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Voss v. Housing Authority of City of Magnolia, Arkansas

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

February 25, 2019

Paul Voss Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
Housing Authority of the City of Magnolia, Arkansas; and Richard Wyse, Individually and in his Official Capacity as Executive Director of Housing Authority of the City of Magnolia, Arkansas Defendants - Appellees

          Submitted: September 27, 2018

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas - El Dorado Division

          Before COLLOTON, GRUENDER, and GRASZ, Circuit Judges.

          GRASZ, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Appellant Paul Voss resigned from his position as maintenance supervisor at the Housing Authority of the City of Magnolia, Arkansas ("Housing Authority") and soon after filed a lawsuit against the Housing Authority and his direct supervisor, Richard Wyse, asserting various discrimination, retaliation, and constitutional claims. Voss appeals the district court's[1] order granting summary judgment in favor of the Housing Authority and Wyse. We affirm.

         I. Background

         Voss worked at the Housing Authority for approximately fourteen years before resigning his position in May 2014. When he resigned, Voss was a maintenance supervisor and was responsible for the technical supervision of maintenance activities for low-rent housing developments.

         In February 2014, based on a recommendation from an Arkansas state funding agency, the Housing Authority directed drug testing of its employees. The initial screening results indicated Voss tested positive for "opiates/morphine." In March, Wyse met with Voss regarding the results of the drug test. Wyse told Voss he was suspended from employment without pay after Voss refused to provide information requested by Wyse regarding his use of an opiate.

         The day after meeting, Voss provided Wyse a copy of a prescription for hydrocodone. Wyse asked Voss via email to provide a letter from his healthcare professional acknowledging the hydrocodone prescription and explaining how and when Voss took the prescription, as well as whether any side effects of the prescribed medication could hinder Voss's ability to perform his work duties. Wyse also asked Voss to provide a complete list of all prescription medications he was taking so Wyse could confirm the hydrocodone was what caused the positive test, or alternatively a clearance letter from Voss's healthcare professionals addressing the issue. Wyse soon sent a follow-up letter asking Voss again to have his healthcare providers write a letter of acknowledgment of the prescribed hydrocodone, "describ[ing] how and when to take this said prescription, along with any side effects that could hinder your ability to perform your duties to oversee the maintenance of the Housing Authority." There is no record of Voss responding to these two communications.

         Throughout April and part of May 2014, the Housing Authority communicated with Voss on several occasions through its attorneys. During these communications, the Housing Authority told Voss that it had reinstated Voss's pay retroactively[2] and made sure his health insurance did not lapse during his suspension. By May, the Housing Authority also dropped its demand that Voss provide more information from his healthcare providers and Voss agreed to return to work.

         On May 14, Voss ultimately returned to work. During a meeting with Wyse after his return, Voss stated that he was still taking the hydrocodone. Voss also told Wyse of certain medical conditions he had, including post-traumatic stress disorder, but stated these conditions would not affect his ability to do his job. Wyse informed Voss that he could not operate the Housing Authority's vehicles and equipment until Voss provided information from his doctor describing how and when to take the prescription, along with any side effects that could hinder Voss's ability to perform his duties. Wyse also informed Voss that, because of funding issues, Voss would now need pre-approval from Wyse before placing any orders. Wyse believed there were plenty of other general office duties that Voss could perform as part of his job.

         On Monday, May 19, Voss submitted a resignation letter. In the letter, Voss stated he "refuse[d] to work any longer in the retaliatory environment that has existed between me and most of the rest of the [Housing Authority] staff, especially [Wyse], since the drug test was done in February."

         In January 2015, after filing a discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and obtaining a right-to-sue letter, [3]Voss filed a lawsuit against the Housing Authority and Wyse, both individually and in his official capacity as Executive Director. Voss alleged numerous claims, including violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the "ADA") and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), all of which were dismissed by the district court except for Voss's "ADA claim against the Housing Authority; all of [Voss's] procedural due process claims based on alleged deprivation of a constitutionally protected property interest, and [Voss's] Title VII Retaliation claim against the Housing Authority."

         Following discovery, the Housing Authority and Wyse filed a motion for summary judgment on the remaining claims. The district court granted them summary judgment and dismissed the case with prejudice. The district court held some of Voss's claims were not properly exhausted and others failed as a matter of law on the merits. Voss filed a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e), asking the district court to reconsider its summary judgment order and ...


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