United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Anthony P. Patti U.S. Magistrate Judge
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN
PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
J. TARNOW SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
old Plaintiff Michael Ferguson, formerly an airport
maintenance worker employed by Defendant Wayne County Airport
Authority (“WCAA”), was injured in a car accident
in late September 2011. After being on leave for
approximately 17 months, Ferguson sought to return to work in
February 2013. WCAA determined that he wasn't qualified
for the position and terminated him on May 1, 2013. Ferguson
filed this disability and gender discrimination lawsuit on
April 19, 2016. WCAA filed a Motion for Summary Judgment 
on September 5, 2017.
reasons discussed below, WCAA's Motion for Summary
Judgment is GRANTED IN PART and
DENIED IN PART. Genuine issues of material
fact exist as to Ferguson's claim for disability
discrimination - specifically, whether Ferguson is otherwise
qualified to be an airport maintenance worker, with or
without reasonable accommodations. However, there is
insufficient evidence for a reasonable factfinder to conclude
that Ferguson was a victim of gender discrimination.
that Defendant moves for summary judgment under Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 56, the facts and evidence are presented,
and all reasonable inferences are drawn, in favor of
Plaintiff. See Ondricko v. MGM Grand Detroit, LLC,
689 F.3d 642, 648 (6th Cir. 2012).
began working at the Wayne County Airport Authority
(“WCAA”) as an airport maintenance worker in
October 2005. Plaintiff's responsibilities included
collecting garbage; airfield restoration, maintenance, and
construction work; driving trucks; barricade installation,
and cutting grass. Plaintiff was part of a seven-person crew
that was assigned tasks by a specific foreman. The foremen
generally permitted their crewmembers to pick job assignments
based on seniority.
airport maintenance worker, Plaintiff was a member of a
collective bargaining unit, AFSCME Local 101. His employment
was subject to the terms of the Collective Bargaining
was severely injured in a car accident in late September
2011. On October 11, 2011, when Plaintiff requested a leave
of absence, he believed that he would be able to return to
work on November 15, 2011. This turned out not to be the
case, however, and his healthcare provider certified a leave
of absence through December 6, 2011. Plaintiff's leave
was ultimately extended through approximately February 2013.
Pursuant to the CBA, Plaintiff's job was protected for 18
first filed for Social Security Disability Benefits in
October 2012.Shortly thereafter, in December 2012 or
January 2013, Plaintiff wanted to return to work.
February 26, 2013, Plaintiff treated with Dr. Gary Chodoroff.
Dr. Chodoroff opined that Plaintiff could work as an airport
maintenance worker with restrictions, eight hours per day, 40
hours per week, starting on March 18, 2013. Dr. Chodoroff
restricted Plaintiff from lifting more than 10 pounds and
from bending to, or lifting from, below knee height.
(Pl.'s Ex. 3, Pg. ID 369). Dr. Chodoroff also said that
Plaintiff should be able to change positions as needed and
that he should work an afternoon shift so that he could
attend physical therapy appointments in the morning.
Plaintiff conveyed this information to WCAA Human Resources
Director Rosalind Wallace via email. (Pl.'s Ex. 12).
hearing from Plaintiff, Wallace reached out to her superiors,
then-Deputy Director of Landside Services Joseph McCabe,
then-Deputy Director of Maintenance Bob Zwarka, and
then-Director of Maintenance Angela Frakes. Wallace asked
them to review Plaintiff's doctor's certification and
determine whether Plaintiff's restrictions could be
accommodated. Wallace didn't think that WCAA could
“allow [Plaintiff] to return to work with these
restrictions, ” but said that “[w]e should try to
accommodate him if we can.” Id.
did “not think that Field Maintenance can accommodate
this” because “[m]ost, if not all of our jobs,
involve some form of lifting, stooping, bending, climbing,
etc.” Id. Zwarka shared these concerns and
said that if Plaintiff “can't bend his knees or
climb this prevents him from being able to drive large
Manley, the president of AFSCME Local 953, wrote to Wallace
on March 4, 2013. He asked Wallace to “indicate what
restrictions prevent [Plaintiff] from performing the basic
essential job duties within his classification.”
(Pl.'s Ex. 13). Manley emphasized that the Union sought
fair treatment and accommodations for Plaintiff given that
WCAA had previously allowed employees “with the same or
similar restrictions to return to work with restrictions not
related to a work injury with accommodations.”
Id. Wallace “did not respond in writing to Mr.
Manley.” (Def.'s Ex. X at 53:9).
filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC on March 25,
2013. (Pl.'s Ex. 15). Shortly thereafter, he filed a
written request for a Social Security Disability Benefits
hearing. (Pl.'s Ex. 21).
April 30, 2013, Manley told Wallace via email that Plaintiff
was “able to take a Medical Demotion.” (Pl.'s
Ex. 14). He also indicated that there were “two
positions open [Store Keeper or Service Worker] that would
meet ADA Standards” and asked Wallace to explain why
Plaintiff had not been considered for these jobs.
terminated Plaintiff's employment via letter the
following day. (Pl.'s Ex. 4). Plaintiff updated his EEOC
claim to reflect the termination on June 6, 2013.
October 1, 2014, the EEOC found that there was reasonable
cause to believe that Plaintiff's rights had been
violated. (Pl.'s Ex. 16). Approximately one week later,
an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) concluded
that Plaintiff was disabled from September 26, 2011 through
March 31, 2014. (Pl.'s Ex. 21).
Rule 56 motion for summary judgment, the Court must determine
whether “the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).
Defendant bears the burden of establishing that there are no
genuine issues of material fact, which may be accomplished by
demonstrating that Plaintiff lacks evidence to support an
essential element of his case. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A genuine issue for
trial exists if “the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
alleges that Defendant discriminated against him on the basis
of his disability - in violation of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (“ADA”), § 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act, and the Michigan Persons with
Disabilities Civil Rights Act (“PWDCRA”) - and