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Case 1:17-cv-03200-SCJ-AJB Document 1 Filed 08/23/17 Page 1 of 25

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT


NORTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
ATLANTA DIVISION

YVONNE BROWN, )
)
Plaintiff, )
) CIVIL ACTION NO.
v. ) ________________________
)
APPLE, INC., ) JURY TRIAL DEMANDED
)
)
Defendant. )

COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES AND EQUITABLE RELIEF

Plaintiff, Ms. Yvonne Brown (Plaintiff or Ms. Brown) submits the

following Complaint for Damages and Equitable Relief against Defendant Apple,

Inc. (Defendant or Apple).

INTRODUCTION

1.

This is an employment case arising from Apples discrimination and

retaliation against a disabled technician in its customer service department. Ms.

Brown achieved excellent results for Apple as a Support Technician even while

she suffered from autoimmune disease, diabetes, severe allergies and epilepsy.

Apple not only denied her reasonable accommodations and retaliated against her
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for requesting the same, but also terminated her employment because of her

medical conditions and her assertion of federally-protected employment rights.

2.

Plaintiff asserts mixed motive and single motive discrimination and

retaliation claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of

2008, 42 U.S.C. 12102 et seq. (ADAAA) and the Family and Medical Leave

Act of 1993, 29 U.S.C. 2601 et seq. (FMLA). She seeks back pay and lost

economic benefits of her employment, liquidated damages, reinstatement or front

pay in lieu thereof, non-economic compensatory and punitive damages, and her

attorneys fees and costs.

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

3.

Plaintiffs claims present federal questions over which this Court has

jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1331 and 1343(a), 42 U.S.C. 12117(a), and

29 U.S.C. 2617(a)(2).

4.

The violations of Plaintiffs rights occurred in the Northern District of

Georgia. Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. 1391(b) and (c), as many of the acts of

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which Plaintiff complains occurred in the Atlanta Division of the United States

District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

PARTIES

5.

Plaintiff, Ms. Yvonne Brown, is a resident of Paulding County in the State

of Georgia, and at all relevant times she was employed by Defendant as a Support

Technician.

6.

Plaintiff was at all relevant times an employee of Apple within the

meaning of the ADAAA, 42 U.S.C. 12111(4).

7.

Plaintiff was at all relevant times an eligible employee as defined by the

FMLA, 29 U.S.C. 2611(2)(A).

8.

Defendant Apple, Inc. is a foreign for-profit corporation licensed to do

business in Georgia with its principal office at One Infinite Loop, Cupertino,

California 95014. Apple is subject to the jurisdiction of this Court and may be

served with process by personal service upon its registered agent, CT Corporation

System, located at 289 S. Culver Street, Lawrenceville, Georgia 30046.

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9.

At all relevant times, Defendant was an employer within the meaning of

the ADAAA, 42 U.S.C. 12111(5).

10.

At all relevant times, Defendant was an employer within the meaning of

the FMLA, 29 U.S.C. 2611(4)(A).

ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

11.

Plaintiff timely filed charges of discrimination and retaliation against Apple

with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

12.

Plaintiff received the Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC within the last

(90) days and has complied with all other conditions precedent to the assertion of

her claims under the ADAAA in this lawsuit.

FACTS

13.

In June 2014, Ms. Brown began her employment as a Support Technician

with Apple working from her then-home in Kentucky.

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14.

Ms. Browns job duties included chattingcommunicating

electronicallywith customers seeking support for using Apple products.

15.

At the time she began her employment with Apple, Ms. Brown registered as

a handicapped employee within Apples human resources system based on her

autoimmune disorders.

16.

Ms. Brown worked the night shift from her home, allowing her to tend to

medical appointments during the daytime.

17.

On or about February 18, 2016, Ms. Brown was diagnosed with epilepsy.

18.

On or about February 22, 2016, Ms. Brown informed her supervisor, David

Barker (Barker) of the diagnosis. In her conversations with Barker, Ms. Brown

did not request leave or any other accommodation of her condition.

19.

On or about March 3, 2016, Barker met with Ms. Brown for a regular one-

on-one meeting.

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20.

Barker told Ms. Brown that she looked tired and that she should take

medical leave.

21.

Ms. Brown told Barker that she had not requested leave and did not need

any time off.

22.

Barker responded that he was forcing her to go on leave. He then blocked

Ms. Browns access to Apples customer service system, preventing Ms. Brown

from performing her job duties.

23.

The following day, Ms. Brown called Human Resources to explain that

Barker had blocked her access to the computer system because, in his opinion, she

needed to take medical leave.

24.

The Human Resources representative told Ms. Brown that she needed to

take medical leave.

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25.

Approximately four months later, a Human Resources representative told

Ms. Brown that she had exhausted her FMLA leave and was required to return to

work.

26.

Ms. Brown returned to work on July 14, 2016. Her new supervisor was Jay

Smith.

27.

Upon her return to work, Ms. Brown was required to attend weeks of phone

support training, despite the fact that Ms. Browns position was in chat support, not

phone support.

28.

Ms. Brown reported Barkers actions to Human Resources representative

Jeff Haught.

29.

During Ms. Browns absence from work, Apple introduced new software for

chat support technicians and raised the number of simultaneous chats which

support technicians were required to handle from two (2) to three (3).

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30.

Ms. Brown requested training on the new software for chat support

technicians, but did not receive that training.

31.

On July 21, 2016, Ms. Brown requested, as an accommodation of her

disability, that she be allowed to handle one chat at a time for a limited period of

thirty (30) days so that she could familiarize herself with the new software.

32.

Defendant denied Ms. Browns request for accommodation.

33.

In September 2016, Defendant was transferred Ms. Brown to a lower-paying

day shift position.

34.

Working the day shift imposed significant hardship on Ms. Brown, as it

effectively precluded her from going to regular doctors appointment and follow-

up treatments for her medical conditions.

35.

On or about September 20, 2016, Ms. Brown requested, as an

accommodation of her disability, that she be switched back to a night shift.

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36.

Defendant denied this request.

37.

In the spring of 2016, Ms. Brown informed Defendant that she needed to

move from Kentucky to Georgia because her husbands employer was transferring

him there. Ms. Brown and Defendant had agreed that she would transfer to Georgia

in November 2016.

38.

In August 2016, Ms. Browns house flooded and became infested with mold.

The mold had a serious impact on Ms. Browns health because she is highly

allergic to mold.

39.

Ms. Brown discussed her health problems with a supervisor and provided

him with a doctors certification of her mold-related illness.

40.

Ms. Brown was told by her supervisor and a Human Resources

representative that she should move to Georgia earlier than planned so as to get out

of her mold-infested house.

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41.

Because Ms. Brown had exhausted her FMLA leave during her forced

absence earlier in the year, Ms. Brown was told she could take unpaid Apple Leave

to tend to her illness and move to Georgia.

42.

Ms. Brown moved to Georgia on October 15, 2016.

43.

On October 25, 2016, Ms. Brown filed a charge of discrimination with the

EEOC based on Defendants failure to accommodate her request to return to a

night shift.

44.

On October 30, 2016, Ms. Brown saw a text message from a man named

Michael who introduced himself as her new team manager in Atlanta.

45.

The man who texted her was Michael Harless (Harless), a senior-level

manager at Apple who was not her team manager.

46.

Ms. Brown responded that she had arrived in Georgia and set up her home

office there. She asked what was required for her to start working again.

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47.

Harless told Ms. Brown that all she needed was a doctors note confirming

that she was fit to work.

48.

On or about November 11, Ms. Brown received a letter from Defendant

stating that she was required to submit FMLA paperwork for her absence from

September to November and that she would be terminated if she did not submit

that paperwork.

49.

Ms. Brown contacted Harless and told him that she did not have FMLA

paperwork because she was on Apple Leave rather than FMLA leave. She also told

him that her new doctor in Georgia could not sign FMLA paperwork for absences

that occurred before he was treating her.

50.

She told Harless that she could provide a return-to-work note from her

doctor as Harless had originally requested. Harless maintained that she needed to

submit FMLA paperwork.

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51.

From November to December 2016, Harless repeatedly demanded that Ms.

Brown submit FMLA paperwork in order to return to work, and Ms. Brown

continued to explain that she was not on FMLA leave.

52.

On December 21, 2016, Harless told Ms. Brown that she had until January 4,

2017, to submit FMLA paperwork or she would be fired.

53.

On January 12, 2017, Defendant terminated Ms. Brown, claiming that she

had abandoned her employment.

COUNT I

DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION IN VIOLATION OF THE ADAAA

54.

Plaintiff incorporates each and every preceding paragraph herein by

reference as if set forth fully herein.

55.

At all relevant times, Plaintiff was an individual with a disability as

defined by the ADAAA, 42 U.S.C. 12102(1), because she (a) suffered mental

and/or physical impairments that substantially limited one or more major life

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activities, (b) had a record of such impairments, and/or (c) was regarded by

Defendant as a person with such impairments.

56.

Plaintiff was at all relevant times a qualified individual as that term is

defined by the ADAAA, 42 U.S.C. 12111(8), because she was able to perform

the essential functions of her job with or without reasonable accommodation.

57.

Defendant intentionally discriminated against Plaintiff by subjecting her to

adverse employment actions including, but not limited to, denying her reasonable

accommodations and terminating her employment, because of her disabilities.

58.

As a direct and proximate result of Defendants intentional discrimination,

Plaintiff has suffered out of pocket losses and has been deprived of job-related

economic benefits, including income in the form of wages and other benefits, all in

an amount to be established at trial.

59.

Defendants actions have caused and will continue to cause Plaintiff to

suffer damages for emotional distress, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life,

and other non-pecuniary losses, all in an amount to be established at trial.

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60.

Defendants actions were undertaken intentionally, willfully, and

maliciously with respect to, or with reckless disregard for, Plaintiffs federally

protected rights, and she is therefore entitled to punitive damages.

61.

Plaintiff is entitled to be reinstated to employment by Defendant, and, if

reinstatement is not feasible, she is entitled to an award of damages for future lost

wages and benefits of employment.

COUNT II

FAILURE TO ACCOMMODATE IN VIOLATION OF THE ADAAA

62.

Plaintiff incorporates each and every preceding paragraph herein by

reference as if set forth fully herein.

63.

At all relevant times, Plaintiff was an individual with a disability as

defined by the ADAAA, 42 U.S.C. 12102(1), because she (a) suffered mental

and/or physical impairments that substantially limited one or more major life

activities, (b) had a record of such impairments, and/or (c) was regarded by

Defendant as a person with such impairments.

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64.

Plaintiff was at all relevant times a qualified individual as that term is

defined by the ADAAA, 42 U.S.C. 12111(8), because she was able to perform

the essential functions of her job with or without reasonable accommodation.

65.

Defendant intentionally discriminated against Plaintiff by subjecting her to

adverse employment actions including, but not limited to, failing and refusing to

engage in the interactive process, failing and refusing to provide and otherwise

denying her reasonable accommodations, and terminating her employment.

66.

By denying Plaintiff reasonable accommodations and instead terminating

her employment, Defendant discriminated against Plaintiff because of her

disabilities and violated her rights under the ADAAA, 42 U.S.C. 12112(5)(A).

67.

As a direct and proximate result of Defendants intentional discrimination,

Plaintiff has suffered out of pocket losses and has been deprived of job-related

economic benefits, including income in the form of wages and other benefits, all in

an amount to be established at trial.

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68.

Defendants actions have caused and will continue to cause Plaintiff to

suffer damages for emotional distress, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life,

and other non-pecuniary losses, all in an amount to be established at trial.

69.

Defendants actions were undertaken intentionally, willfully, and

maliciously with respect to, or with reckless disregard for, Plaintiffs federally

protected rights, and she is therefore entitled to punitive damages.

70.

Plaintiff is entitled to be reinstated to employment by Defendant, and, if

reinstatement is not feasible, she is entitled to an award of damages for future lost

wages and benefits of employment.

COUNT III

RETALIATION IN VIOLATION OF THE ADAAA

71.

Plaintiff incorporates each and every preceding paragraph herein by

reference as if set forth fully herein.

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72.

At all relevant times, Plaintiff was an individual with a disability as

defined by the ADAAA, 42 U.S.C. 12102(1), because she (a) suffered mental

and/or physical impairments that substantially limited one or more major life

activities, (b) had a record of such impairments, and/or (c) was regarded by

Defendant as a person with such impairments.

73.

Plaintiff was at all relevant times a qualified individual as that term is

defined by the ADAAA, 42 U.S.C. 12111(8), because she was able to perform

the essential functions of her job with or without reasonable accommodation.

74.

Plaintiff engaged in statutorily protected activity by, among other things,

exercising or attempting to exercise or enjoy her rights under the ADAAA,

including but not limited to, requesting a reasonable accommodation for her

disabilities and filing charges of discrimination with the EEOC.

75.

Defendant subjected Plaintiff to adverse employment actions including, but

not limited to, denying her requests for reasonable accommodations and

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terminating her employment, because she engaged in statutorily protected activity

under the ADAAA.

76.

Defendants actions amount to violations of the ADAAA, which prohibits

employers from discriminating against an individual because she has opposed any

act or practice made unlawful under the ADAAA, 42 U.S.C. 12203(a), and also

prohibits employers from coercing, intimidating, threatening, or interfering with

any individual in the exercise or enjoyment of rights under the ADAAA on account

of her having exercised or enjoyed or attempted to exercise or enjoy such rights,

42 U.S.C. 12203(b).

77.

As a direct and proximate result of Defendants unlawful retaliation against

Plaintiff, she has suffered out of pocket losses and has been deprived of job-related

economic benefits, including income in the form of wages and other benefits,

including social security, all in an amount to be established at trial.

78.

Defendants actions have caused, continue to cause, and will cause Plaintiff

to suffer damages for emotional distress, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life,

and other non-pecuniary losses all in an amount to be established at trial.

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79.

Defendants actions were undertaken intentionally, willfully, and

maliciously with respect to, or with reckless disregard for, Plaintiffs federally

protected rights, and she is therefore entitled to punitive damages.

80.

Plaintiff is entitled to be reinstated to employment by Defendant, and, if

reinstatement is not feasible, she is entitled to an award of damages for future lost

wages and benefits of employment.

COUNT IV

INTERFERENCE IN VIOLATION OF THE FMLA

81.

Plaintiff incorporates each and every preceding paragraph herein by

reference as if set forth fully herein.

82.

Plaintiff was an eligible employee who was entitled to a total of 12

workweeks of leave per year because of her serious health condition under

29 U.S.C. 2612(a)(1)(C).

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83.

By forcing Plaintiff to exhaust her FMLA leave when she did not need it, by

considering her use of protected leave as a motivating factor in the decision to

terminate her employment and later terminating Plaintiffs employment when she

was entitled to take leave under 29 U.S.C. 2612(a)(1)(C) and 2612(a)(1)(D),

among other actions, Defendant interfered with and prevented Plaintiff from

exercising the rights provided to her under the FMLA.

84.

The actions of Defendant in interfering with Plaintiffs leave under the

FMLA were committed with reckless disregard for her right to take up to 12

workweeks of leave time because of her serious health condition and in violation

of 29 U.S.C. 2612(a)(1)(C) and 2612(a)(1)(D).

85.

The effect of the actions of Defendant has been to deprive Plaintiff of a job,

as well as income in the form of wages, health insurance, prospective retirement

benefits, and other benefits as a result of her right to leave under the FMLA.

86.

Accordingly, and because of the violations of the FMLA committed by

Defendant, Plaintiff is entitled to both equitable and monetary relief pursuant to

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29 U.S.C. 2617(a)(1)(A) and (B), including, but not limited to, back pay and

other lost economic benefits of employment, reinstatement or front pay in lieu of

reinstatement, and reasonable attorneys fees and costs of litigation.

87.

Plaintiff also is entitled to liquidated damages for Defendants willful

violation of her rights under the FMLA. 29 U.S.C. 2617(a)(1)(A)(iii).

88.

Plaintiff is entitled to be reinstated to employment by Defendant, and, if

reinstatement is not feasible, she is entitled to an award of damages for future lost

wages and benefits of employment.

COUNT V

RETALIATION IN VIOLATION OF THE FMLA

89.

Plaintiff incorporates each and every preceding paragraph herein by

reference as if set forth fully herein.

90.

Plaintiff was an eligible employee who was entitled to a total of 12

workweeks of leave per year because of her serious health condition within the

meaning of 29 U.S.C. 2612(a)(1)(D).

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91.

By terminating Plaintiffs employment because she exercised and attempted

to exercise rights under 29 U.S.C. 2612(a)(1)(D), and/or by considering

Plaintiffs use of protected leave and/or other exercise or attempt to exercise rights

under the FMLA as a motivating factor in the decision to terminate her

employment, among other things, Defendant retaliated against Plaintiff because of

her exercise of rights under the FMLA.

92.

Defendants actions in retaliating against Plaintiff because she exercised and

attempted to exercise rights under the FMLA were committed with reckless

disregard for her right to take up to 12 workweeks of leave time because of her

serious health, in violation of 29 U.S.C. 2612(a)(1)(D).

93.

The effect of the unlawful actions of Defendant has been to deprive Plaintiff

of a job, as well as income in the form of wages, health insurance, prospective

retirement benefits, social security, and other benefits as a result of her right to

leave under the FMLA.

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94.

Accordingly, and because the violations of the FMLA committed by

Defendant, Plaintiff is entitled to both equitable and monetary relief pursuant to

29 U.S.C. 2617(a)(1)(A) and (B), including, but not limited to, back pay and

other lost economic benefits of employment, reinstatement or front pay in lieu of

reinstatement, and reasonable attorneys fees and costs of litigation.

95.

Plaintiff also is entitled to liquidated damages for the willful violation of her

rights under the FMLA. 29 U.S.C. 2617(a)(1)(A)(iii).

96.

Plaintiff is entitled to be reinstated to employment by Defendant, and, if

reinstatement is not feasible, she is entitled to an award of damages for future lost

wages and benefits of employment.

PRAYER FOR RELIEF

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff demands a TRIAL BY JURY and that the

following relief be granted:

A. That the Court take jurisdiction of this matter;

B. That process be served;

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C. That the Court award Plaintiff her back pay and lost economic benefits

of employment, including interest, in an amount to be determined at the trial of this

case;

D. That the Court award non-economic compensatory damages in an

amount to be determined by the trier of fact;

E. That the Court award Plaintiff liquidated damages under the FMLA;

F. That the Court award Plaintiff punitive damages against Apple in an

amount to be determined by the trier of fact;

G. That the Court enter an order reinstating Plaintiff to her employment

with Apple, or if this is not practicable, award Plaintiff front pay damages in lieu

thereof;

H. That the Court award Plaintiff her costs of litigation in this action and

her reasonable attorneys fees;

I. That the Court grant to Plaintiff the right to have a trial by jury on all

issues triable to a jury; and

J. That the Court grant such additional relief as the Court deems proper

and just.

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Respectfully submitted,

BUCKLEY BEAL, LLP

By: /s/ Thomas J. Mew IV


Thomas J. Mew IV
Georgia Bar No. 503447
tmew@buckleybeal.com
Edward D. Buckley
Georgia Bar No. 092750
edbuckley@buckleybeal.com
Promenade, Suite 900
1230 Peachtree Street, NE
Atlanta, GA 30309
Telephone: (404) 781-1100
Facsimile: (404) 781-1101
Counsel for Plaintiff

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