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Roring v. Ford Motor Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

February 15, 2017

John Roring, Plaintiff,
v.
Ford Motor Company, Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          SEAN F. COX, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a discrimination case. Plaintiff John Roring (“Plaintiff”) filed this action against Defendant Ford Motor Company (“Defendant”) on October 7, 2015. Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint alleges violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and violations of Michigan's Workers Disability Compensation Act. Plaintiff's claims are premised upon Defendant's alleged failure to acknowledge Plaintiff's work-related restrictions.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. #20, Def.'s Br.). Defendant argues, inter alia, that Plaintiff has failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination under the ADA and that Plaintiff's WDCA claim fails because Plaintiff has not been constructively discharged. Plaintiff has filed a response in opposition to the motion (Doc. #22, Pl.'s Resp.) and Defendant has filed a reply. (Doc. # 23, Def.'s Reply).

         The Court heard oral argument as to Defendant's motion on January 19, 2016. For the reasons set forth below, the Court shall GRANT Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         On October 7, 2015, Plaintiff John Roring filed this action against Defendant Ford Motor Company. In his First Amended Complaint, [1] Plaintiff asserts the following claims: Count I -“Americans with Disabilities Act, ” 42 U.S.C. § 12117 (“ADA”); and Count II - “Worker's Compensation Discrimination, ” M.C.L. 418.301(13) (“WDCA”). As to Count I, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated the ADA by refusing to accommodate Plaintiff's disability. As to Count II, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated Michigan's WDCA by constructively discharging him in retaliation for asserting his rights under the Act. Plaintiff's complaint seeks monetary relief in an amount exceeding $75, 000.

         On September 8, 2016, Defendant filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. # 20, Def.'s Br.). Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motion on September 28, 2016. (Doc. # 22, Pl.'s Resp.). This Court's Practice Guidelines, which are expressly included in the Scheduling Order issued in this case, provide, consistent with Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) and (e), that:

a. The moving party's papers shall include a separate document entitled Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute. The statement shall list in separately numbered paragraphs concise statements of each undisputed material fact, supported by appropriate citations to the record. . .
b. In response, the opposing party shall file a separate document entitled Counter-Statement of Disputed Facts. The counter-statement shall list in separately numbered paragraphs following the order or the movant's statement, whether each of the facts asserted by the moving party is admitted or denied and shall also be supported by appropriate citations to the record. The Counter- Statement shall also include, in a separate section, a list of each issue of material fact as to which it is contended there is a genuine issue for trial.
c. All material facts as set forth in the Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute shall be deemed admitted unless controverted in the Counter-Statement of Disputed Facts.

(Doc. # 9, at 2-3).

         In connection with Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendant filed a Statement of Material Facts Not In Dispute. (Def.'s Br. at PgID 207-13, Def.'s Stmt.). In response to that submission, Plaintiff's response brief included a “counsterstatement of facts.” Plaintiff's counter-statement of facts failed to comply with this Court's Practice Guidelines. The Court subsequently ordered Plaintiff to file a counter-statement of disputed facts that complied with this Court's Practice Guidelines, which Plaintiff did on December 28, 2016. (Doc. # 25, Pl.'s Stmt.).

         B. Factual Background

         The facts relevant to the instant motion are straight forward and largely undisputed. The facts, viewed in a light most favorable to Plaintiff, are as follows. Plaintiff became a full-time employee at Defendant Ford Motor Company on May 5, 1997 and remains employed today. (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 1; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 1). Plaintiff was originally hired as a prototype material expediter at a Ford warehouse in Romulus, Michigan. (Def.'s Ex. 1, Pl.'s Dep. at 35). In 1998, Plaintiff's classification changed to “trim specialist” and he was transferred to Defendant's Pilot Plant, located in Allen Park, Michigan. (Id. at 36-37). Plaintiff's duties included installing wired sensors into prototype vehicles, which involved pulling out seats, panels and other parts of a vehicle's trim. (Id. at 39-40).

         In December 2002, Plaintiff injured his thumb in a work-place parking lot. (Id. at 57-59). Plaintiff underwent surgery as a result of the injuries to his thumb on January 3, 2003. (Id. at 58-59). Dr. Shreepak Naik, Plaintiff's hand surgeon, subsequently gave Plaintiff medical restrictions in early 2003. (Id.).

         After Plaintiff's injury, Defendant created a new job for him, which consisted of making reparations to the wiring used in prototype vehicles. (Id. at 41-42). Plaintiff was able to perform the tasks associated with this job because it only required the use of one hand. (Id.).

         On July 8, 2011, Defendant requested an independent medical evaluation (“IME”) to determine whether Plaintiff was able to work and whether he still required restrictions. (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 4; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 4). Dr. Ronald Rusko performed Plaintiff's IME, stating that Plaintiff should “actively use his hand in a normal manner, ” and concluded that Plaintiff was “capable of returning to his regular job without restrictions.”[2] (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 6; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 6). Plaintiff received a copy of the IME report from Defendant's medical staff. (Id.).

         Plaintiff remained assigned to the wiring job even after the July 2011 IME. (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 9; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 9). Plaintiff's supervisor, Mark Textor, understood that Plaintiff no longer had working restrictions, but kept him assigned to wiring because there was an operational need for the work and because Plaintiff had experience doing it. (Id.). Plaintiff similarly testified that Defendant could have assigned Plaintiff this job regardless of whether or not he had medical restrictions. (Pl.'s Dep. at 185).

         Defendant's medical staff updated Plaintiff's medical restrictions in its Occupational Health and Safety Information Management System (“OHSIM”) to reflect the 2011 IME results. (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 7; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 7). According to OHSIM, Plaintiff's restrictions ended as of July 2011. (Id.). Plaintiff was advised by Ford and the union that IMEs were binding pursuant the terms of the Ford-UAW collective bargaining agreement. (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 5; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 5). Plaintiff disagreed with the July 2011 IME results, but did not file a grievance or pursue other remedies under the collective bargaining agreement. (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 8; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 8).

         After the July 2011 IME, Plaintiff would occasionally present notes from Dr. Naik (Plaintiff's hand surgeon) to medical personnel asserting Plaintiffs previous restrictions. (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 10; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 10). Rochelle Everett, the Pilot Plant's registered nurse, received these notes from Plaintiff. (Id.). When Plaintiff would visit, he confirmed that he had not suffered any new injury since the July 2011 IME. (Id.). As such, Everett would inform Plaintiff that Dr. Naik's restrictions were invalid per the binding 2011 IME and Plaintiff would be sent back to work without restrictions. (Id.).

         In February 2015, because the plant was “in a pinch” due to upcoming deadlines, Plaintiff was informed that he would need to assist in performing duties other than wiring. (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 11; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 11). Plaintiff refused, citing his medical restrictions. (Id.). Plaintiff was told to report to the medical department. (Id.). Everett confirmed that, pursuant to the binding 2011 IME, Plaintiff had no restrictions. (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 12; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 12). Everett also informed Plaintiff that Dr. Naik's restrictions, which Plaintiff relied upon, expired in December 2014. (Id.). Plaintiff was sent back to work without restrictions.

         Plaintiff subsequently submitted notes to Everett from family physician, Michelle Bauer. Dr. Bauer's restrictions were identical to Dr. Naik's restrictions. (Id.). Everett informed Plaintiff that based on the 2011 IME, the fact that nothing had changed in the workplace and the fact that Plaintiff had not suffered a new injury, Plaintiff did not require restrictions for his old injury. (Id.). Plaintiff also spoke to Labor Relations Associate Derek Gismondi, who similarly informed Plaintiff that he had no restrictions pursuant to the 2011 IME. (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 13; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 13).

         Gismondi subsequently contacted Dr. Daniel R. Kelderhouse, Defendant's Executive Physician, to confirm that his interpretation of the July 2011 IME was correct, i.e., that third-party evaluations were binding. (Def.'s Ex. 5, Kelderhouse Decl. at ¶ 3). Kelderhouse confirmed that the July 2011 IME was binding despite the restrictions of Plaintiff's family physician. (Id. at ¶ 4). Kelderhouse further advised that Plaintiff should still report to Gate 4 Medical at the Rouge complex. (Id.).

         On February 20, 2015, Everett asked Plaintiff to report to a Gate 4 Medical doctor. (Pl.'s Dep. at 92-92). Plaintiff refused and was subsequently disciplined for failing to follow instructions. (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 14; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 14).

         On February 23, 2015, Plaintiff was instructed to assist in building up instrumentality trays. Plaintiff refused, citing Dr. Bauer's restrictions. Roring was informed that he had no restrictions pursuant to the July 2011 IME. When Plaintiff refused a second time, he was sent home for the ...


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