Andrea J. Mosby-Meachem, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division, Defendant-Appellant.
Argued: January 25, 2018
from the United States District Court for the Western
District of Tennessee at Memphis. No. 2:14-cv-02156-John
Thomas Fowlkes, Jr., District Judge.
Michael D. Tauer, GLANKLER BROWN, PLLC, Memphis, Tennessee,
W. Hansen, APOLLO LAW LLC, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for
Michael D. Tauer, Saul C. Belz, Miska L. Shaw, GLANKLER
BROWN, PLLC, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellant.
W. Hansen, APOLLO LAW LLC, Minneapolis, Minnesota, William B.
Ryan, Janelle Osowski, DONATI LAW FIRM LLP, Memphis,
Tennessee, for Appellee.
Before: GIBBONS, GUY, and COOK, Circuit Judges.
SMITH GIBBONS, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Mosby-Meachem, an in-house attorney for Memphis Light, Gas
& Water Division, was denied a request to work from home
for ten weeks while she was on bedrest due to complications
from pregnancy. Following trial, a jury found in favor of
Mosby-Meachem on her claim for disability discrimination and
awarded her compensatory damages. The district court also
granted Mosby-Meachem's motion for equitable relief and
awarded her backpay for the period in which MLG&W did not
permit her to telework. MLG&W moved for judgment as a
matter of law or, in the alternative, a new trial, asserting
that the evidence produced at trial and binding Sixth Circuit
precedent precluded any reasonable jury from determining that
Mosby-Meachem was a qualified individual while on bedrest
because in-person attendance was an essential function of her
job. The district court denied the motion and MLG&W
appealed both the denial of its motion and the award of
equitable relief. Because Mosby-Meachem produced sufficient
evidence at trial for a reasonable jury to conclude that
in-person attendance was not an essential function of her job
for the 10-week period in which she requested to telework and
the Sixth Circuit precedent relied upon by MLG&W is
materially distinguishable from the facts of this case, we
affirm the orders of the district court.
Mosby-Meachem has worked as an in-house attorney for Memphis
Light, Gas & Water Division ("MLG&W") since
2005. Her position title at MLG&W was Attorney
As an Attorney 3, Mosby-Meachem's work focused primarily
on the areas of labor, employment, and workers'
compensation. Mosby-Meachem, however, never participated in a
trial during her eight years with MLG&W prior to the
initiation of this litigation.
2008, Cheryl Patterson was hired as the vice president and
general counsel for MLG&W, becoming Mosby-Meachem's
supervisor. On March 14, 2011, Patterson sent an email to all
lawyers in the legal department outlining her policy
regarding the hours the attorneys spent in the office. In
this email, she stated:
Please be reminded that office hours for the Legal Department
are 8:30 a.m. -5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. All
employees, including the lawyers, are expected to be at work
and devoting their time and attention to Division business
during those hours. As professionals, you are expected to set
a good example for the support staff by being in the office
on time and staying at work until the end of the day. If you
anticipate arriving after 8:30 a.m., please contact the
office to inform me of the situation. Likewise, if you have a
meeting or hearing in the downtown area that ends before
5:00, you are expected to return to the office to complete
the day's work.
DE 44-14, Attendance Policy Email, Page ID 433. However,
MLG&W did not maintain a formal written telecommuting
policy at that time, and in practice, employees often
telecommuted. Indeed, on one occasion in 2012, Mosby-Meachem
herself was permitted to work from home for two weeks while
she was recovering from neck surgery, during which time she
appears to have adequately performed her duties to the
satisfaction of MLG&W.
January 2, 2013, during her 23rd week of pregnancy,
Mosby-Meachem's doctors discovered a problem requiring
her hospitalization. Prior to this occasion, Mosby-Meachem
had already experienced problematic pregnancies and had
suffered three miscarriages. The next day, on January 3,
Mosby-Meachem contacted MLG&W's medical service
coordinator, Cynthia White, and informed White of her
condition before undergoing surgery later that day. Following
surgery, Mosby-Meachem's doctors placed her on
"modified bed rest" for approximately ten weeks,
during which time she was restricted from engaging in
prolonged standing or sitting and from lifting heavy objects.
Upon receiving these instructions from her doctors,
Mosby-Meachem called Patterson and informed Patterson of her
January 7, 2013, Mosby-Meachem made an official accommodation
request that she be permitted to work from a bed either
within the hospital or within her home for ten weeks. Two
days later, on January 9, she submitted documentation
supporting her request, including a letter from Dr. Shannon
Malone stating "[i]t will be okay for [Mosby-Meachem] to
work from the hospital or home." CA6 R. 38, Malone
Letter, at 61. On January 15, 2013, MLG&W assembled an
ADA Committee consisting of Eric Conway, Steve Day, and Rutha
Griffin, who along with Vernica Davis and Patterson,
conducted a telephonic process meeting with Mosby-Meachem.
During the process meeting, Mosby-Meachem was asked whether
she could perform each of the essential functions of her job
remotely, which she answered in the affirmative. Despite
Mosby-Meachem's assurances, the ADA Committee denied
Mosby-Meachem's accommodation request on January 18, and,
in a letter dated January 30, 2013, explained that the denial
was based on the determination that physical presence was an
essential function of Mosby-Meachem's job, and
teleworking created concerns about maintaining
confidentiality. From the time of her request on January 7
until she received the denial letter on January 30,
Mosby-Meachem continued to perform her work remotely, and no
one from MLG&W ever told her to stop working during this
first appealed the denial on February 2, 2013 via email. When
that appeal was denied on February 19, she again appealed on
February 21, which appears to have again been denied.
Following her ten weeks of restriction, Mosby-Meachem
returned to work on April 1, 2013, and she continued to work
up until her baby was born on April 14, 2013. During the time
between January 3 and her return to work on April 1,
Mosby-Meachem initially received sick leave under the FMLA
for four weeks and then subsequently received short-term
disability for the remainder of the period.
February 26, 2013, until the end of the accommodation period,
Mosby-Meachem's license to practice law was suspended for
failure to pay the annual registration fee. Mosby-Meachem,
however, claims that she was unaware of the suspension until
receiving a June 28, 2013 letter from Patterson about the
issue, and she paid the fee the next day. Despite the
suspension, Mosby-Meachem was fully compensated upon her
return to work in April 2013.
filed suit in state court on December 30, 2013, and MLG&W
removed the action to federal court on March 5, 2014. In
Mosby-Meachem's amended complaint, she brought claims for
pregnancy discrimination in violation of the Tennessee Human
Rights Act and failure to accommodate and retaliation in
violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. MLG&W
moved for summary judgment following discovery, but the
district court denied the motion and the case proceeded to
trial. MLG&W moved for judgment as a matter of law at the
close of Mosby-Meachem's proof, and the district court
took the matter under advisement. The jury returned a verdict
for Mosby-Meachem on her claim of disability ...