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Carver v. Nashville Wire Products

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

January 30, 2015

TIMMY CARVER
v.
NASHVILLE WIRE PRODUCTS

MEMORANDUM

TODD J. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 12). For the reasons stated herein, Defendant's Motion is GRANTED, and this action is DISMISSED.

FACTS

Plaintiff Carver is a former employee of Defendant Nashville Wire Products. Plaintiff began work for Defendant in 1983. In July of 2012, Plaintiff suffered a stroke which caused permanent partial depth perception in his right eye and weakness in his left arm. At the time of his stroke, Plaintiff was working as a Set Up Maker[1] for Defendant.

Plaintiff requested and received leave to recover from his stroke. As part of his request, Plaintiff submitted statements from his doctors which restricted him from performing work requiring depth perception and from working around power presses. Even after nine weeks of physical therapy, Plaintiff was unable to return to his position as a Set Up Maker. Pursuant to Defendant's disability benefits policy, Plaintiff received short-term disability benefits for six months following his stroke and then long-term disability benefits for one year following his six months of short-term disability. Defendant's Director of Human Resources stated that Defendant's long-term disability benefits are provided to former employees who are no longer able to work for Defendant based on a qualified disability. Docket No. 11-4, ¶ 5. Defendant's policy requires that the former employee's employment be terminated prior to the employee becoming eligible for long-term benefits. Id .

Plaintiff claims that Defendant should have accommodated his restrictions and allowed him to continue to work in some capacity. Defendant has stated that it had no positions for which Plaintiff was qualified with his restrictions. Defendant asserts that at no time following his stroke did Plaintiff's doctors lift his restrictions or release him to return to work. Plaintiff alleges that his doctor provided a statement stating that Plaintiff could work "with reasonable accommodations."

Plaintiff contends that he is "disabled" within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and that Defendant has violated the ADA and Tennessee's Disability Act ("TDA") by firing him because of his disability. Plaintiff also asserts that Defendant retaliated against him for protected activity under Tennessee common law. Defendant has moved for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Summary judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Pennington v. State Farm Mut. Automobile Ins. Co., 553 F.3d 447, 450 (6th Cir. 2009). The party bringing the summary judgment motion has the initial burden of informing the Court of the basis for its motion and identifying portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute over material facts. Rodgers v. Banks, 344 F.3d 587, 595 (6th Cir. 2003). The moving party may satisfy this burden by presenting affirmative evidence that negates an element of the non-moving party's claim or by demonstrating an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Id .

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must review all the evidence, facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Van Gorder v. Grand Trunk Western Railroad, Inc., 509 F.3d 265, 268 (6th Cir. 2007). The Court does not, however, weigh the evidence, judge the credibility of witnesses, or determine the truth of the matter. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). The Court determines whether sufficient evidence has been presented to make the issue of fact a proper jury question. Id. The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmoving party's position will be insufficient to survive summary judgment; rather, there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the nonmoving party. Rodgers, 344 F.3d at 595.

AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT[2]

The ADA prohibits employment discrimination "against a qualified individual with a disability."[3] 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). In order to establish a violation of the ADA, a person must establish that: (1) he has a disability, as defined in the ADA; (2) he is qualified to perform the essential functions of the position, with or without reasonable accommodation; and (3) he suffered an adverse employment action because of his disability. Demyanovich Cadon Plating & Coatings, LLC, 747 F.3d 419, 433 (6th Cir. 2014). The ADA bars discrimination "because of" an employee's disability, meaning that it prohibits discrimination that is a "but-for" cause of the adverse employment action. Lewis v. Humboldt Acquisition Corp., Inc., 681 F.3d 312, 314 (6th Cir. 2012); Molina-Parrales v. Shared Hospital Servs. Corp., 992 F.Supp.2d 841, 855 (M.D. Tenn. 2014).

If the plaintiff establishes this prima facie case, then the burden shifts to the defendant to offer a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its adverse action. Sjostrand v. Ohio State University, 750 F.3d 596, 599 (6th Cir. 2014). If the defendant makes this showing, which is a burden of production, not persuasion, the plaintiff must then present evidence allowing a jury to find that the defendant's explanation is a pretext for unlawful discrimination. Id.

A plaintiff may show pretext by demonstrating that (1) the proffered reason had no basis in fact, (2) the proffered reason did not actually motivate the discharge, or (3) the proffered reason was insufficient to motivate the discharge. Jones v. Potter, 488 F.3d 397, 406 (6th Cir. 2007). The ultimate burden of persuading the trier of fact that the defendant intentionally discriminated against him ...


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