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Davis v. Ford Motor Company

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

December 19, 2017

TAMARA DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY, et al., Defendants.

          ENTRY ON SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTIONS

          HON. WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         This cause is before the Court on Defendant Ford Motor Company's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 53), Defendant United Auto Workers' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 55), and the Plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 62).[1] The motions are fully briefed, and the Court, being duly advised, now GRANTS the Defendants' motions and DENIES the Plaintiff's motion for the reasons set forth below.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) 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.” In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the admissible evidence presented by the non-moving party must be believed, and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the non-movant's favor. Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (“We view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.”). When the Court reviews cross-motions for summary judgment, as is the case here, “we construe all inferences in favor of the party against whom the motion under consideration is made.” Speciale v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield Ass'n, 538 F.3d 615, 621 (7th Cir. 2008) (quotation omitted). “‘[W]e look to the burden of proof that each party would bear on an issue of trial.'” Diaz v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 499 F.3d 640, 643 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Santaella v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 123 F.3d 456, 461 (7th Cir. 1997)). A party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must show what evidence it has that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial. Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., Inc., 325 F.3d 892, 901 (7th Cir. 2003). Finally, the non-moving party bears the burden of specifically identifying the relevant evidence of record, and “the court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001).

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The Court draws facts from the Plaintiff's Amended Complaint and the Defendants' briefs.[2] Where facts are in dispute, the Court designates them as such.

         Davis began working for Ford Motor Company (“Ford”) in 1994 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Davis was and remains a member of the United Automotive Workers union (“UAW”). In 2011, Davis and other employees were told that the Ford facility in Indianapolis (“Indianapolis facility”) was closing. They were offered the opportunity to transfer to other Ford locations in Illinois and Kentucky. A collective bargaining agreement between Ford and the UAW governs employee transfers. Davis chose to transfer to a Ford facility in Louisville, Kentucky (“Louisville facility”), and signed a Non-Skilled Job Opportunities Transfer Agreement (“Transfer Agreement”) on July 11, 2011. The Transfer Agreement provided Davis with an opportunity to rank locations for potential transfer and required her to “acknowledge that this posting is for permanent non-skilled job opportunities.” Dkt. No. 57-2 at 18. Davis initialed the form next to her permanent assignment choice indicating as follows: “I accept such offer to transfer permanently to Louisville Assembly.Id. at 19 (emphases in original). The Transfer Agreement contained the following two relevant provisions:

• I further understand that by accepting the Enhanced Moving Allowance payment that I forfeit my Return to Basic Unit Rights under Appendix O and Article VIII, Section (1)b [sic] of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
• I understand that if I am a Ford employee working at an ACH-LLC location, by volunteering for this opportunity I understand that all volunteers from ACH-LLC locations, who transfer to a Ford location, waive Article VIII, Section 1(b) seniority basic unit rights and Appendix O return home rights to all other ACH-LLC locations. The location that I transfer to would become my new basic unit.

Id. at 18-19.

         The Indianapolis facility is an ACH-LLC location. Return to basic unit rights, or return home rights, allow an employee to transfer from an employee's basic unit, or home facility, to a different location while retaining priority rights to later return to the basic unit. Dkt. No. 54 at 4-5 (citing Dkt. No. 60-1 at 5; 8 & 60-2 at 3).

         In October 2011, the president and chairperson of the Indianapolis local UAW informed its members that it learned that there were plans to consolidate Ford sites in Evansville and Chicago to a site in the Indianapolis area. He noted that he was “unaware of the companies [sic] timing for the process of consolidation, ” explained that he “expressed to all parties that if jobs are available that it is incumbent to offer those jobs to any seniority person who may be interested regardless of previous offerings, ” and asserted that the UAW “will fight with everything we have to make sure the opportunities are given to our members if any become available.” Dkt. No. 65-2 at 2.

         Davis began working at Ford's Louisville facility in February 2012. When she transferred to the facility, Ford and the UAW offered Davis an “Enhanced Relocation Moving Allowance” benefit (“Moving Allowance”). Pursuant to Article IX, Section 28 of the collective bargaining agreement, Davis needed to “file[] an application for a Moving Allowance not later than six months after the first day he/she worked at the new Plant.” Dkt. No. 57-2 at 10. Davis did not apply for or receive a moving allowance benefit. She continues to work in the Louisville facility as an Assembler.

         Ford announced it was opening a new facility in Plainfield, Indiana, in 2014. In April 2014, the local UAW in Louisville, on behalf all 228 employees who transferred from the Indianapolis facility to the Louisville facility, including Davis, filed an appeal with the National Job Security, Operational Effectiveness and Sourcing Committee (“NJSOESC”), a panel of representatives from Ford and the UAW, to decide job security-related issues. The local UAW in Louisville contended that Ford violated provisions of the collective bargaining agreement by not providing all transferees with the same moving allowance opportunities. On August 7, 2014, the NJSOESC concluded that “Company records show that all employees from the Indianapolis Plant (ACH) were provided one election, Option 1 - Enhanced Relocation Moving Allowance, ” which resulted in the termination of return to basic unit rights at the Indianapolis location and made the Louisville facility their new basic unit, or home facility. Dkt. Nos. 57-2 at 27; 60-2 at 5. The result of this ruling was that the transferees did not have rights to return to Indianapolis to work at the Plainfield facility once it opened.

         In or around September 2014, the Plainfield, Indiana facility opened. Davis told her manager and UAW representatives that she wanted to transfer to the Plainfield facility. Ford and the UAW denied Davis's request.

         Davis began an approved medical leave on September 28, 2014. During her leave, she underwent treatment for alcoholism in Indianapolis. On December 19, 2014, while on leave, she filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), alleging that she was denied a transfer to the Plainfield facility because of her race and sex.

         Davis remained on medical leave until January 5, 2015. At that time, her treating health care providers released her to return to work with the following restrictions: They limited her to working thirty hours per week and recommended that she be permitted to leave work at noon on Thursdays so that she could attend an appointment from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in Indianapolis, starting January 15, 2015. The weekly appointment was expected to run through April 10, 2015, after which she would “be released to full-time work on April 13, 2015.” Dkt. No. 60-1 at 19. The Thursday evening appointment was the only reason Davis had to have her work schedule limited to thirty hours.

         Davis presented her work restrictions to Human Resources, and she was directed to provide the restrictions to Roy Francis, her supervisor. Francis told her he would not accept the restrictions. Ford instead placed Davis on “No Work Available” leave starting January 7, 2015. While on this leave, Davis continued to receive the short-term disability payments she had received while on medical leave. Davis then had a hysterectomy on March 23, 2015. On May 4, 2015, she was released to return to work with no restrictions following surgery. Davis returned to full-time work at the Louisville facility on May 4, 2015, where she is still employed.

         On October 2, 2015, Davis filed a second charge of discrimination with the EEOC, alleging sex, race, and disability discrimination and retaliation. She alleged that she would have been accommodated rather than placed on leave if she had not filed a prior charge of discrimination. She also alleged that “[b]ut for the nature of [her] illness[, ] she would have been allowed to return to work with restrictions.” Dkt. No. 60-6 at 4. Davis identifies her disability as alcoholism.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Davis alleges that she was discriminated against because of her race, sex, and disability and retaliated against for engaging in protected activity. The Defendants move for summary judgment on all of Davis's claims.

         A. Race and ...


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