to
equal benefits and privileges of his employment with
Defendant, and specifically, an interpreter, so that he can
participate in workplace functions including meetings and
trainings, and to enable him to converse with supervisors and
management. (Pl.'s Opp'n at 8.)
never argues such claim is not cognizable. Under Title I of
the ADA, "[n]o covered entity shall discriminate against
a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard
to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or
discharge of employees, employee compensation, job
training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of
employment." 42 U.S.C. § 12112 (emphasis
added). The federal regulations promulgated by the EEOC
further state that "[t]he term reasonable accommodation
means . . . [m]odifications or adjustments that enable a
covered entity's employee with a disability to enjoy
equal benefits and privileges of employment as are enjoyed by
its other similarly situated employees without disabilities.
29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(o)(1)(iii).
the Ninth Circuit in U.S. EEOC v. UPS Supply Chain
Solutions addressed a similar fact pattern in which a
deaf individual alleged he was denied the benefits and
privileges of employment, including participation in meetings
and job trainings. 620 F.3d 1103, 1105-06 (9th Cir.
2010). The plaintiffs job involved attending both
weekly and monthly department meetings, for which he had
repeatedly requested an ASL interpreter. Id. at
1106-07. Instead of providing an interpreter, UPS assigned a
co-worker to take notes (in English) during the meetings for
the plaintiff, but both the plaintiff and the co-worker found
this situation to be difficult and ineffective in the
interactive context of a meeting. Id. The Ninth
Circuit held that "there [was] a genuine issue of
material fact regarding whether these modifications, viewed
as a whole, would allow a deaf employee, even one who was
fluent in written English, to enjoy the benefits and
privileges of attending and participating in the departmental
meetings, " especially where, as here, the plaintiff has
only "limited proficiency in written English."
Id. at 1112.
does not identify any facts establishing that Plaintiff does
not require an ASL interpreter to participate in meetings and
trainings. On the other hand, Plaintiff points to facts in
the record which support the proposition that he does need an
interpreter to participate. For instance, he quotes his