United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
WAVERED CRENSHAW, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No.
24) filed by General Motors (“GM”). For the
reasons stated herein, the Motion will be GRANTED, and this
action will be DISMISSED.
Phelan was hired at GM's Spring Hill, Tennessee
manufacturing facility in 2013 and was fired on January 4,
2016. Phelan worked his way up to a Maintenance Group Leader
(“MGL”) position in General Assembly. In October
of 2015, Phelan reported to Maintenance and Engineering
Manager Charlie Sageman. At that time, the Spring Hill
facility was transitioning from a low volume production
facility to a full-time production facility, and, to oversee
this transition in General Assembly, Jill Phillips Ortega
became General Assembly's Area Manager. One of her tasks
was to gauge how the existing maintenance structure needed to
change to support the coming transformation to the facility.
this time, Ortega called for MGLs to take ownership for
improvement in responding to maintenance problems, analyzing
and reporting problems, and standardizing and communicating
steps for preventative and ongoing fixes so that problems
would not recur. As part of this process, Ortega directed
that the End of Shift (“EOS”) reports of MGLs
should contain more details than they had previously
contained. GM contends that EOS reports are important because
they help better communication within the production
facility. GM argues that an EOS report requires an MGL to
analyze each mechanical breakdown by indicating the issue,
the root cause, and the countermeasure (to avoid the problem
in the future). GM asserts that an EOS report should be
completed each day no later than 30 minutes after the end of
the MGL's shift. GM argues that Phelan was fired because
of repeated poor performance, a “stubborn unwillingness
to follow directions, ” including directions about the
EOS reports, and for a safety violation.
has alleged that GM terminated his employment in violation of
the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”),
Title VII, and Tennessee's Occupational Safety and Health
Act (“TOSHA”). Phelan asserts that he was fired
because he has a disabled daughter and he had to take time
off to help her; because he complained that his supervisor
engaged in racial harassment and discrimination; and because
he refused to participate in an OSHA safety violation.
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
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©; 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.
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.
WITH DISABILITIES ACT
prohibits employers from, among other things,
“excluding or otherwise denying equal jobs or benefits
to a qualified individual because of the known disability of
an individual with whom the qualified individual is known to
have a relationship or association.” Shoemaker v.
ConAgra Foods, Inc., 219 F.Supp.3d 719, 734 (E.D. Tenn.
2016) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(4)).
establish a prima facie case of associational
discrimination, a plaintiff must produce evidence from which
a reasonable jury could conclude that (1) he was qualified
for the position; (2) the employer subjected him to an
adverse employment action; (3) the employer knew that the
plaintiff was associated with a disabled individual; and (4)
the adverse employment action raises a reasonable inference
that the disability of the relative was a determining factor
in the decision. Id. (citing Stansberry v. Air
Wisconsin Airlines Corp., 651 F.3d 482, 487
(6th Cir. 2011)). The Complaint alleges that GM
discriminated against him because of his association with his
disabled daughter by disciplining and eventually firing him.
argues that Phelan's ADA claim is based on the alleged
failure to provide him notice of his Family and Medical Leave
Act (“FMLA”) rights. Phelan has not asserted an
FMLA claim, however, and contends that the failure to advise
him of his FMLA rights is merely one of several ways GM
treated him differently from employees without disabled
relatives. Phelan has not identified any specific employees
without disabled relatives who were similarly situated and
were advised of their FMLA rights. To the extent his ADA
claim is based upon this failure to advise him of his FMLA
rights, Phelan has failed to produce evidence from which a
reasonable jury could find for him on that claim.
safety violation for which Phelan was suspended involved what
is called a “lockout violation.” GM policy
requires all employees who are working in an area where
production equipment is down and being repaired to
“lock out” the machine before starting
work. (Doc. No. 27 at 16.) GM alleges that it is
an MGL's responsibility to make sure that, before anyone
enters the area being repaired, the machine is locked out.
Id. GM contends that Phelan allowed a violation of
the lockout policy on his “watch.” Phelan, on the
other hand, argues that, pursuant to the policy of his
manager, Mr. Sageman, the most senior employee present during
a breakdown is “in charge” during that breakdown
and responsible for any lockdown. Id. The Court
cannot find the pages of his deposition that Phelan cites for
this alleged fact in the record, so it cannot consider them.
Phelan contends that other managers, higher up than he was,
witnessed this ...