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Pittman v. Columbus Rural King, Inc.

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

May 17, 2017

DEBRA PITTMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
COLUMBUS RURAL KING, INC., Defendant.

          ENTRY ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Debra Pittman's (“Pittman”) Motion for Summary Judgment. (Filing No. 37.) Pittman was a longtime employee of Defendant Columbus Rural King Supply, Inc. (“Rural King”). She suffers from Crohn's Disease, and alleges that Rural King violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by failing to provide her with a reasonable accommodation for her disability. For the reasons that follow, the Court denies Pittman's Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are not necessarily objectively true, but as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the facts are presented in the light most favorable to Rural King as the nonmoving party. See Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

         Pittman began working at a Rural King store in Columbus, Indiana in February 2005. (Filing No. 38-22 at 1.) Rural King is a retail business that sells farm and home supplies. Pittman was initially hired as a cashier and was promoted to customer service manager in 2011 or 2012. (Filing No. 38-24 at 1.) In 1993, before her employment at Rural King, she was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease. (Filing No. 38-22 at 1.) Crohn's Disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract that causes symptoms such as fatigue, loss of appetite, and pain. (Filing No. 38-22 at 1.) At the times relevant to the instant matter, Pittman was under the care of a physician and a nurse practitioner for her Crohn's Disease. (Filing No. 38-23 at 1.)

         After receiving an offer of employment from Rural King, Pittman filled out a “Post-Offer Questionnaire, ” on which she indicated that she had been diagnosed with Crohn's Disease. (Filing No. 38-4.) At some point early in Pittman's tenure, she informed her employer that she preferred working the early morning shift, because she would not be tired upon starting work. (Filing No. 38-24 at 7-8.) For several years, Pittman typically worked five days per week, for five-hour shifts running from 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. (Filing No. 38-24 at 7.)

         In September 2013, Matt Klinkosh became the manager of the Columbus Rural King location. (Filing No. 38-24 at 7.) Approximately one month after Klinkosh became manager, he demoted Pittman from the position of customer service manager to the position of cashier. (Filing No. 38-24 at 8; Filing No. 38-24 at 4-5.) Around the same time, Pittman's assigned hours began to decrease, and she started to be assigned shifts outside of the early morning hours that she had previously requested. (Filing No. 38-24 at 7-9.) In response, Pittman had several conversations with Klinkosh and Joella Morey, an assistant manager who was involved in scheduling, regarding her need for an accommodation. (Filing No. 38-26 at 1-3.) On April 14, 2015, Pittman provided Rural King with a doctor's note indicating that she needed to work the morning shift for no more than five hours per day, in order to maintain a consistent eating and resting pattern. (Filing No. 38-9.)

         On May 2, 2014, Pittman filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging discrimination on the basis of her disability. (Filing No. 38-8.) Following that filing, Pittman's hours continued to be reduced and scheduled in the afternoon, ranging from her original 25 hours per week prior to Klinkosh's tenure to roughly five hours per week by the end of her employment at Rural King. (Filing No. 38-11.) On March 23, 2015, Pittman, Klinkosh, and Morey completed and signed an “Accommodation Worksheet, ” which indicated that it was designed to “provide a problem-solving approach to considering accommodation request by and identifying accommodations for either applicants or employees.” (Filing No. 38-28 at 1.) On that form, Pittman requested to work five shifts per week from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., or earlier if possible. (Filing No. 38-28 at 1.) The “employer” requested 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. or 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. shifts, in order for Pittman to “be here during two vital hours of business” from 3:00 to 5:00. (Filing No. 38-28 at 3.) Pittman's hours continued to be reduced, and the reduction in hours caused her financial hardship. (Filing No. 38-15 at 1.) Pittman started a part-time position at Dollar Tree on July 6, 2015 (Filing No. 38-12). By September 2015 she left employment at Rural King because she felt she was constructively discharged. (Filing No. 38-11.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 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. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court reviews the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Zerante, 555 F.3d at 584; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

         The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion, and identifying “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ” which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (noting that when the non-movant has the burden of proof on a substantive issue, specific forms of evidence are not required to negate a non-movant's claims in the movant's summary judgment motion, and that a court may grant such a motion, “so long as whatever is before the district court demonstrates that the standard...is satisfied”); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A) (noting additional forms of evidence used in support or defense of a summary judgment motion, including “depositions, documents electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations ..., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials”).

         Thereafter, a nonmoving party who bears the burden of proof on a substantive 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. Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.Com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 490 (7th Cir. 2007); Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323-24; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). Neither the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties nor the existence of some “metaphysical doubt” as to the material facts is sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Chiaramonte v. Fashion Bed Grp., Inc., 129 F.3d 391, 395 (7th Cir. 1997); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). “It is not the duty of the court to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment; rather, the nonmoving party bears the responsibility of identifying the evidence upon which [it] relies.” Harney v. Speedway SuperAmerica, LLC, 526 F.3d 1099, 1104 (7th Cir. 2008).

         Similarly, a court is not permitted to conduct a paper trial on the merits of a claim and may not use summary judgment as a vehicle for resolving factual disputes. Ritchie v. Glidden Co., ICI Paints World-Grp., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001); Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994). Indeed, a court may not make credibility determinations, weigh the evidence, or decide which inferences to draw from the facts. Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003) (highlighting that “these are jobs for a factfinder”); Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at 490. When ruling on a summary judgment motion, a court's responsibility is to decide, based on the evidence of record, whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a trial. Id.

         III. ...


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