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Gleason v. Food City

United States District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee, Knoxville

April 22, 2015



Plaintiff, Robert Gleason, acting pro se, has filed this action against his former employer, K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc., d/b/a Food City, Sam Turner, and Bucky Slagle. Gleason alleges he was subjected to a hostile work environment, and he was terminated from his employment after suffering a work-related injury. Food City has moved for summary judgment on Gleason’s claims, asserting that (1) any claims for violation of Tennessee law are time-barred; (2) Gleason cannot show that he was disabled under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA); and (3) Gleason cannot maintain an action against Sam Turner or Bucky Slagle, in their individual capacities. For the reasons which follow, defendants’ motion for summary judgment will be granted and this action dismissed.

I. Background

Food City operates grocery stores in several locations in East Tennessee. Gleason was hired as a Bakery-Deli Manager on April 17, 2010. Gleason trained in several different stores, and became a Bakery-Deli Manager of the Lenoir City store in July 2010. In February 2011, Gleason transferred to the Clinton store, and remained there until his termination in December 2011.

A Bakery-Deli Manager is required to: (1) supervise employees in the department to maximize sales and profitability; (2) control labor costs; (3) provide training and development for employees; (4) implement marketing programs; (5) schedule work for employees; (6) communicate regularly with the store manager and Bakery-Deli employees; (7) attend department head meetings and communicate with other department heads; and (8) complete all departmental paperwork.

At the Clinton store, Gleason reported to Store Manager Sam Turner. Turner reported to the District Manager, Bucky Slagle. Food City also had a Bakery-Deli Supervisor, who supervised the Bakery-Deli operations in stores around the district. The Bakery-Deli Supervisor who worked with the Clinton store in 2011-2012 was Ron Coffman.

Prior to his November 2011 work injury, Gleason received several written disciplinary actions. On March 8, 2011, Turner issued Gleason a Written Correction Notice, when Gleason left the store without checking with a manager. Turner noted that the Department was not properly staffed, nor was it in good condition. Display tables were empty and product was in the back room.

On May 6, 2011, Turner issued Gleason another Written Correction Notice for not staffing the store for Mother’s Day weekend. In addition, Turner found that sales in the Department were not in line with those of other departments in the store. Turner noted that if Gleason did not get his “personal issues resolved so he can properly manage the dept. further disciplinary actions up to and including demotion or termination will be taken.” Gleason disputes that he left the Department understaffed. He states that he had made plans to be out of town that weekend well in advance, and that he made appropriate plans to staff the store before leaving.

On June 3, 2011, Gleason received another Written Correction Notice because he instructed his employees to shut down the hot bar early, in contravention of a Company email setting Bakery-Deli hours. Gleason contended that it had previously been a common practice to shut that area down early if business was slow.

On October 5, 2011, Turner issued Gleason a Written Correction Notice for unsatisfactory work performance. Turner noted that Gleason had worked until the store closed the previous night, October 4, and that the Bakery-Deli was in poor condition on the morning of October 5. Turner found that product had not been put away; back-up signature salads had not been made; product had not placed in a display case; and the fryers had not been filtered. Gleason disputed that the fryers had not been filtered, and disputed that the display case was not filled.

Gleason contends that the Bakery-Deli Department was understaffed and this caused performance issues within the Department. When Gleason brought this matter up in a meeting with Slagle and Turner, Slagle said that the Clinton store should hire more people; however, Turner later instructed Gleason not to discuss staffing levels with Slagle again, saying that doing so would only cause problems.

On November 18, 2011, Gleason fell down some steps at the store. He sustained some contusions and a back strain. The physician at the emergency room held him out of work for three days, until November 22, 2011. Prior to returning to work, Gleason saw Dr. Lakia Brown. Dr. Brown issued a return-to-work report stating that Gleason could return to work on November 24, 2011, with certain restrictions: “limited prolonged standing, ” and “limited lifting, ” with a 10 to 15 pound limit.

Gleason asserts that Food City did not honor these work restrictions. He states that he worked twelve hours on his first day back. He also states that many items in the Bakery-Deli were heavier than his lifting restriction, but he was required to lift them anyway. Gleason states that Turner told him that other employees could help him move the pallet jack and items on it, but that another person was assigned to do so only once.

Gleason called Food City Claims Coordinator Peggy Parris to report that his work restrictions were not being honored. Parris told him to work within his restrictions, and indicated she would contact Turner. Gleason also told Coffman on two or three occasions that his restrictions were not being honored. Coffman indicated he would see what he could do to help, but Gleason states he never received additional help.

On November 29, 2011, Gleason submitted another note from Dr. Brown, which provided that Gleason was to work no more than eight hours per day, five days per week. Gleason states that ...

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