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Nance v. Ira E. Clark Detective Agency, Inc.

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

February 14, 2017

GUTHRIE MICHAEL NANCE, Plaintiff,
v.
IRA E. CLARK DETECTIVE AGENCY, INC., Defendant.

          ENTRY ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          RICHARD L. YOUNG, UNITED STATE DISTRICT COURT

         Plaintiff, Guthrie Michael Nance, is a former employee of Defendant, Ira E. Clark Detective Agency, Inc. (“Clark Security”). He alleges his termination was the product of age discrimination, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and disability discrimination, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq., as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (“ADAAA”). He further alleges Defendant interfered with his right to take medical leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Defendant now moves for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED.

\ I. Background

         A. Clark Security

\ Clark Security provides security guards and services for clients in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee. (Filing No. 29-21, Deposition of Guthrie Michael Nance (“Plaintiff Dep.”) at 53-54). Between June 2012 and January 2013, the company's management consisted of Richard Curby, the sole owner and President; Christy Brake, Corporate Office Manager; and Jeff Arntz, Director of Security. (Filing No. 29-22, Deposition of Richard Curby (“Curby Dep.”) at 9). Plaintiff and Mike Minton were managers who reported to Arntz, and Lesa Osborne served as Director of Human Resources. (Id. at 9-10).

         Most Clark Security employees are over 40 years old. (Id. at 6). Curby was 79; Arntz was 53; Osborn was 61; Plaintiff was 59; Minton was 66; and Brake was 40. (Id. at 4; Plaintiff Dep. at 49; Filing No. 29-23, Deposition of Jeff Arntz (“Arntz Dep.”) at 7; Filing No. 29-2, Affidavit of Mike Minton, Ex. 2; Filing No. 29-24, Deposition of Lesa Osborne (“Osborne Dep.”) at 4; Filing No. 29-25, Deposition of Christy Brake (“Brake Dep.”) Dep. at 4).

         B. Plaintiff's Employment

         Plaintiff began his employment at Clark Security as a security officer in October 2002. (Plaintiff Dep. at 54-55). His resume included “over 25 years of law enforcement experience, over 35 years of firefighter experience, 7 years of EMS, and 4 years general security as supervision [sic].” (Filing No. 29-3, Plaintiff's Resume).

         In 2008, Curby promoted Plaintiff to Field Operations Manager, a salaried position. (Plaintiff Dep. at 75-76). In that role, he and Minton helped supervise and train security officers, traveled to sites to perform inspections, and ensured each site had the necessary supplies and paperwork. (Filing No. 29-4, Plaintiff's Job Description; Arntz Dep. at 43-44). Nance and Minton were “the link of communication” between the company's employees in the field and the corporate office. (Plaintiff Dep. at 240-45).

         Plaintiff attended management meetings on Friday mornings at Clark Security's headquarters in Evansville, Indiana, but otherwise traveled from his home office in Beaver Dam, Kentucky to security sites in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Illinois. (Id. at 112; Arntz Dep. at 36). Minton operated out of Clark Security's Evansville office and worked during the day. (Arntz Dep. at 43-44).

         In approximately May 2012, Plaintiff served as interim Director of Security following the termination of the previous director, Thomas Ruck. (Plaintiff Dep. at 91). Plaintiff did not want the position permanently because he “like[d] being out and moving around and doing what needed to be done out here at these different locations, different sites.” (Id.).

         C. Jeff Arntz, Director of Security

         In June 2012, Curby hired Arntz to replace Ruck as Director of Security. (Id. at 90; Curby Dep. at 21). Plaintiff described the company as being in a “stalemate” when Arntz was hired because it “wasn't gaining any new employment, wasn't gaining any new job sites.” (Plaintiff Dep. at 116). To break this stalemate, Arntz began visiting and assessing every client site and working with Plaintiff and Minton on an “idea sheet” of 39 possible improvements for the company. (Arntz Dep. at 38-39). Arntz's ideas included, but were not limited to, publication of a company newsletter, instituting a safety reward program, and improving communication between sites and company management, especially regarding personnel matters. (Id. at 125; Curby Dep. at 23, 25). Osborne testified:

[Arntz] spent about a month observing how we did things. We had a major meeting early in July. He did a Powerpoint presentation. Had handouts of how we were going to do this. It was very exciting. I can't tell you details at [this] point. Asked us all to buy in, and if we could not buy in, to let him know now because we were going to have to - he would have to address that as well. And he was - it was pretty exciting. Recognition for employees in it. Advancement opportunities for our uniformed officers. He was developing a training team of out of [on-site supervisors] that had had successful posts. There was quite a bit of excitement from not just those of us in the corporate office . . . .

(Osborne Dep. at 49-50).

         Most of the management team supported Arntz's ideas. (Curby Dep. at 23, 25; Brake Dep. at 27-28; Osborne Dep. at 50 (“Q: So everybody was on board with this? A: I can't say everybody was. The people I spoke to were.”)). Plaintiff was not as supportive. With respect to the 39-topic idea sheet, Arntz testified:

At that point [Plaintiff's] [sheet] just about had 39 negative comments on that form. Everything that we were going to try to do he didn't believe could be done, and at that point I counseled [Plaintiff] several times verbally. We had discussions and he just never wanted to seem to go in the direction that the president wanted the company to go.

         (Arntz Dep. at 39; see also Plaintiff Dep. at 115 (“[W]hen [Arntz] brought some of these things up . . . I told him, I said, look, man. This has already been tried. But I said, let me print off what I said and where I presented it and how I presented it so that you can have an idea of where I went.”)). Plaintiff thought Arntz was “green behind the ears. He didn't know what it was to be running a security agency. . . . But he's in charge. It's his decisions.” (Plaintiff Dep. at 103-04).

         In mid-November 2012, Curby asked Plaintiff to assist Arntz in reaching his goals. (Id. at 124, 234). Plaintiff described the conversation as follows:

[Curby] said that Arntz needs some help, and he's been complaining that he has not been getting enough help out of you. He said, would you just please try to help him and help him along in any way you can. My response was that, boss, I am doing everything I can for him, but I can't reinvent the wheel.

(Id. at 124).

         D. Plaintiff's Back Injuries

         Plaintiff injured his back while working from home on September 24, 2012, and injured it again when he slipped and fell at a client site on October 19, 2012. (Id. at 184; Filing No. 29-12, Dec. 14 Memo). In October 2012, Plaintiff told Osborne and Brake about his back injury in Brake's office. (Plaintiff Dep. at 184). He also apparently told others in the office. (Id. at 125). Plaintiff described his injury at that point in time as “a joking matter.” (Id.). He testified: “We had actually laughed about it and some of them even laughed and said, you know, we're going to have to get you a cane.” (Id.; see also Id. at 184 (“We were just laughing about it and, you know, talking about it.”)).

         E. Arntz's Alleged Discriminatory Comments

         At or around the October 2012 time frame, Arntz told Plaintiff he was “too old to be out here trying to run up and down the road and do these other things and run all these security sites. You can't keep up with the pace that I expect . . . .” (Id. at 126; see also Id. at 113-14). Arntz also told Plaintiff that Minton “was too old to be doing the type of job that he expected him to be doing.” (Id. at 24-25). Plaintiff never informed Curby nor Osborne about Arntz's “ageist” comments. (Id. at 25, 26, 125, 145). ...


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