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Edson v. Dreyer & Reinbold Inc.

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

February 1, 2017

KARLA EDSON, Plaintiff,
v.
DREYER & REINBOLD, INC., Defendant.

          ENTRY OVERRULNG DEFENDANT'S OBJECTION AND ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE United States District Court

         Before the Court is Defendant Dreyer & Reinbold, Inc.'s ("DRI") Objections to Report and Recommendation (Filing No. 57), objecting to the Magistrate Judge's recommended disposition of DRI's Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff Karla Edson ("Edson") filed an Amended Complaint against DRI, asserting that the termination of her employment with DRI violated the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. ("FMLA"), and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (Filing No. 15.) On May 5, 2016, DRI filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, contending that Edson's claims fail as a matter of law and no genuine issue of material fact exists. (Filing No. 36.) On December 13, 2016, Magistrate Judge Mark J. Dinsmore filed a Report and Recommendation denying DRI's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Filing No. 55.) DRI timely filed its Objections to Report and Recommendation, asserting that the Magistrate Judge erred. (Filing No. 57.) For the following reasons, the Court OVERRULES DRI's Objections and ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation.

         I. BACKGROUND

         DRI is a car dealership that sells BMW, Infiniti, Mini, Subaru and Volkswagen vehicles. Edson worked for DRI's Greenwood, Indiana, location for more than nine years. The Greenwood dealership has four separate service drives, one dedicated to each of the four car brands. Beginning April 4, 2006, Edson held the position of Appointment Coordinator for the Volkswagen and Subaru service drives. James Kizer ("Kizer"), the dealership's Service Manager, supervised Edson.

         In March 2015, Kizer planned to eliminate Edson's position and create two service greeter positions: one for the Volkswagen drive and the other for the Subaru drive. The service greeters' duties entailed scheduling appointments, greeting customers, arranging for alternate transportation for customers, and serving as support staff to the service advisors. Kizer initially intended to transition Edson into one of the new service greeter positions. However, Joe Bradshaw, a third party contractor hired to service DRI's telephone system, informed Edson that she was being moved to the Volkswagen Service Drive. Edson, who previously worked in the Volkswagen service drive, stated that she would quit if transferred to that specific drive. Edson repeated the same sentiments to Leo Vandenbosch ("Vandenbosch"), Kizer's assistant manager.

         On April 2, 2015, Kizer transferred Stephanie Bowman ("Bowman") to the Subaru service drive and on April 14, 2015, he interviewed Julia Denham ("Denham") for a service greeter position. On Thursday, April 16, 2015, Edson suffered a stroke at work. The following day, Kizer hired Denham for the Volkswagen service drive position. Edson returned to work the following Monday, but suffered difficulty walking, balancing and speaking. Edson was required by her physician, to undergo physical therapy. Upon returning to work, Edson provided Kizer with a schedule of her physical therapy appointments, which required her to leave early on Wednesdays. Edson was also approved for intermittent leave due to her serious health condition under FMLA. Kizer was not receptive to Edson's missing work and questioned how long the appointments would take and whether Edson could schedule the appointments during her lunch hour or after work. (Filing No. 42-1 at 16.) On April 23, 2015, Edson spoke with Brian Gauker ("Gauker"), DRI's General Manager, about her therapy schedule. Gauker remarked: "Well, you know, the owner would want us to be . . . compassionate in these situations but we still have to run a business . . . you're going to have all these other employees that are going, well, how come she only has to work 40 hours a week and I can't just work 40 hours a week." (Filing No. 38-1 at 27.)

         On May 11, 2015, approximately three weeks after her stroke, Edson advised Kizer that she would need to use a "scooter" at work due to her disability and difficulty walking. She described the scooter as a walker with wheels. (Filing No. 42-1 at 16.) Kizer asked on two occasions about the appearance of the scooter and its arrival because he worried that the scooter would not fit the company's image. Id. at 18. Two days later, Edson arrived at work with the scooter. Later that morning, Kizer asked Edson to meet with him and Rita Kahn, the office manager. Kizer then informed Edson that DRI restructured the staffing of its service drives and eliminated her position as Appointment Coordinator for both the Volkswagen and Subaru drives. In response, Edson stated: "Wait. So you mean to tell me that after nine years of faithful service to this company, that you have no other place that you can put me?" Kizer replied: "Well, we already filled the position on the Volkswagen drive and the Subaru drive." Kizer continued by stating: "And now"-while gesturing at Edson's scooter. Mat 21. Following the termination meeting, Edson collected her personal belongings and left the dealership.

         On August 19, 2015, Edson filed an Amended Complaint against DRI, asserting discrimination and retaliation claims pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (Filing No. 15.) On May 5, 2016, DRI filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, contending that Edson's claims fail as a matter of law and no genuine issue of material fact exists because Kizer planned to terminate Edson prior to Edson suffering a stroke. (Filing No. 36.) On December 13, 2016, the Magistrate Judge entered his Report and Recommendation denying DRI's Motion for Summary Judgment, concluding that a reasonable jury could find that DRI terminated Edson due to her disability. (Filing No. 55.) The Magistrate Judge specifically found that: 1) Kizer's gesture at Edson's scooter when terminating Edson, 2) Kizer's and Gauker's statements regarding Edson's need for therapy, and 3) the timing of Edson's termination, collectively, are a sufficient basis which a reasonable jury could conclude that DRI terminated Edson for discriminatory reasons. DRI now objects to the Report and Recommendation, asserting that the Magistrate Judge erred by failing to include evidence of the events that occurred prior to Edson's stroke and finding pretext that Kizer lied about when and why he terminated Edson. (Filing No. 57.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         "A district court may assign dispositive motions to a magistrate judge, in which case the magistrate judge may submit to the district judge only a report and recommended disposition, including any proposed findings of fact." Schur v. L.A. Weight Loss Ctrs., Inc., 577 F.3d 752, 760 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)). "The magistrate judge's recommendation on a dispositive matter is not a final order, and the district judge makes the ultimate decision to adopt, reject, or modify it." Schur, 577 F.3d at 760 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3)). After a magistrate judge makes a report and recommendation, either party may object within fourteen days. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2). "A judge of the court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made" with respect to dispositive motions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Further, a judge "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." Id.

         III. DISCUSSION

         DRI objects to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, asserting that the Magistrate Judge erred by ignoring undisputed evidence and finding pretext that Kizer lied regarding when and why he made his decision to terminate Edson.

         A. The Magistrate Considered the Entire Record

         DRI argues that the Magistrate Judge erred in omitting crucial, undisputed facts from the "Background" section of the Report and Recommendation. DRI specifically contends that the Magistrate Judge failed to follow the summary judgment standard by excluding facts regarding Kizer's decision prior to Edson's stroke to eliminate Edson's position and to hire two service greeters for the Volkswagen and Subaru drives. DRI contends that Kizer initially intended to transition Edson into one of the new service greeter positions, but decided not to because Edson informed two people that she would quit before being sent to the Volkswagen drive. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment is appropriate only where there exists "no genuine issue as to any material facts and ... the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court reviews "the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw[s] all ...


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