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Beckman v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

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

October 4, 2017

MATTHEW BECKMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
WAL-MART STORES, INC. Defendant.

          OPINION REGARDING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGEMENT

          HON. GORDON J. QUIST UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, Matthew Beckman, sued Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.[1], on December 11, 2015, under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et. seq, the Michigan Persons With Disabilities Civil Rights Act (PWDCRA), MCL § 37.1101 et. seq, and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et. seq. Specifically, Beckman alleged four counts against Wal-Mart. First, that Wal-Mart refused to accommodate his double hernia disability, an actionable claim under the ADA. Second, that Wal-Mart discriminated against Beckman by terminating him because of his disability, an actionable claim under the ADA. Third, that Wal-Mart retaliated against him because he filed a complaint of discrimination with the EEOC and because he filed a worker's compensation claim under the ADA and PWDCRA.[2] Fourth, that Wal-Mart interfered with his rights under the FMLA by not allowing him additional leave, by not granting an accommodation, and by forcing him to take time off from work and use FMLA time, an actionable claim under the FMLA.[3]

         Wal-Mart has moved for summary judgment on all claims, and the motion is fully briefed. Beckman requests summary judgment in his favor but has not filed a separate motion.

         The central issues are as follows. First, whether Beckman can show a genuine issue of material fact as to whether he was denied any benefit to which he was entitled under FMLA, or that he was an eligible employee when Wal-Mart terminated his employment. Second, whether there is a genuine issue of material fact that Wal-Mart failed to provide Beckman a reasonable accommodation for his disability. Third, whether there is a genuine issue of material fact that Wal-Mart terminated Beckman's employment because of his disability.[4]

         For the following reasons, the Court will grant Wal-Mart's motion for summary judgment as to all claims.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Wal-Mart employed Beckman as a shipping loader at its distribution center in Coldwater, Michigan, for about four and a half years. It is uncontested that moving, lifting, carrying, and placing things weighing greater than 60 pounds was an “essential function” of Beckman's position as a shipping loader.

         In late August, 2013, Beckman informed Wal-Mart that he had a hernia and that he may have work restrictions. Over the course of the following year, Beckman utilized FMLA leave to take time off due to his hernia, including for surgery and recovery around July, 2014. He was able to provide doctor's notes and all other required information and was approved for leave frequently. Meanwhile, Beckman incurred a number of unexcused absences that he failed to address in his briefs. Under Wal-Mart's four-step “Performance Tracking” system, Beckman received “coachings” as he exceeded certain hour thresholds.[5] Ultimately, Beckman exceeded the hour threshold for the fourth, and final, step in October, 2014, and was terminated shortly thereafter. Beckman argues this absence should have been granted under FMLA; however, he had not worked the required 1, 250 hours in the previous 12 months, in part due to his unexcused absences.

         Beckman alleges that he requested “light duty” work, and that Wal-Mart required him to be at one hundred percent in order to return to work. Wal-Mart denies this.

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Material facts are facts which are defined by substantive law and are necessary to apply the law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510 (1986). A dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could return judgment for the non-moving party. Id.

         The court must draw all inferences in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, but may grant summary judgment when “the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party.” Agristor Financial Corp. v. Van Sickle, 967 F.2d 233, 236 (6th Cir. 1992) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356 (1986)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Wal-Mart argues that it is entitled to summary judgment on the following grounds. First, that it should prevail on Beckman's FMLA claim because he cannot show through admissible evidence that he was denied any benefit to which he was entitled or that he was an eligible employee when Wal-Mart terminated his employment. Second, that it should prevail on Beckman's ADA claim that Wal-Mart failed to provide a reasonable accommodation because Beckman cannot show that he was a qualified individual with a disability, either with or without accommodation, or that he requested a reasonable accommodation. Third, that it should prevail on the claim that Wal-Mart terminated his employment on the basis of his alleged disability in violation of the ADA and PWDCRA because Beckman cannot show that he is ...


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