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Evans v. Patrick Aluminum, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division

May 30, 2018

JUSTIN EVANS, Plaintiff,


          TANYA WALTON PRATT, United States District Court Judge

         This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Patrick Aluminum d/b/a Altec Aluminum Technologies (“Altec”). (Filing No. 33). Plaintiff Justin Evans (“Evans”) initiated this action against Altec, his former employer, alleging violations under the American with Disabilities Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §12101 et. seq. and Indiana law. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.

         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 Evans as the non-moving party. See Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

         Evans began working at Altec through Manpower staffing agency in April 2013 and secured full-time employment there in June 2013. (Filing No. 33-4 at 14.) During his employment at Altec he was a member of the International Chemical Workers Union Council Local 15-C. In November 2014, Evans injured his knee in a workplace accident when the left side of his body fell into a pit. Id. at 7-8. The day after his injury, he was cleared for light duty work pending an MRI of his knee. Id. at 9-10. A first MRI showed that Evans's knee was “a hundred percent clear, ” but a second MRI revealed otherwise. Id. at 11-12. Evans eventually retained an attorney and, in January 2015, filed for worker's compensation. Id. In February 2015, he began physical therapy. Id. at 12. Throughout this time, Evans remained on light duty work restrictions. Id. These restrictions included no climbing, kneeling, crawling, and lifting over ten pounds. Id. at 24. Evans was also instructed to sit as much as possible. Id.

         Despite Altec's awareness of Evans' restrictions, his supervisor, Charlie[1], assigned Evans work orders that did not reflect his light duty restrictions. (Filing No. 33-4 at 12-13, 24.) For example, Evans was assigned work orders that required him to climb a ladder-a task that does not meet the “light duty” requirement. Id. In this and other similar circumstances, Evans would comply with his restrictions and would not complete the requested tasks. Id. As a result, Charlie verbally disciplined him for not completing the requested work orders. Evans would explain his restrictions to his supervisor, and Charlie would say, “Well, you have a job to do. . . . You need to do your job.” Id. Although Evans was verbally reprimanded, his supervisor never initiated any formal or written discipline. This scenario would occur about four or five times a week. Id. Although Evans' past experiences with the plant manager, James Peele (“Peele”) were favorable, he did not report Charlie's behavior to Peele or any other Altec supervisor. Id. at 56.

         After his injury, Evans also began finding notes left on his work equipment that suggested that he should be looking for new employment. (Filing No. 33-4 at 29-30.) One such note read, “I need to know when you're starting your new job and you need to get your tools gone.” Id. That note bore Charlie's signature. Id.

         Charlie was not the only person who expressed these sentiments towards Evans. If Evans was working with other individuals, including co-worker, Larry Curry (“Curry”), they would often berate him by saying things like “I'm tired of working all these extra hours to cover for you because you can't work it, ” or “You need to find a new job or you need to hurry up and do your job.” Id. at 31-32. In one instance, Evans and Curry almost became involved in a physical altercation after Curry told Evans that “if [Evans] [couldn't] bend down there to help [Curry] pull a damn electrical line, [Curry] [would] make [Evans] get down there and pull an electrical line.” Id. at 32-33. While no physical fight occurred, Curry called Evans a “stupid son of a bitch” and told him “you ain't nothing.” Id. at 33. In another instance, Evans asked Curry to grab a piece of equipment only accessible by ladder; Curry responded by throwing the ladder and saying, “There you go, you worthless son of a bitch. There's the ladder, ” recognizing that Evans could not climb it. Id. Before Evans's injury, Evans and Curry had enjoyed a working relationship; it was only after Evans went on light duty these problems began. Evans reported these events to his union, but he did not report them to any superiors at Altec. (Filing No. 33-4 at 32, 34.)

         In the early months of 2015, Evans found that his truck had been vandalized in the Altec parking lot during his shift. Id. at 36. The truck, which was green, had been spray-painted with yellow safety paint. Id. The only portion of the truck that did not get touched by the paint was the roof of the truck's cab. Id. Across the rest of the truck, squiggly lines and profanity had been painted. Id. Evans did discuss the vandalism with Laurie Ireland (“Ireland”) Id. at 37, Altec's Employee Health and Safety (EHS) manager. (Filing No. 33-3 at 2.) Evans was returning from the parking lot after finding his truck vandalized, and Ireland asked, “What happened to your truck?” Id. Evans replied, “It's kind of obvious somebody spray painted it, now didn't they?” Ireland did not reply, and Evans noticed that the can of yellow safety spray paint was missing from in front of Ireland's office. (Filing No. 33-4 at 37.) Evans asked Ireland what happened to the paint, and she responded that she did not know. Ireland asked if Evans was going to get his truck painted, as Ireland took offense to some of the profanity on the truck. (Filing No. 35-1 at 6.) Evans said he planned to go that day to get a quote for a new paint job for the truck. Id.

         Aside from the one exchange with Ireland, Evans did not discuss the vandalism with any other Altec superior. Immediately after the vandalism, Evans attempted to speak with Peele but was told that Peele was not available. (Filing No. 33-4 at 37.) Evans did not make any further attempts because he felt as though Peele “never wanted to talk to [him].” (Filing No. 35-1 at 6). He did report the vandalism incident to his union. Id. at 11.

         Shortly after the vandalism to his truck, Evans found his toolbox that he used at Altec had been vandalized as well. Id. at 12. The toolbox had eight drawers and was roughly five feet tall. Id. Evans personally owned the toolbox and the tools it contained. Id. He discovered the locks on the toolbox had been cut, and the entire box had been flipped over, with the drawer sets on the ground. Id. Evans' tools were scattered throughout the shop. Id. at 13. He reported the incident to his union, and union representatives accompanied Evans to speak with Richard Parrish (“Parrish”). Id. Parrish served as a foreman at Altec when no other supervisors were available. Id. Parrish's response was that he was not worrying about it and it was not his problem because he was not a maintenance supervisor.[2] Id.

         The next day, Evans found the lock on his toolbox had been broken again, and many of his tools were missing. (Filing No. 33-4 at 38-39.) This time, Evans called the police, who met him in the Altec parking lot in order for Evans to file a police report. Id. Evans never obtained the police report, nor did he file any formal or written grievance with Altec. Id. Evans took his remaining tools home, but Charlie told him that he did not care that Evans took his tools home after some went missing and to bring the tools back. Id. Evans also discussed the theft with Parrish, whose response the second time was “I guess you'd better buy a better box.” Id. Evans never talked to Peele about any of the incidents of harassment. Id. at 47.

         In April 2015, Mike Roach (“Roach”) began working at Altec as a maintenance tech. Id. at 34. Evans had been told the previous month that he was not eligible for promotion to maintenance tech because Altec did not have any such positions open. (Filing No. 35-1 at 15.) Roach's first words to Evans were, “They hired me to take your spot.” (Filing No. 33-4 at 34.) Over time, Roach-knowing Evans's work restrictions-would say things to Evans like, “You can either go up [the ladder] to get my wrenches or we can figure out some other way you're going to get my wrenches.” Evans did not report these incidents to a supervisor. Id. Charlie left employment with Altec in May 2015 and Eddie Reyes (“Reyes”) became Evans' new supervisor. Id. at 30-31.

         Because the reservoirs beneath the aluminum presses would catch rainwater in addition to the water coming off the presses, one of Evans' duties was to remove waste water and oil from containment reservoirs beneath Altec's presses. Id. at 42. In order to empty the reservoir, Evans was required to use a forklift to maneuver a 300-gallon tote and then pump the water and oil into the tote. Id. After emptying a reservoir into a tote, Evans would place the tote in storage so that the water and oil could separate, with the water sinking to the bottom. Id. Evans did not typically handle the totes ...

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