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Graham v. Arctic Zone Iceplex LLC

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

October 25, 2018

JAMES GRAHAM, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
ARCTIC ZONE ICEPLEX, LLC, Defendant.

          ENTRY ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Senior Judge

         This cause is before the Court on the motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant Arctic Zone Iceplex, LLC (Dkt. No. 33). The motion is fully briefed and the Court, being duly advised, GRANTS IN PART the Defendant's motion.

         I. STANDARD

         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.”). However, 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 facts of record, viewed in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, the non-moving party, are as follow.

         On or around December 15, 2014, the Plaintiff was hired by the Defendant at its ice skating and hockey rink. The Plaintiff was an hourly maintenance worker whose job duties included performing general maintenance of the ice rink facilities and operating the Zamboni machine, an ice resurfacer used to clean and smooth the ice rink. When he was hired, the Plaintiff was told that he could work either days or evenings depending on the season. During hockey season (fall and winter) most maintenance work takes place during the evenings. The Defendant received two customer complaints concerning the Plaintiff during the early stages of the Plaintiff's employment.

         On February 13, 2015, the Plaintiff fell off a ladder while attempting to repair an HVAC unit. The Plaintiff was diagnosed with a broken finger, a broken nose, and a concussion. After his concussion diagnosis, the Plaintiff was given a “no work status” restriction. The Plaintiff was off work from February 13, 2015, to May 13, 2015, and he applied for and received workers' compensation benefits during this time.

         On May 13, 2015, the Plaintiff was released to work with restrictions, including requirements that he not drive and that he sit while working. These restrictions of no driving and performing only sitting/sedentary work remained from May 13, 2015, until August 12, 2015. During this time, the Plaintiff's physician restricted him to working only eight hours per week, and the parties complied with this restriction. The Plaintiff never worked more than twenty hours in a week until he was released to full duty.

         To accommodate the Plaintiff's medical restrictions that were in place from May 13, 2015, to August 12, 2015, the Defendant assigned the Plaintiff to skate sharpening. The Plaintiff alleges that this position did not comply with his restrictions because it could not be done while sitting and that “the few times [he] got caught sitting and resting [he] was told to get back to work.” Dkt. No. 33-2 at 7. According to the Defendant, the Plaintiff complained about this new role, but never expressed to the Defendant that he was unable to sit while sharpening skates or that he thought this was an unsuitable accommodation. The Plaintiff explains that he believed that complaining would risk his employment and contends that the Defendant knew that skate sharpening was a standing job.

         On August 12, 2015, the Plaintiff was released to work without driving and sedentary work restrictions. Dr. Larry Lett, the Plaintiff's treating physician, also placed the Plaintiff on a reduced work schedule over a three-week period pursuant to which the Plaintiff would work a four-hour workday the first week, a six-hour workday the following two weeks, and then would be released to full-time without any restrictions on September 16, 2015. The Plaintiff was scheduled to work evenings upon his return. The Plaintiff characterizes this as a demotion to night mechanic, while the Defendant asserts that he was assigned to work evening hours due to the busy season.

         On October 15, 2015, one month after he was released to work without restrictions, the Plaintiff drove the Zamboni into the ice rink wall, causing jagged plastic to protrude from the wall. Following the accident, the Defendant believed the Plaintiff displayed a disregard for customer safety when he allowed skaters back onto the rink without removing or fixing the jagged piece of plastic that was sticking out from the ice rink wall. According to the Plaintiff's termination letter, the Plaintiff was subsequently terminated for: (1) “[p]oor attitude regarding a change of position”; (2) “[p]oor attitude toward customers”; (3) “[t]he inability [to] perform his job tasks in a timely manner”; (4) “[i]nsubordinate to Ownership and upper management when questioned on several matters”; and (5) “[f]ailed to drive the Zamboni properly on 10-15-15 causing damage to walls and the machine itself.” Dkt. No. 33-6. The Plaintiff's position in maintenance was never filled.

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant discriminated against him on the basis of a disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and retaliated against him for seeking worker's compensation benefits, in ...


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