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Applewhite v. FCA U.S. LLC

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

December 18, 2019

DAMON APPLEWHITE, Plaintiff,
v.
FCA U.S. LLC, a Delaware limited liability Company, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER (1) DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO STRIKE DECLARATION OF UNDISCLOSED WITNESS (ECF NO. 97) AND (2) GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 72)

          LINDA V. PARKER, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         On April 11, 2017, Plaintiff Damon Applewhite, an African-American assembly plant worker who was medically-restricted from using his left arm, brought this action against Defendant FCA USA LLC (“FCA”) alleging disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, retaliation, and race discrimination. (ECF No. 1.) Presently before the Court are Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 72), and Motion to Strike Declaration of Undisclosed Witness, (ECF No. 97.) The parties fully briefed and the Court held a hearing with respect to the motions. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, and denies Defendant's Motion to Strike as moot.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff has worked in FCA's Warren Truck Assembly plant off and on since 1993. (ECF No. 72-2 at Pg. ID 766.) For the past eight years, he has worked as a Floater in the Quality Inspection Center, reporting to Terry Wyka-the Quality Control Supervisor. (Id. at Pg. ID 768, 772.)

         Floaters work some of many quality inspection tasks during the course of their employment. (Id. at Pg. ID 771.) These tasks include, among others, “exterior, ” “interior, ” “underbody” (the pit), “Buzz/Shake/Rattle (BSR), ” “underhood, ” “trim, ” “door line, ” “electrical, ” and “buy off.” (ECF No. 77-9; ECF No. 72 at Pg. ID 731.) Supervisors use flex charts, which indicate the tasks for which an employee previously received training, to assign Floaters to open tasks at the beginning of each shift. (ECF No. 72-2 at Pg. ID 773-75.) Employees receive additional on-the-job training as needed and must complete each assigned task before the next truck comes down the line. (Id.; ECF No. 72 at Pg. ID 732.)

         Plaintiff injured his left arm in 2002 at the FCA assembly plant. (ECF No. 72-2 at Pg. ID 789.) As a result, doctors prohibited Plaintiff from using his left arm. (Id.) It is unclear how often Plaintiff performed his assignments within his restriction (using only the right arm) and how often he performed them despite his restrictions (using both arms).

         On May 2, 2016, a supervisor (not Mr. Wyka) assigned Plaintiff to the Door Line. (Id. at Pg. ID 795.) After using his left arm for a period of time, Plaintiff informed Mr. Wyka that working the Door Line caused pain. (Id. at 795-98.) Mr. Wyka moved Plaintiff to BSR, where Plaintiff worked for the remainder of the shift without complaint. (Id.) The next day, May 3, Mr. Wyka assigned Plaintiff to the Door Line. (Id.) Plaintiff informed Mr. Wyka of his left arm restriction. (Id.) Mr. Wyka moved Plaintiff to BSR and the record does not suggest that Plaintiff complained thereafter. (Id.) Mr. Wyka also checked FCA's medical system to confirm the restriction. (Id.) Mr. Wyka then consulted other FCA Supervisors and they determined that all quality inspection tasks require the use of two arms. (ECF No. 72-4 at Pg. ID 913.) Plaintiff was invited into an office and told that no work was available for him. (Id. at Pg. ID 900.) Plaintiff stated that he could perform some available quality inspection tasks, including BSR. (ECF No. 72-2 at Pg. ID 780-81, 790.) Still, Defendant sent Plaintiff home and placed him on medical leave with sick and accident benefits. (ECF No. 72-12 at Pg. ID 1096.)

         On May 10, while on leave, Plaintiff filed an EEOC Charge alleging race and disability discrimination. (ECF No. 72-18.) Also while on leave, Plaintiff provided FCA with periodic updates from his doctor regarding his condition. (ECF No. 72-2 at Pg. ID 804.) In February 2017, Plaintiff's doctor lifted his restriction and he returned to FCA that month. (Id.)

         On April 11, 2017, Plaintiff filed this suit. (ECF No. 1.) Count I alleges disability discrimination and failure to accommodate under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and Count II alleges the same under Michigan's Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act (“PWDCRA”). Count III alleges Defendant retaliated against Plaintiff following his reasonable accommodation request in violation of the ADA, and Count IV alleges the same under the PWDCRA. Count V alleges Defendant committed race discrimination by treating him differently than Caucasian workers as it relates to performance assessment, training, and work assignments in violation of Title VII, and Count VI alleges the same under Michigan's Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act (“ELCRA”).

         MOTION TO STRIKE

         On May 31, 2019, Plaintiff filed his response in opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 77.) The response includes the declaration of Jerel Brooks (“Jerel Brooks Declaration”). (ECF No. 77-15.) The Parties do not dispute that Plaintiff did not identify Mr. Brooks in Plaintiff's initial disclosures, in his response to Defendant's discovery requests, or during his deposition. The Parties also do not dispute that Plaintiff failed to timely supplement his disclosures and responses.

         Defendant argues that the Court should strike the Jerel Brooks Declaration because Plaintiff's failure to disclose and timely supplement his responses were not substantially justified or harmless, and Mr. Brooks's testimony was not otherwise made known to Defendant. (ECF No. 97 at Pg. ID 1549, 1555.)

         As the Court did not consider the Jerel Brooks Declaration in deciding Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, it denies as moot Defendant's Motion to Strike.

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The central inquiry is “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). After adequate time for discovery and upon motion, Rule 56 mandates summary judgment against a party who fails to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case and on which that party bears the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         The movant has the initial burden of showing “the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Id. at 323. Once the movant meets this burden, the “nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). To demonstrate a genuine issue, the nonmoving party must present sufficient evidence upon which a reasonable jury could find for that party; a “scintilla of evidence” is insufficient. See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 252.

         “A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed” must designate specifically the materials in the record supporting the assertion, “including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations, admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). The court must accept as true the non-movant's evidence and draw “all justifiable inferences” in the non-movant's favor. See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255.

         COUNTS I & II:

         VIOLATION OF THE ADA & PDCRA

         (DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION)

         (DENIAL OF REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION)

         Plaintiff argues that Defendant violated the ADA and PDCRA by placing him on involuntary medical leave and failing to accommodate his disability. (ECF No. 77 at Pg. ID 1192.) The Parties do not dispute that the resolution of a plaintiff's ADA claim will generally resolve the plaintiff's PDCRA claim since the PDCRA substantially mirrors the ADA. See Cotter v. Ajilon Serv., Inc., 287 F.3d 593, 597 (6th Cir. 2002), overruled on different grounds by Lewis v. Humboldt Acquisition Corp., 681 F.3d 312, 313 (6th Cir. 2012).

         “To recover on a claim for discrimination under the ADA, a plaintiff must show that he or she (1) is disabled, (2) otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of the position, with or without accommodation, and (3) suffered an adverse employment action because of his or her ...


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