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Trout v. Aerospace Testing Alliance

December 20, 2007

DONALD TROUT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
AEROSPACE TESTING ALLIANCE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harry S. Mattice, Jr. United States District Judge

Judge Mattice

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Donald Trout brings this action against Defendants Aerospace Testing Alliance, Jacobs Sverdrup Constructors, Inc., Computer Sciences Corporation, and General Physics Corporation claiming that Defendants wrongfully terminated his employment based on his disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12111(8), and based on his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 622 et seq.,and the Tennessee Human Rights Act (THRA), Tenn. Code Ann. §4-21-401.

Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [Court Doc. 22]. For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

I. STANDARD

Summary judgment is proper where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the facts contained in the record and all inferences that can be drawn from those facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Nat'l Satellite Sports, Inc. v. Eliadis Inc., 253 F.3d 900, 907 (6th Cir. 2001). The Court cannot weigh the evidence, judge the credibility of witnesses, or determine the truth of any matter in dispute. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).

The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating that no genuine issue of material facts exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). To refute such a showing, the nonmoving party must present some significant, probative evidence indicating the necessity of a trial for resolving a material factual dispute. Id. at 322. A mere scintilla of evidence is not enough. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; McLean v. Ontario, Ltd., 224 F.3d 797, 800 (6th Cir. 2000). The Court's role is limited to determining whether the case contains sufficient evidence from which a jury could reasonably find for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49; Nat'l Satellite Sports, 253 F.3d at 907. If the nonmoving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of its case with respect to which it has the burden of proof, the moving party is entitled to summary judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. If the Court concludes that a fair-minded jury could not return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party based on the evidence presented, it may enter a summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52; Lansing Dairy, Inc. v. Espy, 39 F.3d 1339, 1347 (6th Cir. 1994).

II. FACTS

Plaintiff Donald Trout worked for various contractors of the United States Air Force at the Arnold Engineering Development Center ("AEDC") in Tullahoma, Tennessee for over twelve years. (Affidavit of Donald Trout ("Trout Aff."), Court Doc. 25-2, ¶ 2.) Defendant Aerospace Testing Alliance ("ATA") is the current contractor at AEDC and was Trout's employer at the time of his termination. (Id.) Defendants Jacobs Sverdrup Constructors, Inc., Computer Sciences Corporation, and General Physics Corporation are partners in the joint venture that formed ATA. (Declaration of Tom Quatrini ("Quatrini Dec."), Court Doc. 22-2, ¶ 3.)

Trout was originally hired as a Power Equipment Serviceman ("PES") by ACS, the former contractor at AEDC. As a PES, one of Trout's duties was to drive large vehicles around the base. He was required to have a commercial driver's license. (Deposition of Donald Trout ("Trout Dep."), Court Doc. 22-3 at 24.) Trout has been blind in his left eye since an accident that happened when he was five years old and the vision in his right eye has been diminishing since approximately 1960. (Id. at 22-23.) Due to his eyesight problems, ACS had to procure a waiver from the Department of Transportation for Trout to obtain a commercial driver's license and a hazardous materials permit. (Id. at 25-27.) As the Department of Transportation changed its regulations over the years, Trout was unable to maintain his hazardous materials permit. ACS accommodated Trout by allowing him to drive a smaller vehicle that did not require him to have a hazardous materials permit. (Id. at 27.)

ATA took over as the base contractor at AEDC on October 1, 2003. (Quatrini Dec. ¶ 2.) ATA hired Trout as a PES, the same position that he had with ACS. (Trout Dep. at 34.) ATA was aware of Trout's vision problems and Trout identified himself as disabled under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in his employment file. (Id. at 36-37.) ATA continued to accommodate Trout's disability by allowing him to drive a smaller vehicle that did not require him to have a hazardous materials permit. (Id. at 35, 43.)

On October 22, 2003, Trout brought his supervisor, Renee Gunn, a letter from his opthamologist, Dr. John Bond, stating that Trout could no longer drive a commercial vehicle due to decreased peripheral vision in his right eye. (Declaration of Renee Gunn ("Gunn Dec."), Court Doc. 22-6, ¶ 4.) Gunn immediately relieved Trout of his driving duties but kept him on as a PES working solely in the shop. (Id.)

Gunn spoke with ATA's labor relations coordinator, Ann Crane, about Trout's changed restrictions. (Id. at ¶ 5; Deposition of Ann Crane ("Crane Dep."), Court Doc. 22-9, p. 15.) ATA asked Dr. Bond for more specificity with regard to Trout's restrictions. ATA provided Dr. Bond with the PES job description and asked him to opine whether Trout's restrictions would affect any of the other duties of a PES employee. (Crane Dep. at 16; Pyron Dec. ¶ 6.) Dr. Bond responded with a letter stating that he had concerns about Trout's ability to work with heavy machinery and power tools due to his limited depth perception. (Pyron Dec. ¶ 6; Trout Dep. Ex. 6.)

With this additional information, Gunn determined that Trout could no longer perform the essential functions of the PES position. (Gunn Dec. ¶ 5.) Crane then reviewed the other skill sets and positions contained in the collective bargaining agreement to determine if Trout could be accommodated with a transfer to another position at ATA. (Crane Dep. at 18-20.) Crane determined that Trout was not qualified for any other position and he was placed on medical leave. (Id.; Gunn Dec. ¶ 5.)

When he was informed of ATA's decision to place him on medical leave, Trout informed Gunn that he was willing to work in another position. (Trout Aff. ¶ 6.) Trout also informed his union steward that he wanted to work. While he was out on medical leave, Trout called Gunn and ATA's human resources department a number of times to inquire if there was any work for which he was qualified. He was told that they would notify him if something became available. (Id.) Although he was aware of provisions in the collective bargaining agreement that allowed him to bid on jobs while out on sick leave, Trout did not apply for any other positions. (Trout Dep. at 99, 109.)

Trout filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging that ATA had discriminated against him on the basis of his disability. The EEOC contacted ATA about whether there was an alternative position to which Trout could be assigned. (Court Doc. 25-4.) ...


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