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Quick v. City of Fort Wayne

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

September 27, 2016

AARON QUICK, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF FORT WAYNE, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JON E. DEGUILIO Judge United States District Court.

         This is an employment discrimination case brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Plaintiff, Aaron Quick, asserts that the Defendant City of Fort Wayne (the City) terminated him from his position as a police recruit on account of a perceived disability and his race.[1] The City has filed a motion for summary judgment that seeks judgment in its favor on all of Quick's claims. [DE 25]. That motion is now fully briefed by the parties and is ripe for review. [DE 26, 29, 32, 35, 38-1].

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is appropriate when 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). A genuine dispute as to any material fact exists if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Cung Hnin v. TOA (USA), LLC, 751 F.3d 499, 504 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). To survive a motion for summary judgment, the party with the burden of proof “must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial.” Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 490 (7th Cir. 2007). Since the Court is evaluating a motion for summary judgment filed by the Defendant, it will construe all disputed facts in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255 (at the summary judgment stage “the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor”).

         FACTS

         The facts in this case are straightforward and largely undisputed. Plaintiff Aaron Quick is a white male. In 2014, he was hired as a recruit by the Fort Wayne Police Department (FWPD). At that time, Quick had substantial law enforcement experience and was both a graduate of and instructor at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA). Nevertheless, the FWPD conditioned Quick's employment on successful completion of its own academy. While the Fort Wayne Police Department Academy (the Academy) is certified through ILEA, the Department believes that it provides more rigorous and regionally specific training than ILEA and generally requires its recruits to graduate from it.

         Quick started at the Academy on February 10, 2014. On February 12, 2014, his back began to hurt while he was on his way home. The pain became so severe that he went to the emergency room. The next morning, he saw an examining physician who diagnosed him with a lumbar strain (later characterized as lumbar disc displacement) and cleared him to return to the Academy with certain restrictions, including that he alternate between sitting and standing as needed and not bend over or lift more than five pounds.

         Quick then returned to the Academy, where his instructor exempted him from physical training and provided him a reclining chair. Quick's back did not immediately improve, however, and on February 17 his medical staff further instructed that he should lie down when his back pain flared. Quick communicated this new restriction to his Academy instructor, Captain Shane Lee, who informed Quick that the Academy could not accommodate it. Accordingly, Lee told Quick that he should stay home until he no longer needed to lie down, but cautioned that if he missed more than ten days he would be dismissed from the Academy consistent with the Academy's written attendance policy. Quick did not return to the Academy and was dismissed on February 27, 2014. At that time, his back was improving, though he still sometimes needed to lie down briefly. He was not released to return to work by his physical therapist until March 13, 2014.

         In an effort to save his job, Quick requested that he be permitted to bypass the Academy and instead rely on his ILEA certification. As noted above, that is the same certification that recruits obtain upon successful completion of the Academy. The FWPD had previously made this accommodation to seven individuals, though had not done so since 2011. Of these, two were Hispanic and fluent Spanish speakers, two would have been over the maximum age permitted by the Academy and three were required to attend an abbreviated Academy course. By 2014, however, the FWPD was moving away from hiring individuals outside of the Academy due to bad experiences with lateral candidates. Ultimately, the Department denied Quick's request to rely on his ILEA certification, though invited him to apply for the next Academy class beginning in January 2015.

         Believing that the FWPD had refused to permit him to rely on his ILEA certification and fired him on account of his race and back injury, Quick subsequently filed a tort claims notice with the City and a complaint with the EEOC. The EEOC responded with a right to sue letter on December 30, 2014 and this suit followed on February 24, 2015.

         Since filing suit, Quick has learned that the City is hiring lateral recruits as of February 2016. The City has indicated that it decided to do so in response to plans by Fort Wayne to annex territory incorporating 22, 000 new citizens, which would create demand for twelve new officers.

         ANALYSIS

         Quick's Surreply

         Before turning to the merits of this case, the Court first addresses Quick's motion to file a surreply. [DE 38]. Quick contends that the Court should permit him to file a surreply because the City attached supplemental declarations from three witnesses to its reply brief. The City responds that Quick's ...


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