DeMOSS, Circuit Judge:
In this Americans with Disabilities Act case, appellant Mack W. Taylor argues that the district court erred in granting his employer summary judgment relief. Holding that appellant failed to offer any summary judgment evidence showing that he apprised his employer of (1) any limitations resulting from his disability, and (2) any need for a reasonable accommodation, we affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment.
Defendants, The Principal Financial Group, Inc. and Principal Mutual Life Insurance Co. ("Principal Mutual"), hired plaintiff, Mack W. Taylor, Jr. ("Taylor"), in September 1990. Taylor became the manager of Principal Mutuals' El Paso, Texas office on January 1, 1992. Taylor's contract defined his duties to include the recruiting, selecting, and training of agents, the managing of agency affairs, the supervising and managing of the agents, brokers, and agency staff, and the maintenance of the policies. Ultimately, it was Taylor's job to lead a productive sales office.
On June 17, 1992, Taylor met with Jerry Carey ("Carey") who was then Taylor's supervisor. At their meeting, Taylor admitted to Carey that Taylor had substituted some fictitious names into certain standardized career profile tests which were given to all new recruits, purportedly to enable Taylor to determine the validity of scores of ethnic candidates. Carey reprimanded Taylor during the meeting and advised him in writing that his actions were unacceptable because they gave the impression of unethical practices. Carey also advised Taylor that his 1992 performance in recruiting agents was down from the previous year, and that Taylor's focus for the balance of 1992 should be the development of full-time agents. Finally, Carey criticized Taylor for not acting timely in his dealings with a disruptive member of Taylor's staff.
On November 10, 1992, Bruce Matthews ("Matthews"), Taylor's new supervisor, met with Taylor in El Paso to discuss Taylor's lack of effective recruiting. During this meeting, Matthews placed Taylor on probation and gave him until June 30, 1993 to recruit additional agents. After the meeting, Matthews sent Taylor the following "letter of understanding":
Taylor and Matthews each signed the letter.
By memorandum dated December 21, 1992, Matthews advised his agency managers, including Taylor, to complete their respective "Career Management Annual Appraisals," and schedule their annual appraisal meeting in Des Moines, Iowa. In his self-appraisal, Taylor noted that he "meets requirements" in most categories, but he acknowledged that he is "below requirements" in the categories of "recruiting" and "agent retention."
The next day, on April 14, 1993, Taylor met with Matthews for Taylor's annual review. Matthews told Taylor that he was displeased with Taylor's work and that several of his "key result areas" remained below average. In Taylor's own words, Matthews "left no impression that I was ever doing a good job." In response, Taylor told Matthews that he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Specifically, Taylor testified that his dialogue with Matthews, in relevant part, went as follows:
The next day, Taylor sent Matthews an electronic mail ("E-Mail") message dated April 15, 1993, in which he stated:
On June 24-25, 1993, Matthews met with Taylor in El Paso. Matthews offered Taylor a voluntary severance package to be accepted at Taylor's choice. Matthews did not tell Taylor that he was required to accept the severance package, or that he was terminated. In a subsequent telephone conversation, Taylor notified Matthews that Taylor had not decided whether he would sign the severance agreement.
On July 1, 1993, Taylor received from Matthews a letter of understanding dated June 29, 1993, advising Taylor that he had an additional six months to meet certain standards in order to continue as agency manager of the El Paso office. In relevant part, the letter stated the following:
Taylor neither signed this letter of understanding, nor otherwise advised Matthews, or anyone else at Principal Mutual, that the matters set forth in the June 29, 1993, letter of understanding were unacceptable.
On July 6, 1993, Taylor was admitted to Sun Towers Medical Center and treated for bipolar disorder type II and anxiety disorder.
This case was originally filed on August 31, 1994, in Texas state court. It was removed to federal district court on September 22, 1994, based upon federal question jurisdiction (Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1331. On March 14, 1995, Defendants Principal Mutual moved for summary judgment. On March 30, 1995, the district court heard oral arguments from the parties and granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. In its written order granting summary judgment, the district court stated the following, in relevant part:
On April 24, 1995, Taylor filed a notice of appeal to this Court.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
We review a district court's grant of summary judgment de novo, applying the same standard as did the district court. McDaniel v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., 987 F.2d 298, 301 (5th Cir.1993). We "review the facts drawing all inferences most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Reid v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 784 F.2d 577, 578 (5th Cir.1986). Summary judgment is appropriate when the summary judgment record demonstrates "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); accord Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). "If the moving party meets the initial burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to produce evidence or designate specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial." Engstrom v. First Nat'l Bank, 47 F.3d 1459, 1462 (5th Cir. 1995).
AMERICAN WITH DISABILITIES ACT
The ADA is a federal antidiscrimination statute designed to remove barriers which prevent qualified individuals with disabilities from enjoying the same employment opportunities that are available to persons without disabilities. Americans with Disabilities Act, 29 C.F.R. § 1630, App. (1995).
The ADA expansively prohibits discrimination in employment against persons with a disability, providing that,
42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). A "disability" includes, in relevant part,
42 U.S.C. § 12102(2). "Discrimination" includes,
42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(5)(A) (emphasis added). The ADA defines "Qualified Individual" and "Reasonable Accommodation" as follows:
42 U.S.C. § 12111. "Unless expressly stated otherwise, the standards applied in the ADA are not intended to be lesser than the standards applied under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973." 29 C.F.R. 1630.1, App. (1995) (referencing Rehabilitation Act of 1973 § 504, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 794).
In Daigle v. Liberty Life Insurance Co., we set forth the elements of, and the standard of proof in, ADA cases:
Daigle v. Liberty Life Insurance Co., 70 F.3d 394, 396 (5th Cir.1995) (internal citations omitted).
Taylor argues that summary judgment was inappropriate because genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether he made a cognizable request for accommodation. Specifically, Taylor argues that the ADA does not require an employee to use any specific words to invoke the employer's duty to provide reasonable accommodation. Taylor argues that, through the following statements which he made to Matthews on April 14,
Taylor argues that his statements to Matthews raise a genuine fact issue as to whether Taylor asked for a reasonable accommodation.
Taylor additionally argues that once he revealed his disability to Matthews, Principal Mutual had an affirmative obligation to make reasonable accommodations. Taylor argues that the burden is upon the employer to present credible summary judgment evidence that a reasonable accommodation is not possible in a particular situation. Taylor says that Principal Mutual presented no such evidence. Taylor argues that we should reverse the district court's order of summary judgment and remand this case for jury trial.
Principal Mutual argues that Taylor's statements to Matthews did not put Principal Mutual on notice that Taylor had a disability which required accommodation. In fact, Principal Mutual argues that Taylor had indicated to Matthews that Taylor was, in fact, "all right." Principal Mutual argues that the claimed physical or mental limitations of an employee's disability must be made known to the employer before an obligation to accommodate arises. Principal Mutual argues that "it is not the illness which the employer must accommodate, but rather any limitations or restrictions caused by the illness." Principal Mutual argues that Taylor did not inform Matthews or Principal Mutual of any limitations or restrictions. Nevertheless, Principal Mutual argues that it gave Taylor an accommodation in the form of additional time to meet his requirements. Specifically, Principal Mutual says that they gave Taylor "an additional six months on his probation despite Taylor's failure to satisfy his job requirements." Principal Mutual asserts that, "having reasonably accommodated Taylor, Principal Mutual was not required to do more."
The ultimate issue presented to this Court is whether Taylor presented summary judgment evidence to the district court sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Principal Mutual violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq, by not making reasonable accommodations to a physical or mental limitation suffered by Taylor and known to Principal Mutual. The district court held that Taylor never requested an accommodation and, thus, failed to establish a prima facie case of ADA discrimination. For the following reasons, we affirm.
Failure to Identify Limitation
Under the ADA, an actionable disability means, in relevant part, a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits
The only relevant evidence offered by Taylor is his own deposition testimony stating that he told Matthews that he was "diagnosed" with bipolar disorder, and that he wanted Matthews to "investigate" the condition. The evidence does not show that Taylor ever told Matthews that he suffered a limitation as a result of his alleged impairment. To the contrary, when Matthews asked Taylor if Taylor was "all right," Taylor told Matthews that he was.
For purposes of proving ADA discrimination, it is important to distinguish between an employer's knowledge of an employee's disability versus an employer's knowledge of any limitations experienced by the employee as a result of that disability. This distinction is important because the ADA requires employers to reasonably accommodate limitations, not disabilities. "The determination of whether an individual has a disability is not necessarily based on the name or diagnosis of the impairment the person has, but rather on the effect of that impairment on the life of the individual." 29 C.F.R. 1630.2(j), App. (1995); 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a)(5)(A) ("[T]he term `discriminate' includes ... not making reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability....") (emphasis added); 29 C.F.R. 1630.9, App. (1995) ("Employers are obligated to make reasonable accommodations only to the physical or mental limitations resulting from the disability that is known to the employer.") (emphasis added).
To illustrate the distinction between a disability and a limitation resulting from a disability, consider the following hypothetical of two hearing-impaired employees: One hearing-impaired employee is an assembly worker who suffers no job limitations as a result of her hearing-impairment disability; she is able to perform the essential functions of her job without accommodation. The other hearing-impaired employee, however, is a telephone operator who, because of her inability to hear, is limited in her ability to perform the essential functions of her job; this disabled employee may require a reasonable accommodation as a result of her impairment. Both employees are disabled, but only one employee is limited by her disability.
As noted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("E.E.O.C.") in its interpretive guide to the ADA, "[s]ome impairments may be disabling for particular individuals but not for others, depending on the stage of the disease or the disorder, the presence of other impairments that combine to make the impairment disabling or any number of other factors." 29 C.F.R. 1630.2(j), App. (1995). Thus, while a given disability may limit one employee (and therefore necessitate a reasonable accommodation), it may not limit another. For this reason, the ADA does not require an employer to assume that an employee with a disability suffers from a limitation. In fact, better public policy dictates the opposite presumption: that disabled employees are not limited in their abilities to adequately perform their jobs. Such a policy is supported by the E.E.O.C.'s interpretive guide: employers "are prohibited from restricting the employment opportunities of qualified individuals with disabilities on the basis of stereotypes and myths about the individual's disability. Rather, the capabilities of qualified individuals must be determined on an individualized, case by case, basis." 29 C.F.R. 1630.5, App. (1995).
Failure to Identify Accommodation
Even if there was summary judgment evidence creating a fact issue as to
In this case, the summary judgment record shows that Taylor only asked for a reduction in his "objectives," and a lessening of the "pressure." Principal Mutual responded by granting Taylor an additional six months to meet his job objectives. The next day, Taylor sent Matthews an electronic mail letter in which he optimistically indicates that he can meet the job requirements which were discussed with Matthews. Nowhere in this letter does Taylor mention bipolar disorder, any limitations resulting therefrom, or the need for any specific accommodations. While Taylor did ask for a reduction in his "objectives," and lessening of the "pressure," for the following reasons, under the facts of this case, such a request is too indefinite and ambiguous to constitute a formal request for accommodation under the ADA.
Where the disability, resulting limitations, and necessary reasonable accommodations, are not open, obvious, and apparent to the employer, as is often the case when mental disabilities are involved, the initial burden rests primarily upon the employee, or his health-care provider, to specifically identify the disability and resulting limitations, and to suggest the reasonable accommodations. It simply stands to reason that the employee and his health-care provider are best positioned to know what type of accommodation is appropriate for the employee. When the nature of the disability, resulting limitations, and necessary accommodations are uniquely within the knowledge of the employee and his health-care provider, a disabled employee cannot remain silent and expect his employer to bear the initial burden of identifying the need for, and suggesting, an appropriate accommodation. When dealing in the amorphous world of mental disability, we conclude that health-care providers are best positioned to diagnose an employee's disabilities, limitations, and possible accommodations.
For the foregoing reasons, the judgment entered by the district court is AFFIRMED.
As to retention of agents, Taylor noted: "My retention figures were tied along with my recruiting numbers. Have not established sufficient enough base to with stand the winds of change and economic storms of life."
These statements, which constitute the entirety of the affiants' substantive and relevant testimony, are insufficient to create a genuine fact issue for trial. ("[C]onclusory allegations, speculation, and unsubstantiated assertions are inadequate to satisfy the nonmovant's burden." Forsyth v. Barr, 19 F.3d 1527, 1533 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 115 S.Ct. 195, 130 L.Ed.2d 127 (1994)). Nowhere in either affidavit does the affiant identify (1) the specific disability; (2) any limitations resulting therefrom, or; (3) any reasonable accommodations required. When an employee's own medical affidavits fail to identify and address these crucial issues, the ADA certainly does not require the employer to bear the burden of doing so.