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Ayala v. PayPal, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

June 8, 2017

CHASSIDY A. AYALA, an individual; Plaintiff,
PAYPAL, INC., a Delaware corporation; Defendant.


          Joseph F. Bataillon Senior United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the court on the defendant's motion for summary judgment, Filing No. 25. This is an action for discrimination in employment brought pursuant to Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C.A. § 12101 et seq. The plaintiff alleges she was subjected to a hostile work environment by reason of her disability.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are gleaned, in part, from the parties' briefs and submissions and are not meaningfully disputed. In October of 2006, PayPal hired Ayala as a Resolution Services Agent. Her job duties included answering customer phone calls and solving problems customers had with their PayPal accounts. Ayala was an at-will employee. At all times relevant to this lawsuit, PayPal was a subsidiary of eBay Inc.

         Ayala held various positions with PayPal until January of 2011 when she became a Dispute Resolution Specialist. Ayala held the position of a Dispute Resolution Specialist until December 2014. During her orientation and employment, Ayala received and reviewed PayPal's policies, including its Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") Policy and its Discrimination and Harassment-Free Workplace Policy. Ayala also signed an Electronic Monitoring Acknowledgment Form, which informed her that PayPal could monitor and record her computer usage at work. Ayala was also familiar with PayPal's Attendance Policy.

         By January of 2012, Emily Heldridge ("Heldridge") was Ayala's supervisor during most of the time at issue, except for a period of time between March 2013 and September 2013, when Chris Smith ("Smith") temporarily managed Ayala's team while Heldridge assisted a different team. In late 2014, Heldridge transferred to a different position and Jenny Nelson became her supervisor.

         In March or April of 2013, Ayala complained to Heldridge's supervisor, Sue Hogle, that she was being treated unfairly by Heldridge. In May of 2013, Ayala wrote a comment about Heldridge on an anonymous survey that all employees are asked to complete. Ayala indicated that Heldridge did not treat everyone fairly and had favorite employees. Ayala testified that George Ramirez, a former PayPal supervisor, later told her that the anonymous surveys are not anonymous.

         Ayala received three disciplinary memos in November of 2013. She reported to Human Resources through PayPal's automated system, MyHR, that Heldridge had retaliated against her for the negative comments made in the May 2013 anonymous survey. Ayala complained to Human Resources that Heldridge commented about the slow speed at which Ayala read e-mails, stated that Ayala did not perform like a regular team member, and was generally rude. Ayala characterized Heldridge's comments and demeanor as condescending and demeaning. Ayala informed Human Resources "I am being retaliated against for comments I made on a survey."

         The record shows Ayala has been medically diagnosed with anxiety, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”), Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”), and Depression. Ayala testified that she informed Heldridge that she had ADHD in 2011 and notified PayPal's human resources department (the MyHR group) of her disability and its impact on her life in September 2014.

         She stated in her deposition that she attributed Heldridge's conduct in connection with the November 2013 corrective actions to Ayala's ADHD disability, but there is no evidence that Ayala told either Heldridge or the human resources department that she thought the comments referred to her ADHD at the time of the 2013 incidents. Shortly thereafter, in December 2013, Ayala requested leave for treatment for depression and anxiety. She reported she needed the time off because she was going through a divorce, her daughter had attempted suicide and she had totaled her car. She did not report that her supervisor's actions had caused her anxiety and depression. After Ayala's twelve weeks of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) expired, PayPal granted Ayala an addition two-month leave of absence.

         After she returned to work, Ayala was disciplined for violations of PayPal's attendance policy and for providing incorrect information to a customer. Ayala acknowledges that she committed the infractions, but contends she was unjustifiably singled out for discipline. She testified she was subjected to more reviews of her telephone conversations than other employees and, unlike other employees, was required to go through all of her old tickets and log her time. Other than Ayala's testimony, there is no evidence that other employees were treated differently.

         Ayala again complained to MyHR, without mentioning ADHD or any form of discrimination. The record shows Ayala was advised to contact the company's short term disability insurer or employee assistance program if she had a health condition that was affecting her ability to come to work and to perform the functions of her job. PayPal's records indicate that Ayala stated that an ideal resolution would be for Heldridge to “be nice” to Ayala.

         In the Fall of 2014, Heldridge transferred to another position and Jenny Nelson became Ayala's supervisor. She was again counselled and disciplined for unexcused absences. The record shows Ayala had received nine written warnings in eighteen months from three different supervisors. PayPal produced evidence that, over the course of her employment, Ayala received numerous written warnings, conversation memos, corrective counselling memos, and disciplinary actions for such infractions as inappropriate email, improper cell phone use, low productivity, misappropriation of time (improper internet use), and attendance violations.

         Ayala faced another corrective action due to absenteeism in December 2014. Ayala testified that her supervisor, Jenny Nelson, told her she would not be fired at that time and would be given another chance, but if she missed one more day, Ayala would be terminated. Ayala testified that at that ...

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