Borges v. Missoula County Sheriff’s Office

Borges v. Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, 2018 MT 14 (Jan. 30, 2018) (Baker, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in declining to consider facts that arose after Borges filed his October 31, 2014 HRB complaint; and (2) whether the district court erred in granting the county summary judgment on Borges’ claim that the county failed to engage in an interactive dialogue or to provide a reasonable accommodation.

Short Answer: (1) No, and (2) no.


Facts: Borges began working at the detention facility in November 2006, and in 2010 was named outstanding employee of the year. His duties included supervising staff and overseeing juvenile offenders. In April 2014, Borges was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, manifesting as an extreme sensitivity to fragrances. His sensitivity became increasingly severe throughout 2014-2015.

Throughout the summer and fall of 2014, Borges informed the county of multiple incidents involving his exposure to harsh fragrances while at work. Borges does not dispute that the county responded to each situation by investigating, encouraging him to report, and acting to protect Borges from the offensive smells. On October 8, 2014, the county adopted an amended fragrance policy. Borges met with the supervising team on October 22, at which he expressed appreciation for the policy, but concern about scope and enforcement.

Borges filed an HRB complaint on Oct. 31, 2014, claiming discrimination on the basis of failure to provide a reasonable accommodation, hostile work environment, and retaliation.

In February 2015, due to the increasing severity of Borges’ sensitivity to fragrances, the county placed him on paid leave. The HRB investigation concluded in June 2015, finding no reasonable cause for a discrimination claim.

Borges resigned in July 2015, citing ongoing medical disability issues. He filed a complaint in district court in September 2015. In response to the county’s motion for summary judgment, Borges introduced evidence of ongoing discrimination that occurred after he filed his HRB complaint in October 2014.

Procedural Posture & Holding: The district court granted summary judgment to the county, basing its decision on the county’s actions prior to the date the HRB complaint was filed. Finding no genuine issue of material fact in dispute, the court concluded the county was entitled to judgment on Borges’ claims of failing to engage in an interactive dialogue, failing to offer Borges a reasonable accommodation, and retaliation. Borges appeals, and the Supreme Court affirms.

Reasoning: (1) Borges was obligated to supplement his claim with new evidence to allow the HRB to consider “new … matters arising out of continuing violation of law.” Admin. R. M. 24.8.752(1). The district court may address only those claims adjudicated by the HRB. Because Borges did not amend his complaint to include new facts, the HRB’s decision was uninformed by those facts. Borges is correct that neither the MHRA nor A.R.M. 24.8.752(1) forecloses a district court’s consideration of evidence that may be relevant to an existing claim of discrimination. But Borges has not shown how this evidence was material to his discrimination claim.

(2) Because Borges did not claim in his HRB complaint that the county failed to engage in an interactive process, he was not permitted to raise that claim to the district court, and the Supreme Court declines to hear it on appeal. Regarding the reasonable accommodation violation, the undisputed facts show that the county made good faith efforts to reasonably accommodate Borges so that he could perform his job. The county could not have enforced, without “significant difficulty,” a policy banning all fragrances worn by arrestees and members of the public. Admin. R. M. 24.9.606(5).