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Jemison v. Donahoe

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

May 13, 2015

CHARLES JEMISON, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
PATRICK R. DONAHOE, POSTMASTER GENERAL, Defendant.

ENTRY ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, District Judge.

This cause is before the Court on the Defendant's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 36). This motion is fully briefed, and the Court, being duly advised, GRANTS the motion for the reasons, and to the extent, set forth below.

I. STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that 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." In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the admissible evidence presented by the non-moving party must be believed and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the non-movant's favor. Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 490 (7th Cir. 2007); Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) ("We view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor."). However, "[a] party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial." Id. Finally, the non-moving party bears the burden of specifically identifying the relevant evidence of record, and "the court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment." Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001).

II. BACKGROUND

The facts taken in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, Charles Jemison, Jr., are as follow.

Mr. Jemison began working for the United States Postal Service ("USPS") in 1997 as a mail processing clerk in the Indianapolis Processing and Distribution Center ("PDC"). His primary responsibilities included sorting, processing, and loading mail. On June 30, 2011, Mr. Jemison was injured in a motor vehicle accident and unfortunately suffered injuries to his neck, back, and hands. Mr. Jemison continued to work at the PDC, however, until February 2, 2012, when he was forced to take a leave of absence from work to seek medical treatment for his pain.

When employees of the USPS are absent from work, they are required to inform their supervisor. Employees can accomplish this by calling into the USPS's automated phone system - the Enterprise Resource Management System ("eRMS") - to inform management of an unscheduled absence. The eRMS then generates a form, indicating the type and amount of leave the employee requested. The eRMS system is intended to be used for brief absences, less than three days. If an employee is going to be absent for more than three days, USPS policy requires that the employee submit every thirty days, sufficient medical documentation to their supervisor that justifies the continued absence. Failure to comply with these procedures can result in the absence being deemed Leave Without Pay ("LWOP") or Absence Without Official Leave ("AWOL").

On March 13, 2012, Juanita Anderson, the Acting Attendance Control Supervisor at the PDC, sent Mr. Jemison an "Absence From Duty" letter. The letter notified Mr. Jemison that he had been absent from work since February 2, 2012, but had failed to contact his supervisor since February 2, 2012. The letter reminded Mr. Jemison that he was required to submit medical documentation at appropriate intervals evidencing his continued incapacity for work. The letter also informed Mr. Jemison that he needed to notify Ms. Anderson within five days of his intentions towards his employment with the USPS.

On March 16, 2012, Mr. Jemison responded to Ms. Anderson's letter via fax. He informed Ms. Anderson that he intended to return to work once he was released from medical care with no restrictions, and he included medical documentation for his absence. The attached medical documentation was from Dr. Todd Midla of Atlas Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. Dr. Midla noted that Mr. Jemison was to be off work from March 12, 2012, through March 31, 2012.

In April 2012, Diane Hilliard resumed her role as Attendance Control Supervisor at the PDC. Ms. Anderson then assumed the role of Acting Manager of Distribution Operations at the PDC.

On April 24, 2012, Mr. Jemison completed a "Light Duty Request Form, " requesting that he be assigned to a light duty position with the USPS. Dr. Midla completed part of the form, indicating that light duty was recommended for thirty days with the following restrictions: lifting/carrying 21-30 pounds; sitting, standing, walking, bending, twisting, climbing, stretching, and reaching for five hours; and a restriction from standard mail duties.[1] Dr. Midla noted that the restrictions were not permanent. Mr. Jemison faxed this form to Ms. Anderson. Eventually, the form made its way to Toni Moore, the Lead Manager of Distribution Operations at the PDC;[2] Ms. Moore was responsible for approving or disapproving requests for light duty work for employees.

As of May 8, 2012, Mr. Jemison had not received a response regarding his light duty request. He therefore contacted his union representative. His union representative spoke with Ms. Anderson who informed the union representative that Mr. Jemison's request for light duty work had been disapproved. His request was denied because of his restriction from standard mail. Ms. Moore claims that "[a]ll postal employees... are required to work with standard mail" and that there were not "any vacant funded Postal Service positions where Jemison could have avoided working with standard mail in accordance with his medical restrictions." Moore Decl. ΒΆΒΆ 4-5.[3] Mr. Jemison filed a union grievance due to his light duty request being denied.

On May 7, 2012, Ms. Hilliard sent Mr. Jemison a second "Absence From Duty" letter, informing him that he had been absent from work since February 2, 2012, and had failed to contact his supervisor since April 24, 2012. Mr. Jemison responded on May 11, 2012, notifying Ms. Hilliard that he requested to be assigned to light duty but that he had not received any information regarding why his request was denied. He informed her that once he received that information, he would consult with Dr. Midla to provide further information, but that his intent was to maintain his employment.

On May 16, 2012, Mr. Jemison received a letter from Ms. Anderson informing him to report back to work on May 21, 2012, to discuss the availability of work that the USPS had for him. It also informed him to bring an updated "Light Duty Request Form, " completed by his physician. Mr. Jemison attended the meeting but did not bring any updated medical information with him because he could not secure an appointment with Dr. Midla in that short amount of time. After the meeting, Ms. Anderson informed Mr. Jemison that there was no need to continue to call in to report his absences; rather, she would manually enter them in.

On June 5, 2012, Dr. Midla clarified in a letter that the previous light duty request form he completed was based on an eight-hour workday. Apparently, Ms. Moore misunderstood Dr. Midla's restrictions, interpreting them to mean that Mr. Jemison was only able to work five hours a day. Dr. Midla clarified that Mr. Jemison was able to work a full eight-hour ...


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