United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
RODNEY F. SPRINKLES, Plaintiff,
WSG MANUFACTURING, LLC, and WEAVER POPCORN COMPANY, INC., Defendants.
ENTRY ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
RICHARD L. YOUNG, JUDGE.
Rodney F. Sprinkles, is a former employee of Defendants, WSG
Manufacturing, LLC and Weaver Popcorn Company, Inc.
(collectively “WSG”). He alleges his termination
was the product of disability discrimination (Count I) and
retaliation (Count II), 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 his termination was
in violation of Indiana public policy (Count III). WSG now
moves for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below,
WSG's motion is GRANTED.
WSG Manufacturing, LLC and Weaver Popcorn Company, Inc. and
Rodney Sprinkle's Employment
manufactures and packages “Ready to Eat” popcorn
products at its facility in Whitestown, Indiana. (Filing No.
28-1, Deposition of Rodney Sprinkles (“Plaintiff
Dep.”) at 4-5). On April 14, 2014, WSG hired Plaintiff
as a Team Leader. (Id. at 4). In June 2014, WSG
promoted Plaintiff to Production Manager, and he became
responsible for all aspects of WSG production, supervising
the entire production staff of about 50 employees at the
facility. (Id. at 4-5).
morning of August 21, 2014, Plaintiff sustained a concussion
when he fell in the WSG facility. (Id. at 33). That
evening Plaintiff was examined at Indiana University Health
Tipton Hospital where CT scans of his head and cervical spine
revealed no abnormalities. (Id. at 37-38). On
Plaintiff's behalf, WSG reported the accident to its
worker's compensation third party administrator and
arranged for him to be seen by an approved physician through
St. Vincent on August 25, 2014. (Id. at 14, 39, 45,
asserts that immediately after the injury, he slept for
fourteen (14) hours per day and suffered from headaches,
panic attacks, memory loss, and trouble controlling his
temper. (Id. at 77). Plaintiff continues to
experience cognitive impairments due to post-concussion
disorder, and takes medication (Paxil) for anxiety and panic
attacks. (Id. at 8; Filing No. 30-28, Declaration of
Rodney F. Sprinkles (“Plaintiff Decl.”) ¶
4). Strenuous physical and mental activities exacerbate his
condition. (Plaintiff Decl. ¶ 6).
was off work from August 22 until September 2, 2014,
following the accident and then off and on for a few more
days as he was evaluated by other providers who issued
temporary restrictions. (Plaintiff Dep. at 45, 49-51). On
September 12, 2014, Plaintiff's medical record indicates
a diagnosis of post-concussion syndrome. (Filing No. 30-8,
Medical Record at 6). From mid-September until mid-December
of 2014, Plaintiff was released to return to work full-time,
without any restrictions. (Plaintiff Dep. at 52-53).
December 4, 2014, Plaintiff sent an email entitled
“Concussion symptoms” to Will Weaver, Weaver
Popcorn Chief Operating Officer; Tom Mathews, Senior Leader;
Alvin Corbett, WSG Director of Operations; and Kellie Fisher,
WSG's safety representative, which stated:
The doctor said I should see a neurologist and get my
symptoms under control before returning to work.
In the last 2 weeks my headaches have gotten worse. It's
a constant moderate headache and gets much worse as the day
goes on, [sic] by the time I get home I have to lay down in a
dark quite [sic] room. My wife and family have said I've
not been myself the last month, my demeanor has changed.
I really want to be a part of WSG going forward, . . . [b]ut
at this time; [sic] I have to get myself healthy for my
family and myself.
No. 30-12, 12/4/2014 Email from Plaintiff). Fisher set-up an
appointment for him with Dr. Theodore A. Nukes of Heartland
Neurology. (Plaintiff Dep. at 53-54, 101). On December 15,
2014, Dr. Nukes saw Plaintiff for post-concussion syndrome
and placed him off work pending further evaluation.
(Id. at 54-55; Filing No. 30-8, 12/17/14 Letter).
Plaintiff remained off work through December 29, 2014.
(Plaintiff Dep. at 55).
December 29, 2014, Dr. Nukes released Plaintiff to return to
work with the restriction that he work no more than four
hours per day until January 12, 2015, at which time Plaintiff
could return to full duty with no restrictions.
(Id.). Pursuant to Dr. Nukes' orders, Plaintiff
began working four-hour days. (Id.).
WSG Fails an AIB Quality Audit and Fires Its Quality
Quality Department is tasked with maintaining and overseeing
the quality of its Ready to Eat popcorn products. (Corbett
Aff. ¶ 4). The American Institute of Baking
International (“AIB”) conducts audit inspections
of the facility. (Id.). Failed AIB audits can lead
to loss of certification and potential closure of the entire
November 5 and 6, 2014, AIB conducted an audit of WSG.
(Id. ¶ 5). Several deficiencies were noted by
AIB, resulting in an “unsatisfactory” rating.
(Id.). As a result of the failed AIB audit, WSG
terminated the employment of its Quality Manager, James
LeFort, and concentrated on improving the process for the
quality production of products. (Id.; Plaintiff Dep.
at 63). WSG knew that AIB would return in January 2015 for a
re-audit, but did not know the specific date. (Corbett Aff.
¶ 5; Plaintiff Dep. at 64).
preparation for AIB's return visit, WSG conducted its own
mock audits. (Corbett Aff. ¶ 6; Plaintiff Dep. at 64).
After the first day of the mock audit, January 6, 2015,
Corbett sent an urgent e-mail message at 6:17 p.m. to several
supervisory employees, including Plaintiff, stating in part:
Gentlemen, our AIB audit is imminent! It could take place
beginning tomorrow, it will take place this month and we must
pass. I understand we have had some serious items identified
during the first day of our mock audit . . . These behaviors
will cause us to fail which will ultimately shut this
operation down with the loss of all jobs associated with WSG.
We do not have the luxury of time following our mock audit to
address failures like we did in November. Each shift will be
covering GMP related items during your pre-shift meetings and
I expect all of us to immediately address behaviors and
conditions on the floor.
Dep. at 64-65; Plaintiff Dep. Ex. 19 at 19; Corbett Aff.
WSG's Daily Sanitation Inspections, Emails Regarding the
Same, and Plaintiff's Termination
conducts daily sanitation inspections at the beginning of
each shift and requests that a worksheet documenting the
inspections be completed daily and submitted to the Quality
Department. (Plaintiff Dep. at 101-02; Corbett Aff. ¶
7). On January 6, 2015, Angelina Boampong, a member of the
Quality Department, sent an email to various managers,
including Plaintiff, regarding the absence of completed
sanitation checklists. (Plaintiff Dep. Ex. 20 at 20; Corbett
Aff. at 3). Boampong's email, sent at 5:47 p.m.,
approximately 30 minutes prior to Corbett's email, above,
We need to be filling out daily/weekly sanitation check
lists!!! Why are we missing days, [sic] weeks, and months of
documentation??? This is really sad that at this point we
can't complete such a simple task. If the AIB auditor was
here today we would have completely failed with our pathetic
documentation skills. This is unacceptable guys!!!
Daily sanitation inspection must be completed daily!...post
op/pre op must be ...