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Deeds v. City of Cedar Rapids

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 11, 2017

NOLAN DEEDS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CITY OF CEDAR RAPIDS, ST. LUKE'S WORK WELL SOLUTIONS, ST. LUKE'S HEALTHCARE, and IOWA HEALTH SYSTEM d/b/a UNITYPOINT HEALTH, Defendants-Appellees.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Paul D. Miller, Judge.

         Nolan Deeds appeals the district court order granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants on his claims of disability discrimination. AFFIRMED.

          Nathan J. Borland, Brooke Timmer, and Katie Ervin Carlson of Fiedler & Timmer, P.L.L.C., Johnston, for appellant.

          Elizabeth D. Jacobi, City Attorney, for appellee City of Cedar Rapids.

          Samantha M. Rollins, Karin A. Johnson, and Mitch G. Nass of Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, Des Moines, for appellees St. Luke's Work Well Solutions, St. Luke's Healthcare, and Iowa Health Systems d/b/a UnityPoint Health.

          Heard by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.

          DOYLE, Judge.

         Nolan Deeds appeals the district court order granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants on his claims of disability discrimination. He contends the district court erred in finding his disability did not motivate the City of Cedar Rapids (City) to rescind its offer of employment as a firefighter. He also contends the court erred in finding UnityPoint Health (UnityPoint)[1] did not aid and abet the City in its discriminatory conduct.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Deeds received a probable diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) after he experienced numbness and weakness on the right side of his body in December 2011. When the numbness returned approximately one year later, this time affecting both sides of his body, Deeds was diagnosed with relapse and remitting MS. Since that time, he has been asymptomatic.

         Deeds has wanted to be a firefighter since he was a child. In preparation for that career, he earned an Associate's Degree in Fire Science and became nationally certified for Fire Fighter I, Fire Fighter II, and Hazardous Material Operations by the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress. He also received his National EMS Certification as an EMT-Basic.

         In July 2012, Deeds applied for a position as a firefighter with the City. The City did not offer Deeds the position at that time but interviewed Deeds for the position again when it had another opening in July 2013. On July 25, 2013, the City extended Deeds an offer of employment that was "contingent upon satisfactory completion of a medical screening, " among other requirements.

         The City employed UnityPoint to conduct its medical examinations for those it offered the firefighter position. Dr. Jeffrey Westpheling conducted the medical examination, which included a review of Deeds's medical records. Dr. Westpheling discovered Deeds had been diagnosed with MS and had active symptoms within the preceding year.

         Iowa law requires the Municipal Fire and Police Retirement System of Iowa (MFPRSI) to set the standards for entrance physical examinations. See Iowa Code ยงยง 400.8(1), 411.1 A (2013). Because the MFPRSI standards to not specifically reference MS, Dr. Westpheling consulted guidelines of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which exclude from service any firefighter candidate with MS who has experienced symptoms during the three years preceding an examination for fitness. Based on the NFPA guidelines, Dr. ...


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