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Vincent v. Resurrection Cemetery

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

January 22, 2018

Nathan A. Vincent, Plaintiff,
v.
Resurrection Cemetery, Defendant.

          R. Steven Whalen, United States Magistrate Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [16]

          GERSHWIN A. DRAIN, United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Nathan Vincent commenced this action on March 7, 2017. See Dkt. No. 1. Vincent alleges that the Defendant Mt. Elliot Cemetery Association d/b/a Resurrection Cemetery violated federal law under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) through discriminating against him (Count I) and retaliating against him (Count II). See Id. at pp. 13-19 (Pg. ID 13-19). He also claims the Defendant violated Michigan law pursuant to the Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act (“MPDCRA”) through discriminating against him (Count III) and retaliating against him (Count IV). See id.

         Presently before the Court is the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on Counts I and II [16].[1] The motion is fully briefed. The Court will decide the motion without a hearing pursuant to Eastern District of Michigan Local Rule 7.1(f)(2). For the foregoing reasons, the Court will DENY the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on Counts I and II.

         II. Background

         Plaintiff is a resident of Macomb County, Michigan. Dkt. No. 1, p. 2 (Pg. ID 2). The Defendant is a nonprofit organization based in Clinton, Michigan, and the Defendant provides burial services. Id.

         The Plaintiff was employed by the Defendant from October 15, 2014 until his termination on November 23, 2015. Id. at pp. 2, 13 (Pg. ID 2, 13). Vincent was paid by commission and served as a family counselor, a role comprised of two functions. Id. at pp. 2-3 (Pg. ID 2-3). The first function was serving as a primary contact for families interested in burial services. Id. The second was a “duty shift, ” and in this role he sat in a reception center and answered telephone calls from prospective clients. Id. at p. 3 (Pg. ID 3). Because employees were paid on commission, this duty shift role (which employees performed on several occasions a month) offered a chance for immediate sales, and correspondingly, more income. Id. The role was also an important component of whether family counselors secured sales after developing initial contacts with clients. Id.

         Vincent contends that when he was first hired in October 2014, he told the Defendant that he was hearing impaired. Id. at pp. 3-4 (Pg. ID 3-4). He claims that Tim Burrows, then the director of sales and the training instructor, ignored two informal requests by Vincent for accommodation in December 2014. Id. at p. 4 (Pg. ID 4). Vincent also alleges that co-workers, including Burrows, taunted him because of his impairment and that he was unfairly punished for, among other things, utilizing accommodations available to all of Defendant's employees. Id. at pp. 7-8, 11 (Pg. ID 7-8, 11).

         A. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Charges

         Vincent filed his first complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on October 23, 2015 (“Charge 1”), and this complaint alleged discrimination by the Defendant related to Plaintiff's hearing impairment. Id. at p. 11 (Pg. ID 11). Plaintiff claims that five days after this initial complaint, he was wrongfully disciplined twice within two hours. Id. The Defendant then terminated Plaintiff's employment on November 23, 2015. Id. at p. 13 (Pg. ID 13).

         On December 15, 2015, Vincent completed and signed an EEOC intake questionnaire representing a desire to file a charge with the EEOC against the Defendant for two reasons: (1) retaliation based on his first complaint to the EEOC; and (2) again because of discrimination regarding disability (“Charge 2”). See Dkt. No. 16-3.

         On February 2, 2016, the EEOC issued a right to sue letter on this second complaint, as Vincent failed to return an executed notice of charges. See Dkt. No. 20-4. At the time the EEOC issued this right to sue letter, the first complaint filed with the EEOC had not been resolved. On February 10, 2016, Vincent filed a third complaint with the EEOC, alleging only that the Defendant had retaliated against him because of his complaints to the EEOC (“Charge 3”). See Dkt. No. 20-7.

         The EEOC issued a right to sue letters on Vincent's first and third charges on December 13, 2016 and ...


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